This is going to be a series of articles on the subject of social interaction on the Internet and offline. It will focus on the differences between those interactions, and also on the differences of people who have a preference for making social contacts in one venue over another, and why this may be so.
I commented on an article last night about online friendships. There was not one person on that threadÂ who sees the concept of online friendship the way I do, yet I know that I have offline friends that would not consider even belonging to any site that considers itself a social network unless it's specifically related to their business or profession. They would agree with me, and with my definition of friendship, which we won't yet define in this article, for reasons stated below. My closest girlfriend, with whom I speak no less than every other day, called me last night in the middle of the composition of that comment. She didn't' say hello. She just asked, "So, what are you doing? Don't tell me you're on that stupid site again. I know." I replied, "Guilty as charged." We chuckled and went on with our conversation.
Knowing that I am not the only one who sees social Internet interaction the way I do, I looked for some verification online. I was pleased to find this study that corresponds. Even before defining what friendship may mean to different people, it's important to understand who those people are who are defining it and from whence their point of reference. This study, about Relationship Formation on the Internet, uses what's called the Real Me Variable. I like it because it defines three basic sets of people who interact on the Internet, and I can clearly see in which grouping I fall, and the reason that my comment on that article that I cited above was so different from others. The first group locates this Real Me self "purely in the off-line domain." The second group locates its self equally in both the on and offline domains, and the third group's self is located "purely in the online domain." The study explains various reasons people fall into such groupings and the way people in each group interact. See page 17 of this study for further information as to how this model was derived.
In the next section of this series, we will define friendship, and how friendship may be viewed from people within each of the three groups. To avoid as much miscommunication as possible, it is important for you to know in which group you see yourself. There will, I am sure,Â be different perspectives of friendship from people,Â correspondingÂ to whichÂ groupÂ they belong. I am, most certainly, a member of the first group.