I ended my last post with a 'promise' to explore connections and it's effect on the 'I'. It's taken me a while but here I am now.
Relationships are connections between various 'I's; that is, individuals relate to other individuals. Connections can be face-to-face or digital (or analogue, paper-based, etc). Regardless, this is no longer a question of virtual vs. real. More often than not, digital communities are real, i.e. a branching out, if you will, of relationships that exist in the "real world".
In a sense, there's never been a better time in history to connect. For those who choose to connect, technology is breaking down barriers of time, space, age, culture and race. It is possible to connect with anyone who wants to connect.
I see the effect on each 'I' to be three-fold: diversify, replicate, individualise.
It is possible to belong to different communities, each one feeding a personal need or interest. New interests can be discovered and pursued. One can be an expert in one field and a beginner in another. Various perspectives and contexts can be explored.
Each person is unique. Herein lies the irony, the more one diversifies and be like others in those contexts, the more one becomes individualised. In other words, an increase in connections increases the combinations that make up an individual. This is making a huge, though highly plausible, assumption that no two individuals have exactly the same connections, least of all perceptions.
In each meaningful connection, we leave a bit of ourselves in the other...and vice versa. Our existence becomes entwined in the tapestry of the other. Our views, values and stories live on beyond the physical 'I'. Of course, this consequence can and has been used as a propaganda-machine. Nevertheless, it can be positive. Mothers use their social network to replicate themselves; usually, this is not a 'big brother' approach but rather a way for mothers to ensure the safety of their brood.
Each individual has a unique set of connections, a network of communities. This helps define the person, in constant evolution, whilst enabling him/her to reach out and belong.
What I haven't explored is the levels, layers, or degree of connectivity. That may take a while again.