Thursday, 7 November 2013

Online Relations

#DiceLounge: Take online conversations offline to create depth. via @TheOneCrystal #SHRM12

A lot of people I know do not care about anything online. It seems the attitude is directly related to age, although there are obvious exceptions (yours truly included). Don’t get me started with what I think of people that dismiss the online altogether, out of hand; I suspect their culture will share a similar fate to the Neanderthals’. Yet even I am often taken by surprise when I realise there is more to the online than meets the eye.
The phenomenon that caught me recently is the realisation of just how much I care for certain things online. As in, people with whom my interactions have been limited to virtual means alone.
Asher Wolf has been mentioned here before for different reasons, but now I will state that I follow her personal affairs too. The adventures of this single mother trying hard to get ends meet are touching; just the other week she reported the death of her car, making it clear she could not afford a replacement. I was genuinely worried, but then relieved when a fellow Twitter follower offered her cheaper salvation.
Another Twitter acquaintance went through a personal drama upon flying from Melbourne to Canada with three kids and no adult companionship. That’s agony to begin with, especially given the kids’ age (young); but then her flights were delayed by 13 hours and I found myself thinking about it the whole day. I recently flew through similar distances on my own and it was hell, without delays or kids; doing it with three kids? Kill me quickly.
In the context of this post, what matters is the fact I genuinely care for people I have never met. What matters perhaps even more is the contrast between my feelings towards certain family members of mine who actively shunt the Internet and the(se people with whom I share significantly fewer genes. People who, in all likelihood, will dismiss me or worse) if they were to meet me in person; yet online we seem to have been able to form some sort of a friendly relationship. How can it be that we have been able to form such relationships in the first place?
I do not have an answer. I wonder if it has to do with the same clouding of judgement I used to experience before a blind date, where one good sentence from the would be subject caused a massive rise in expectations but then the balloon would instantly implode upon meeting in person. I strongly suspect face to face meetings with those online people would end in disappointment, at least for one side. I’m not talking of romantic aspects (I am totally disinterested there, thank you very much), just the sort of things you pick off a person when you meet them.
Which brings me to say that, given the evidence at hand, the importance of online relationships is very clear. They represent a fine opportunity to interconnect with the world in previously unexplored ways, opening up new avenues for meeting likeminded people and for learning from others [read here on the importance of interconnectivity]. That said, I suspect I will not be the only one to struggle with reconciling the differences between this type of a relationship and “real world” ones. At least I am given something to think about here, which is always good.

Image by, Creative Commons license

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