One thing I've noticed about the internet is the huge difference it's made to the forming of close friendships.
There seems to be something unique in how these relationships develop. That feeling of entente and community generated through TEXT rather than through personal presence, seems to cement the feelings of genuine understanding. So, instead of misunderstanding people because of mixed physical signals, I understand you so much better because I get what you're saying through your words.
I think perhaps, that writing our thoughts has a different kind of energy to it. This relationship building over the net removes some of the peripheral stimuli in our faces, bodies, eyes and hands and instead, brings a kind of pure essence of identity through the way we express ourselves in text.
These friendships are no less valuable than the ones we make in "meatspace". :)
They grow, change, develop and fade just like other friendships in our 3D lives. There is something esoteric about internet friendships though, that transcends the boundaries of normal relationship building. Building a relationship through text seems to have a very intense, personal and intimate quality in this cyberspace world where we may not know each other in person but can still "know" that other person very well indeed.
We are often cautioned against trusting people on the net. It's wise advice of course, but in my experience, I've found the fraudsters to be rare. Most people are genuine and those who aren't are generally found out pretty quickly - it's hard to maintain a written lie for long after all. I know for certain that the few internet friends I've actually met in this three dimensional world are as lovely, as funny and as beautiful as they portrayed themselves in conversation on the internet - through the way they write.
The internet may change this with the new technologies of spoken and visual communications aka Skype The relationships we build through this medium will be much more like every day relationships because the "noise" of our bodies, especially our voices, will also be more present.
I'm not sure it's a good thing - yet, but I'm willing to try it all the same. :) However, I also find the beautiful slowness of textual communication to be quite refreshing. I think BECAUSE it is such a slow process we strip back to the essentials more quickly and expose that which is most ourselves more easily. This builds friendly intimacy and understanding faster than when we are trying to sift and survey truth and resonance through the maps of intonation and skin - at least in my experience it has.
Text has a soul to it that is as unique as a fingerprint to each person. What they write is their voice but purer and less filled with static than the normal spoken voice. We are less able to hide who we are through what we write.
Maybe it's because I read things between lines - I am given to over-analysis on these things sometimes, but I do feel the emotion of another through their written words. The context and the meaning of the words are significant of course but there is soul too - very beautiful and pure essence of soul.
If literacy is reading and writing, then it has also become emotional as well. Being able to read is one thing, being able to feel and understand what one is reading is an entirely different skill. I believe that this next generation will perhaps have a better EQ than previous generations, because the internet will MAKE our kids understand people in a new way, with new tools to do so. The textual chat of our kids will re-define world view and culture for the next century or two; language itself notwithstanding! There will probably be a paradigm shift in the way our kids relate to other people because of the nature of these "new" kinds of relationship building technologies.
One could be cynical and say that this technology is no different from the advent of the telephone but I beg to differ. The telephone gave us immediate access to immediate relationships that already existed in our corner of the world. The chat technology of the internet opens up the world to entirely new possibilities of connecting with people who used to be completely outside of our knowledge and experience. We didn't just pick up the phone to meet new people, we used the phone to conduct business with strangers and connect with family/friends/neighbours. Chatting on the net, opens up potential to make new friends first THEN connect with them for business opportunities. It's a definite difference but no less important than that other piece of century-defining equipment.
Family and friendship have taken on a global context that is exciting and quite hopeful I think. The more we build wonderful new relationships online, despite cultural and traditional differences, the more likely this planet we share, will survive our capricious selfishness. Call me an idealist then if you will :)
In the meantime, I'm just really, really enjoying my virtual tribe :)