Distant encounters

The Internet is fast becoming the contact medium for the new millennium.
Although sitting in front of a computer seems a particularly lonesome pursuit, the truth is that the vast majority of people who surf the Net ate there in search of social interaction – real contact and companionship, not just information overload. The most fundamental law of contact on the Net is communication. The basis is always about pursuing some interest with like – minded people or just shooting the breeze about nothing in particular.
Connecting people. These days you don’t have to leave your room to get in touch with people who have similar interests to yours right from the start. And, what’s more, distance needn’t be a problem. One of the best places to meet and greet people is IRC. This collection of online forums or newsgroups contains postings from people who have asked for some info, and answers from those who have replied. If you learn how to use the anonymous posting programs that are around, you don’t even have to reveal your real name or location.
Another advantage is that since no one can see you, you certainly don’t have to worry about looking your best all the time. Indeed, as on line goes virtual, you could create visual images of yourself that suit your mood or contactee. And t goes without saying that engaging in a heavy romance on line is the last word in safe sex. Cyberspace viruses may kill your computer but they won’t kill you.
Near – yet far. There are, of course, drawbacks to this new medium Ironically, the very technology that pulls most people together also keeps them apart. After a while, the safe sense if distance that, at first, seems so liberating to newbies on the Net, can become and obstacle to letting the friendship develop further. Some may begin to feel that particularly human sense of unease that something is missing from a friendship conducted via machines.
‘As people, we need a tactile physical presence to make a complete bond. We need to see their face, see their gestures and small their breath’, point out psychologist Michaelle Weil of Orange, California.
Nevertheless, on a romantic level, psychologists claim that the Net is a successful medium, particularly so for women, whose on – line affairs are conducted at a level of thoughts and feelings, not just appearances.
‘It forces men to do something they don’t normally engage in: so communication’ says psychologist Al Cooper of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre.
But when eye to eye contact is missing, what about the human urge to exaggerate, fantasize, or just plain lie? It’s a fact that some marriages are truly made in cyberspace, but there are just as many romantic disappointments. Take the case of the unfortunate middle – aged man from Boston who thought he was having a steamy Internet affair with a 23 – year – old woman, only to discover, that ‘she’ was an 80 – year – old man in a Miami nursing home. The question is, how wrong was the deception, given the satisfaction the two got from the romance before the truth was revealed
Surfing the Net for contact, romantic or otherwise, also satisfies our need to daydream and liberate ourselves from our sometimes dreary reality. Indeed it may be the closest we may ever get to reinventing ourselves and having more than one life.
Risks of the Net. But isn’t that open to abuse? Couldn’t people be misled and harmed? The answer to those question is, in all probability, yes. But only as much as magazines, pistures, videos and the like have harmed us in the past. As with all other media, on – line communication does have its dark side but then, so does the telephone, if it’s used improperly.
Until the Net is more carefully regulated, all surfers run the risk of lurkers secretly tapping into their private Internet conversations and crackers unlocking their passwords and accessing their most personal details. Navigators on the Net may 90 get into murky waters. Still, many people think it’s worth the risk to reach out and be carried along on a wave of imagination, creativity, poetry and who knows – romance…