DUAL RELATIONSHIPS AND E-MAIL

by John Suler, Ph.D.

Experienced e-mailers often have friends and colleagues with whom they converse in-person and via e-mail on a regular basis. These dual relationships can be tricky. Sometimes the two realms become a bit dissociated from each other. The relationship starts to operate on two different psychological levels.

Due to the lack of f2f cues in e-mail, thoughts and feelings that are difficult to express in-person may surface online. Those disclosures may occur consciously or unconsciously. Unless those disclosures are quickly brought into the f2f relationship, a gap starts to develop between the online encounters and the in-person meetings. It may become more and more difficult to speak in-person about what was said online. The f2f relationship may become uncomfortable, or feel stiff and shallow.

It's best to prevent this uneasy situation before it starts. Even under the most benign of circumstances, you may experience a tiny psychological hurdle that needs to be jumped in order to bring the online encounter into the f2f encounter, and vice versa. But do jump it. The most rewarding outcome is an integrated in-person and e-mail relationship.

11/30/98

John Suler, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Rider University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has published on psychotherapy, mental imagery, and eastern philosophy. He currently maintains several web sites.

 

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