Insides Out.One of the most fascinating qualities I find in online communications is forced intimacy.
Because humans are essentially visual creatures, non-verbal communication is a larger part of our interactions than we realise. Online, there are no twitches, facial expressions, intonations or pheremones to give clues as to someone's intent. This means that people find themselves revealing more intimate information about themselves than they may initially intend.
I've been guilty of it myself, and as a rule have no issues with it.
Where it becomes hazardous is where two people are exposing themselves mentally, emotionally, without having any physical presence to provide extra information.
As a case in point, a woman I used to chat with years back (and met in person for drinks on several occasions) had a cyber fling with a man in another state. She was in an unhappy marriage with a small child, which she left in the process of pursuing this man.
He was quite happily married with children of his own, and never had any intention of taking any step in the real world towards the woman. As far as he was concerned, cyberspace was cyberspace, and it had no part in his real world.
She was very hurt by this, yet he could not understand why.
Perhaps if they had met in 'meatspace' as opposed to 'cyberspace' the situation would never have arisen.
For someone who has well-developed social/communication skills, this generally has little impact upon their lives and relationships.
For those who are more isolated, or less mature, there are dangers.
One reality that a lot of people tend not to think of is that the internet is one of the most antisocial constructs ever invented.
Why? Because it reduces face-to-face interaction. You can have fun and games with plenty of your closest friends without ever being in the same room. You can have an affair with someone on the other side of the world while never seeing them in the flesh.
It can seem a godsend for the geeks of the world, those who do not relate well in person, but it leads often to confusion.
If you don't have the non-verbal skills, only text, then how can you maintain a relationship in the real world?
I think this is a major problem with a lot of young people today. They are so busy using sms or their computers to keep up with their friends, they don't develop the necessary skills for healthy interpersonal relationships.
What is the solution? Especially when meeting people online is endlessly entertaining - I've made some of my best friends via bulletin boards and chatrooms, so I can testify to that.
How do you educate the younger generation, those brought up on television and videos, and gameboys, xboxes and the like, that there is a much wilder world out amongst people in the flesh?
I don't have the answers, but I do believe that getting them away from the monitor is a good start.
You can fly higher and fall harder in the real world, and it is nowhere near as safe at times as the cyberworld, but it is also so much more rewarding.