The internet is about relationships. The entire world wide web is an intricate labyrinth of links between pages that creates relationships between people and the information that they are sharing with the world. To the casual observer it might seem that the internet is actually the pages that they view but that is just the data at the end of a link that joins two computers, inert as stone and hidden in some distant server in incomprehensible binary code until one of the links to it is activated, bringing the wwweb to life, evoking the html of that specific page and bringing it to life once again on a remote computer screen that might be next door or across the world. The cyber cartographers of the internet universe, the crawlers and spider bots, don’t map the contents of pages per se but count and evaluate the links to and from a particular page of html code to determine its importance in the overall scheme of the web, judging it by the quantity and quality of its relationships.
If this is so of the inner workings of the web itself then how much more so is it true of the living people that use the internet? After all, everything in life is about relationships. From the moment that we are born it is our relationships that shape our lives. If the web is about making and building relationships then it might be important to try and make good ones. Businesses know this basic fact and good business is about establishing and maintaining good relationships. In the context of the internet this means reliable service, good prices, easy to use web design and all of the other things that go into giving the customer a good experience that they are likely to want to repeat. When we keep a blog or join a forum we are actually creating the opportunity to establish new relationships with an amazing variety of people so how important are these relationships? How much should we care about what the readers of our blogs think?
Many of you will have had a similar experience to myself when it comes to connecting with people online. Like most web surfers I follow a few blogs, join in with a few web forums, keep a number of conversations going on facebook and shoot short e-mail messages back and forth with any number of people. Some are close friends but many are new cyber friends. Even over the web it is possible to make the connection with people that is the beginning of what may be a meaningful relationship. As I am always open to meeting new interesting people (like most of us are I think) I like to keep this cyber door open. I try to be pleasant and make positive comments or, failing that, to at least make constructive ones. I choose not to argue when that seems like the direction that a thread or a forum wants to go, however much I am itching to throw my hat into the ring as it were; I just don’t have the time. I find that most other people online are trying to do the same, that is one of the great things about the web.
Of course there are groups that aren’t very friendly or inclusive, there’s plenty of room on the web for all of us so that’s a fair enough thing as well, it’s just another kind of relationship after all. There’s no question that there are always those poor souls who feel obliged to argue about everything with everybody, just for the sake of arguing, but they are everywhere not just online (even though it might seem like there’s a real lot of them online). Even that is just another kind of relationship. It might be a bit dysfunctional but that’s life. That’s what is so great about the web as well.