My favourite way of communicating with people is face-to-face. However, sometimes I feel a close connection with someone I haven't actually met. Perhaps we have had extensive phone conversations during which we have developed a rapport. We may have exchanged letters in the post or sent emails or I may have read his/her writing online.
Ages ago I worked as a teacher in distance education. Printed lessons were posted out to students living in isolated areas of South Australia, temporarily living overseas or travelling around Australia.
As my students were primary age they depended on supervision from an adult. This was often their mother or sometimes a governess. I was surprised how well I felt I knew some of my students and their supervisors just through exchanging information in written form.
Sometimes I was able to talk to students and their supervisors on the phone if they lived in South Australia. This added another dimension to communication.
I met some of my students if they came to Adelaide on school camps or when a group of teachers went out into rural areas for a 'mini school' or home visit. This gave me the opportunity to get to know them face to face.
However, most of my communication over the twelve years I worked in distance education was through the written word. The majority of what I learnt about my students was from what they wrote.
Over the years I have had penfriends, using snail mail and more recently, email. Quite often the communication has stopped after a short time. However, I have felt a close connection to some with the friendship continuing for many years. Sometimes it is easier to confide in someone you will never meet, someone who doesn't know any of the people you know.
At times I read a regular column in a newspaper or magazine and think, 'I'd like to have coffee with this writer.' Perhaps it is their humour that appeals. It may be their compassion or fair mindedness. Whatever, there is a special something
that shines through their writing.
Likewise, there are online writers I enjoy reading. I am sure a friendship would develop if I met some of them face to face. Some online writers are willing to share their emotions and life experiences as well as information they have come across. Reading their writing is almost like spending time with a close friend.
I still prefer face to face communication but I also value being able to have a connections with people I would not have any contact with were it not for the internet, phone or snail mail. Although the internet has its faults, it also provides boundless opportunities to connect with all sorts of people and I value its contribution to my current life.