Yesterday I opened my gmail to look for emails from a favorite scent reviewer ... there was one (yay!) AND there was also an official looking email from a research professor at a small college in Iowa ... seeking data on women's online relationships.
This was interesting. I took the provided survey -- which attempted to gauge the depth/ breadth of online relationships compared and contrasted to "real life" (what's that? Kind of like a land line) relationships.
I'm betting a lot of my fellow bloggers will be getting that email and we'll all get an opportunity to assess for ourselves how important the cyber-relationship has become to us.
For me, extremely important. In completing the survey, I realized I have one intimate "real life relationship" and eight (!) intimate cyber-relationships with women. All those relationships have become emotional cornerstones for me.
Each is important to me in their own way ... their personalities are all so different. Most of the relationships have grown over a period of years -- beginning with interaction on a perfume board.
I've learned some of the things that gratify them, their aspirations, aggravations, fears, obstacles. They know mine. They're located all over the world ... and I find I get edgy if a week goes by and I don't at least read their blog, or send/receive an email checking in.
The perfume board that germinated these relationships is an interesting story, too. One of three primary outlets for people interested in scent, it is a source of entertainment and dismay.
In the three years I've belonged, I've learned a great deal about fragrance ... many of the posts were tutorials in fragrance definition and content.
Sadly, to me, that board has also become the weeping board and off-topic playground for a few incredibly self-centered individuals who -- and I'll never understand this -- reveal exhaustive details (usually boring, sometimes high drama) of their lives ... and go to the extent of asking for advice about what they should have for lunch, how they should get their hair cut, what dress they should wear for a specific function, and how they can begin/maintain/end an affair/relationship/hookup. This must be part of sorority life I missed out on. And why I wouldn't have cut it in that environment.
As a venue for online relationships, apparently one of the other two boards is also having a period of flux. Recent changes in the board's subscription framework, which included demotion of a certain class of posters who proudly wore the badge of "most excellent perfume maven" (I made that up) has resulted in pages of back-and-forth on what the board means to them, what their contributed content is worth, how much their input is valued versus the board host's commercial objectives.
A point is made in that back and forth that illustrates what can be a nebulous quality of a cyber-relationship: you can get so caught up in what you believe the relationship to be that, without feedback, you may find that you are very mistaken about what the relationship actually is:
You saw yourself as a valued contributor, providing substantive content ... the board ownership sees you as another click, another number that can be used to acquire sponsorship from which they derive financial benefit. You got emotionally hooked in somebody else's commercial venture.
This is where I think my cyber-relationships are different. In growing them outside the commercial structure of the board that germinated them, they have become truly personal. We are much more to each other than a click on an advertising link.
I'm looking forward to the results of the study -- I believe it is attempting to find out whether true intimacy can be found in a cyber-relationship. My answer would be yes. But the confounding aspect of cyber-commercialism doesn't seem to have been factored into that equation. Maybe it should have been.