ALTHOUGH I HAVE NOT found the new online relationships that Bob Sabath has ("community.com," in "Commentary," September-October 1995), I do find that my e-mail exchanges with existing friends have greatly enhanced our relationships and assisted us in keeping in touch. So I don't agree with the idea that e-mail is impersonal.
In Clifford Stoll's new book, Silicon Snake Oil, the computer security guru sets out to demythologize life on the Internet, this "super highway of the future." He succeeds in doing this by unveiling the hype and extolling the importance of building a "community" where responsibility and caring relationships are the tangible results of our physical involvement in other people's lives. Basically, a computer message can never be a substitute for hand-holding or hugging a person in need.
Surely the Internet can waste time and be limiting in respect to one's personal experience. But I feel that while the government spreads fear about hate crime and perverts online, any effort to use cyberspace for mobilizing and organizing resources to help provide social services and information to assist others is imperative!