From the earliest days of the Internet, people have gone online to interact with others in ways encompassing almost all imaginable social relationships and human activities:

People in virtual communities use words on screens to exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. (Rheingold, 1993, p. 3)

Internet technologies have spawned the development of online communities that extend beyond geographic boundaries to create global societies of like-minded individuals in virtual space, connected by particular social issues of interest. In short, nearly all aspects of human activity take place online among people who may ...

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