So I am hanging in Toronto this weekend to visit a friend. She is one of my closest friends—we have known each other for over a decade. Oddly, we met over the Internet. She’s an actor; I visited her fan website for a school assignment and in time, a friendship grew out of our cyber-interaction.

I met quite a few people from this same online community and we have all become very close friends. Not only have we continued our friendships online throughout the years but we have also met offline in several forms, one gathering during a weekend of debauchery in Vegas.

It’s been exciting having these relationships, as we are all so different. While several of us are from the states, there is a woman from South America, one from Australia and quite a few Europeans.

I like that the Internet has helped encourage such diversity by way of relationships. I don’t know that I would have had the opportunity to do some of the things I have done and I certainly would not have met some of the fantastic people I have met if it weren’t for online opportunities.

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We tend to have an image in our minds of people that interact online are all gamers, mostly male, hiding in their basement amongst bags of cheetos and cans of Dr. Pepper.

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(This certainly does not define me; I am not a gamer, nor do I even like Dr. Pepper. Though I have had a cheeto or several in my lifetime.)

Where might this stereotype come from? At what point in our collective ideology was the Internet user constructed as anti-social?

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I open this post with an anecdote about the relationships I have formed to offer an example of how I believe cyberspace actually helps encourage social interaction among people, not limit it. It opens our world to a much bigger space and often helps us understand diversity with the vast access to people different from us, outside our geophysical neighborhoods.

So what do you think? Do you think the Internet has made us socially awkward, as many scholars will argue? Have you met people and formed relationships online with people that you have never met in “real life”? What might the implication be to limit our space to only physical interactions?

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