In so doing, we argue that online communities are far from the imagined or pseudo communities explicated by Calhoun (1991); that they are, in fact, real in the very way in which they reflect the changing nature of human relations and human interaction.
A series of messages posted by the father of a 19-year-old acoustic neuroma patient to a newsgroup for those who suffer from that form of tumor reveals the degree to which self disclosure and intimacy often slowly occur. Since then, _____ and I have gone on daily hikes, had some wonderful family dinners, hugged a lot, and spent a bunch of time talking to our many friends. Well, keep us in your prayers and I will try to keep you posted as to how things go. Cerulo (1997) argues that exchanges such as these, and those that she has observed, indicate that online encounters are more than a one-shot deal. Online exchanges, such as those found on the Acoustic Neuroma newsgroup, typically serve as catalysts for long-term and meaningful relationships (p. One criticism of computer-mediated communities is that they are unable to foster substantive and genuine personal relationships (Parks, 1996; Beninger, 1987) and that they are more likely to produce social isolation than connectivity (Kiesler, Siegel, & Mc Guire, 1984).
A month earlier, the father had posted his first message. In addition, because the exchanges that take place online may lack the assumed level of intimacy and self-disclosure characteristic of more traditional interaction they are thought to be unable to produce legitimate social bonding (Cerulo, 1997; Calhoun, 1991).
Such designations reify the notion that interactions void of the face-to-face connection are somehow less than the real thing (p. Purcell (1997) also notes that the type and extent of social contact determines the richness of an exchange and that intimate, face-to-face exchanges have been viewed as the most substantive, and legitimate, bonding forms of interaction. Even though they are joking, and she has a good sense of humor about it, comments like that still hurt. She is coming early mainly so that out daughter gets used to having her around before mom and dad take a week to go through the surgery and recovery.
That view, Purcell suggests, is not accurate in all settings: Co-presence does not insure intimate interaction among all group members. With mom in the hospital and dad driving back and forth, we figure it will be hard on her for while.