I have made some new acquaintances, friends even. I met them online on an extranet site for people who are interested in changing organisational cultures with a view to improving the way that they operate and deliver their services. The site is called the ON2net.
My new colleagues are called Tamara, Julian, Chris, Grant and Kate. I know where they work. I’m starting to find out what they like and dislike, what they are interested in and how they think. With one or two of them I know if they are in a relationship or have children, the kind of music they listen to, the types of movies they watch and the books they enjoy reading.
The funny thing is though that I have never met them.
I come across them regularly in the virtual corridors of the internet, where we chat, swap stories and have a bit of a laugh, just as I would do in a real corridor or round a real water-cooler. They have become as much my colleagues as would many of the people that I bump into or pass by on a daily basis in the ‘real’ world.
They live in New Zealand and I live here in England and as someone who has never left Europe it is extremely unlikely that I will meet them in person.
Yet I have got to know them, built a relationship with them, formed opinions about them and decided whether or not I really like them and whether I value their opinions or not. No doubt they have formed similar opinions about me.
I am, or rather we are in a new normality where relationships can be formed across large distances and time zones without the physical connections that we thought were necessary. They are like penfriends plus only without the lengthy delays between dialogues caused by the vagaries of a postal service.
And they are not the only ones and I guess this is happening all over the globe. Digital has changed the world for ever. We are living in a new norm.