When participants regularly feel good together during their online conversations – because they sense that their short-term and long-term goals are being served well – over time a kind of intimate trust develops that might easily take on cult-like characteristics. Participants start to experience a secret bond between them that seems to supersede almost any bond they have in their life. Examples of such cult-like groups online are plentiful.
Online intimacy does not translate well to offline settings though. Rather, when participants of cult-like online groups meet in real life, awkwardness abounds. There is courtesy between them and respect, but there is no hint of the nearness that flows so easily in their online communication. What remains from the online world in real life is a fundamental acknowledgment of the presence of the online group members, and beyond that very little.
An explanation for this might be that meeting members from one audience in a different setting is always awkward, as we have seen before. But this would mean that our online persona is unlike our offline persona and that we play different roles online and in the real world. Might that be the case?