The problem of how we interact online has been bothering me for some time recently, and I can see that it has even worked its way into other nodes.

I may not post on Everything2 as much as some of the other users, but I do spend a significant amount of time reading other nodes. Much of my usual three to five hours online a day are spent on this very site. In that time I have come to feel as though I know some of you, but it is the reality of this situation that bothers me. Despite the fact that I am reading the thoughts of other people I find myself consistently wondering whether or not this can really be considered "knowing" someone. Communication of ideas is extremely important, but there is so much that can only be learned about other people through small, physical interactions that it almost seems unreal. Conversations in a chat box do not allow for the spontaneous changes of topic or the telling hints inherent in a smile. Whole dimensions of a person are lost when we rely on the cold artifice of the computer. Remaining locked in the solitude of our own homes how are we relating to one another?

For example, I visit a certain person's online journal nearly every day and am privy to her thoughts and insights without ever actually being in contact with this person. Through her words I feel as though I have gained some knowledge of who she is and what is important to her. Still, though, how much of a relationship can there be when my presence is not even known? Isn't a relationship of some kind necessary to know someone? Another one of the negative aspects of this sort of interaction relates to what is actually being communicated. Are we, the readers, being allowed to see truth, or are we merely being presented with facades? I think it is a little of both. How about you?

Despite the apparent cynicism of these ramblings I do remain optimistic about the Internet, and about Everything2 in particular. Hopefully in time I will come to acquire fuller knowledge of some of the people here and become more secure in my perception of reality. Now the only problem to be solved is how to achieve this goal.