Online communication is now so ubiquitous that people actual have taken to using the Twitter-friendly acronym IRL (in real life) to denote face-to-face conversations. Certainly in community building and campaigning around public policy concerns, the Internet has transformed utterly the work of forming the relationships upon which these efforts rely. Every day, communities of people who have never met and never will come together to try to affect change.
For the organizers of online communities of interest and advocacy campaigns, the “IRL” part of their job now can be almost entirely optional. But how much of the work has moved beyond face-to-face contact? How often do practitioners of advocacy make really valuable professional relationships with people they’ve never actually meet in person? Does that lack of a personal, IRL touch affect the quality of the work?
I posed these questions to the Connectivity editorial advisory board this week – only one of whom I’ve met personally, in fact (and not before he joined the board).