The thing that's throwing me a little off-balance here is the anonymous and text-only nature of communicating with people online. I'm not able to use any of the interpersonal skills that I usually rely on. There is no body language, no access to subtle changes in facial expression or tone of voice. Tone of voice is huge. It's 70% of language communication. When I have a face to face conversation with someone, I know exactly how I'm coming across and am able to tailor my communication correspondingly. If a misunderstanding occurs, or if the person is preoccupied with something else, I know right away, even if the person is a stranger to me. Mtemplar has an icon of Ryo that says, "A man's face is his autobiography." I think that's so true! Just by looking at a person's face, even before he or she says a word, one can get a lot of information. I also rely on my intuition a lot.
Here online, all my normal tools of communication are inaccessible. I have to rely on the printed word alone to communicate with people I know almost nothing about. I feel like a blind child in a room full of fabulous cakes. I feel around in the dark hoping I'll find a cake that it is OK for me to eat, and hoping I don't accidentally knock over someone else's cake. I also don't want to be wandering round with frosting all over my face, but I probably am!
I see people using emoticons and signals like those little smiles, which I confess I don't know how to do, but so far they don't mean anything to me. I don't really notice them, probably because they are unfamiliar and therefore don't automatically register with me the way a real life gesture would. Maybe that's something that will come in time.
Anyway, it's all an interesting new challenge for me. At least I can make it sound easy! Find the cake, get permission to eat the cake, don't eat or fall on top of another person's cake, don't knock over the entire table of cakes, don't talk with your mouth full of cake, and check face regularly for smears of frosting and crumbs of cake. For now, I have to concentrate and be careful, but the day will come when I'm not blind anymore.