General Online Communication
A recent study by two psychologists from the University of Amsterdam looks at the evolution of online discourse amongst teenagers over the last couple of decades. As they delve into how the saturation of Internet access and the emergence of online social networks has encouraged teens to add an online element to their existing face-to-face relationships, they discuss the nature of these interactions:
We’ve seen the raised eyebrow that greets us when we talk about a relationship that is conducted online, with a person whom we rarely or never meet face-to-face. And we’re all familiar with the part that folks sometimes have trouble accepting: that you can have a healthy, substantive and fulfilling relationship with someone purely through the exchange of text-based messages.* Mixed into that skepticism, I think, is also a sense that an online relationship is faddish. Newfangled. A new manifestation of technology for its own sake. Bound to fail or inherently misguided because it’s contrary to the way people have always naturally talked to each other.
It’s not any of those things.
This week’s Virtual Conference on Counseling in Second Life offered a wide variety of topics, not to mention the novelty of a professional conference conducted entirely in a virtual world. I noticed a striking theme that seemed to run through many of the presentations. Here are some examples:
I’ve been interested in the nature of online interactions since long before I became a therapist.
In the mid-90’s, I found myself working in technical support for a media company near San Francisco. Increasingly, I had been called upon to acquaint various employees with this new communication fad called The Internet. On one occasion, I was teaching a mid-level manager about online discussion groups around common interests, and we found a relevant chat room.