but before you could do that you would have to ask to be accepted as a friend? or just leave a visitor message when you visit their profile? if i'm asking dumb questions please forgive, how is that different than sending a private message which i have done with several members
I would say that its like a friendly resource section that is above and beyond what you can find in treads. Let's say you come across someone who is a subject matter expert in something you're really interested in but you don't want to start a thread to ask a question. Rather than looking through threads to figure out if they are online or not you can just go to your friend section and click on their icon. If they are close, who knows, you could make plans and go together for a beer or just chat about your favorite subject. Hope that helps. Usually its what you make it.
To make friends on the forum you can click on their icon and see their friends section like you have here on the right. On the bottom left corner there is a "Befriend ????". You press that and there is an invitation to befriend that person. The site will ask you if you want to befriend that person. Click yes and the invitation is sent.