Originally I was going to pass on this topic- but Scott and Brian have motivated me to pursue it further.
Intimacy on the Internet- regardless of perceived origin on the Internet- is a real concern today. On Scott's Post, Brian pointed out the concern of online predators once physical contact is made.
What about when the Internet, the content of the messages sent to each other, are the predator? How does one stay vigilant against the web itself, and the people who participate in it?
For your consideration:
Wired Article 1
Blogger news Network
All of these articles center around Death related to some form of Internet community and perceived rejection from that community. As Scott said, people have a desire for interaction; so what about the people who only find interaction in Digital Environments?
Aside from the Myspace incident where a person maliciously drove an emotionally damaged person to suicide, who are the real perpetrators of the crime here? Can Blizzard Entertainment, creators of World of Warcraft be held responsible?
I suggest no.
We live in a world where instead of people committing atrocities through 'Heaven's gate' -like fanatical groups, they can conveniently stay in their home and form Internet Suicide Pacts.
I don't mean to just focus on the death aspect of the Internet's influence on communication, but I feel it conveys the point well.
Scott's assessment that only through a final face to face interaction can these 'relationships' receive validation is just not consummate with the data presented. I would concede that in MANY cases, Scott's evaluation would hold true- but the Internet is such an expansive community that even fractions of a single percentage hold significant numbers of people.
I think a bigger question is where do the obligation of caregivers stop? A teacher in a public school, if they hear that a student may be being abused, or threatened, or any number of other things, has a legal obligation to report that to the administration so that the student may receive attention to ensure they are not in danger.
What are the responsibilities of that teacher to check on students lives digitally? does a conversation had in a computer lab during school hours fall under the teacher's duty to insure the welfare of the student?
what if the conversation is between a student and a non-student, and the non-student is the one in danger?
with the ability to connect so many people instantly, and fairly free of restriction, where does the responsibility of the individual stop?