one recurring question I get occasionally here is about my relationships how do I know such-and-such a person? I often reply that I hadn’t met them in person, but relate to them virtually.. and, then the followup, how do I build relationships online, if I haven’t actually met a person, in person face-to face? This study shows that it is possible, and I quote this excerpt: “… distributed learners communicating predominantly online can indeed sustain intimate, personal relationships …“
couple of thoughts of how to build virtual relationships.. first, people have to want it, 2ndly, it takes effort and intentionality – just as physically + geographically proximate relationships takes doing things together and talking with one another, so does virtual online relationships.. there are so many technologies to use: IM, email, chat room, web forums, mailing lists, etc.. and relating personally, whether nearby or virtual, is about conversation and dialogue, sharing ideas, thoughts, and feelings.. so if you want to go there, you can go there, and you’re not bound by physical or geographical boundaries!
DJ, of all the people I communicate with on the Internet and maintain a virtual relationship, not one of them has been a person I met exclusively on the Internet. However, I wonder if there is a name for the virtual relationships that have developed only after a chance encounter, i.e. your seatmate on a plane or train, someone you met once through business, etc. If there is a category, then I guess I am your virtual networker… once removed??
With the advent of emoticons, it is possible to bridge a more significant lack in communicating primarily over the Internet. Emoticons put a face to the conversation. For that matter, listing what kind of music you are listening to at the time of IM conversation has the same effect. If I tell you I am listening to Incubus vs. listening to Celine Dion, your brain has that much more to add to the gestalt that you would be forming if you were standing next to me.
There is risk for “abuse” as well; that is, in the absence of a face to face conversation, one must constantly think of the consequences of using certain icons. Case in point, the “spank” used on gaming chat boards. It has an entirely different meaning — or does it? — then if I leaned over and physically spanked a person in the same room with me.
I think it is entirely possible to feel more intimate with virtual relationships for that very thing: it can be used to “get away” with behavior you would otherwise be held accountable for. Hmm… maybe that’s just one more reason why the Bible has something to say to the fool who consistently says, “I was only kidding.”
But for all the dangers, there are such incredible possibilities for relationship via the multiple modes of communication we have had in the past decade. This therapist has even used Email communication to help a couple on the brink of divorce. Their communication had completely broken down to the point they were separated under the same roof. For two weeks, I asked them to communicate briefly and clearly through Email instead of talking, because when they talked, they immediately slid into hurtful arguments. The process of editing emails helped them later “edit” things in their relational styles. Now, if this can help established relationships, there has got to be great ways to establish virtual relationships. This was a simple description of the actual process with the above couple. I thought the detail was actually quite ingenious; my supervisor was surprised by the creativity involved. The wife sent me a lovely picture of her, husband, and child on their dream vacation, divorce averted. Who would have known email could be a part of the healing process for them? Who would have known that the seduction of Kate Bush’s “Babooshka” would become the impetus to email this woman’s mystery to this man’s longing?
Blogging will eventually morph into something far more interactive than it already is. That’s my prediction. Whereas once viewed as an attention-getting device in the hands of narcissistic personalities, thoughtfully- presented blogs are Conversation Cafes that discourage predators and encourage soul-filled conversationalists to come out and commune.