“Real relationships” can be online OR offline. When I describe my mission to “turn friends and followers into real relationships,” I do not necessarily mean to move them offline, as in the movie You’ve Got Mail.
Online relationships can be very real, as illustrated by the article excerpted below, which (surprisingly) was written decades ago, when “social media” meant primarily AOL chat rooms!
One of my closest friends died not long ago. She was 30 years old, lived in Edmonton in Canada, had a wicked sense of humor, and a deft way of making everyone in a room feel welcomed and noticed.
One of the keenest parts of my loss is that I’ll never get to meet her. You see, Maur was an online friend. Although I spent more time with her than many of my ‘body’ friends, we communicated only via chat rooms on the Internet, and I hadn’t had the chance to meet her in the flesh. Now I never will.
Think about it: what distinguishes online relationships from offline? They’re free from the limits of geography; they have an element of anonymity; and they usually come minus a whole raft of assumptions, prejudices and preconceptions we bring to our offline relationships.
For instance, it’s not uncommon to have no knowledge of the gender, age, skin color, weight, physical attractiveness – whatever that is! – or physical disabilities of the person you meet online. Frequently, by the time you do get to discover all these things, you know the person so well that these details gain the insignificance they so richly deserve. What a liberation!
But if you compare offline relationships to online, you can’t say one type is real and the other not. It’s simply not true. They each have their advantages and their disadvantages. It’s just that online relationships are a whole new area of human interaction, one that we’re still sorting out.
If you think this issue doesn’t affect you, think again. Something very profound is happening online and in the long run it will affect us all. Already there are millions of people who regularly chat online. By the year 2001, it’s predicted that one billion people will be connected to the Internet worldwide. No matter what your level of knowledge or ignorance, the Internet is going to be a part of your future.