Parks Malcolm R.
Making Friends in Cyberspace
From its birth as a way of linking a few university and defense laboratories in the late 1960s, the Internet has grown into a global network connecting between 30 and 40 million people (Elmer-Dewitt, 1995). Social linkages in the form of E-mail and discussion groups appeared in the first days of the Internet and have grown explosively ever since. Today there are over 5,000 Internet discussion groups (Hahn & Stout, 1994). Aside from its sheer size, this new social milieu commands scholarly attention because it is one of the new "collaborative mass media forms" in which messages come from a wide variety of participants with little or no centralized control (Rafaeli & LaRose, 1993). It therefore blurs the traditional boundaries between interpersonal and mass communication phenomena and raises new opportunities and risks for the way individuals relate to one another (Lea & Spears, 1995; Williams & Rice, 1983).