I just replied to that thread, and I mentioned similar sentiments as Lobsang.
I think that it is just that people who have never done much on the net don’t realize that there actually is a community. Or, if they do imagine a community, it is of a bunch of 20 - 30 year old troglodytes who haven’t bathed of seen natural light for several days, if not weeks. While I haven’t seen sunlight for several days, it is only because of this blasted snow, and not due to any antisocial tendencies, or at least not any major ones.
I think a large part of it might boil down to the fact that we are communicating with people through a non visual medium. I believe that people place a lot of emphasis on first impressions, especially when it come to looks. We make judgements, and interact based on those decisions. I’m not saying whether or not this is a good or bad way of doing things, but we (or at least myself) do seem to be hardwired this way.
Over the net though, we have no easy way of assigning someone to a pigeon hole. We instead must actually read what they write, and make our judgements based on their thoughts alone. A much better way to do things, as you can truly get a better “feel” for a person. The argument can be made though, that no one knows you’re cat on the internet, so to speak… What I mean by this is that people feel that it is easier to deceive someone when you are not interacting directly with them. Whether or not this is the case, I’m not sure, but this seems to be the basis of a lot of peoples fears. Non-net savvy people are worried about friends who hook up over the net meeting up with some psycho killer, or other such deviant. While this is not outside the realm of possibility, I think it is a largely unfounded fear. As more and more people sign up and sign on to the internet, this attitude shall eventually go away., but until that day, I feel that there will always be a stigma associated with meeting people you know on line.
As far as laughing goes, I feel that it is largely a case of computer = geek, geek = someone you can laugh at… Mind you, it seems that these are the same people who later come crawling to you to come and fix their computer after it crashes. Personally, it doesn’t bother me too much. I enjoy the boards, and I like spending time hear. It actually has played a huge part in my life. Because of these boards, I wound up coming out of the closet. That isn’t to say I never would have without the boards, but it did provide a supportive community where any questions I had were answered, even without me having to ask (Thanks mostly to the Ask the gay guy threads). I think anyplace which can provide that level of support, without anyone asking anything in return in a place which should be treasured