Life is all about relationships. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors-the list is endless. Every day you come across a set of people and bond a relationship with them. Be it the florist whom you cross every Sunday while walking to the church or your best friend's cousin with whom you play baseball after school - the bottom line is that you, consciously or unconsciously, form a bond with people in your life.
From a simple nod to a smile to hours of conversation, the depth of your connection may vary, but the string that ties you to other people remains the same. The need to love someone and be loved in return, to have someone to share with and be a part of their experiences-our whole life revolves around these few things.
Enter the Net and it's a totally different ballgame. You can now 'connect' to total strangers, some of whom you may never meet in real life. And before you say 'ahhhh' with that glint in your eye, let me hasten and add that online chat is not a lonely hearts club for frivolous banter and sex talk in the virtual town. It's a tool for reaching out to like-minded people across the world and bonding with them. Its about wiring up people with common likes, interests and attitudes into a global communion. In fact, I would say that the Web would not have been half as alive and kicking but for the online chats and Instant messengers. It has indeed become the favored interactive medium for the surfers and cyber-junkies. Agreed its not as good as holding hands with your loved ones and whispering sweet little nothings, but typed-in words still do the trick in the virtual version of real time conversation!
One thing that really hurts me is the way people ridicule and frown upon online chat sessions. They look upon it as a thing of contempt and scorn people who swear by virtual relationships.
Hey, what's wrong in making new friends? Don't we do that in real life too? Don't we walk across a roomful of people and introduce ourselves and start a conversation? Aren't those people strangers for us at that moment of time? Besides, how real are the real relationships?
There are so many people staying under one roof, a formal association that has the society blessings, but dig a little deeper and you can see the cracks: it's a make belief world where you compromise to live with the other person who might be poles apart mentally.
In the virtual world, you might be geographically dispersed but you are on the same mental wavelength. I am not saying that the relationships in the real world don't count for: they definitely do. But so do the virtual relationships. Agreed that there is a lot of deception in the online world, but same is the case in the real world. It's upon us, as individuals, to come out clean and create an environment of trust in the virtual world. Once you pick out the chaff from the wheat of networks, channels and nicknames, your virtual friends ingratiate themselves into becoming your extended family.
I, for one, have been very lucky. Being an infotech journalist, I usually hang out in the computer chat rooms and bump across various geeks and comp lovers. Besides getting new story ideas, I get lots of technical help-for free. No wonder I call these guys my 'SOS' friends. And lest you think that I am another geek who lives and breathes computer, get hold of this, I have yahoo messenger and ICQ and spend hours "chatting" with my net pals. Absolutely non-stop chatter-very few of which would make sense to a third person. But to me, it sounds great after a grueling day at work!
Those two hours of chitty chitty-chat chat are a real bliss: time when I can be myself without the artificial barriers of looks, social and financial status, organization hierarchy and so on. Of course, there are loads of people who can't resist asking personal questions such as "how do you look" or "where do you stay", but you got to use your discretion. Don't reveal these details if you are not comfortable, the other person will understand. The whole point is to have a pleasant online experience, and let others have one too!
In all, the cyber turf offers unending possibilities for making new friends and keeping in touch with old ones. It's entirely in our hands to make it a place of devil or archangel.