Okay - I do it for a living.
I teach courses online. I train faculty members at colleges and universities to teach online. Inevitably, one of the first objections to online teaching is that a student must see the teacher to learn. That usually leads to a pretty good discussion, and the objector often admits that s/he is learning online - but just plain misses seeing people's faces.
That's why I had my leash yanked today by my co-worker Jeff. I had confessed to wanting to meet the blogger Real Live Preacher face to face. I really would have liked to meet Preacher in Austin, but couldn't. With a smirk on his face, Jeff wanted to know why I needed to meet Preacher face to face - - champion of the online community that I am.
I had to admit that online community goes only so far. It is one thing to bond with a good teacher online, or build a circle of friends online, or work with others on a mutually satisfying project. What I wanted from Preacher was more than a feeling of community - I wanted intimacy. I wanted to lean across a table over coffee and exchange deeply held ideas and beliefs. I wanted to read body langauge and hear the pause that connotes thought going into a comment.
The Internet has transformed the meaning of the world "community." Today's digital kids are quite accustomed to socializing on the web. Maybe us old timers can go only so far on the web, and still need a physical presence.
In the meantime, I'll be satisfied with learning from Real Live Preacher.