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From pornography to merely surfing the web, the Internet is clearly the television of the 21st century, an electronic drug that often yanks us away from the physical world.

Like any addiction, the real cost, for those of us who are truly addicted, is to the number and quality of our relationships with others.

We find ourselves tempted to communicate that way because it feels easier—but the outcome is often worse.

ETIQUETTE For transferring information efficiently, the Internet is excellent.

For transacting emotionally sensitive or satisfying connections, it's not.

My wife and I joke that we use email messaging when we're sitting back-to-back in our home office, but we use it to keep a record of our schedule.

It's far easier to ignore an email sender's request than a request from someone made in person because an email sender's hope to get a response or frustration in not receiving one remains mostly invisible. Our "emotional invisibility" on the Internet perhaps also explains so much of the vitriol we see on so many websites.

People clearly have a penchant for saying things in the electronic world they'd never say to people in person because the person to whom they're saying it isn't physically present to display their emotional reaction.A few common sense rules for the electronic world apply: CONCLUSION The Internet is an amazing tool.But even as it's shrunk the world and brought us closer together, it's threatened to push us further apart.When we have a conflict, we turn our chairs around and talk.Even when we're all careful to use the Internet only to exchange information, problems can still arise.I've also observed people using electronic media to make confrontation easier and have seen more than one relationship falter as a result.

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