One of the key byproducts of entering the cyber world and participating in groups or chat rooms is forming relationships with other cyber denizens. These relationships constitute the types of associations that differentiate deviant loners from deviant colleagues, even if they only (or primarily) exist in cyberspace. In this chapter we examine the nature of the relationships self-injurers formed online, how these compared to their solid-world relationships, the effects these had on their solid-world relationships and lives, and how these affected their self-injury.
Relationships that were formed in online venues differed significantly from those made in the solid world. They developed in different ways, took dissimilar forms, and were based on unlike sets of assumptions, knowledge, and needs.
Relationships in cyberspace seemed to form nearly instantly.1 Once people posted to groups or boards about their issues, the responses began to flood in immediately. From that point, the correspondence between individuals became continually more personal. People seeking cyber support often drew close to those who responded instantly to their posts, sometimes favoring them, as one poster noted, over longer-term solid-world relationships. Bonnie, the bankruptcy coordinator, commented on how relationships arose:
BONNIE: It’s a lot easier to talk to these people online because they don’t see
you, because you don’t have to beat around the bush. The terms you
use or the way you explain what happened—you don’t have to tiptoe