I think somewhere in the back of my mind last week I must have said, "I should come up with a question of the week that will really get my readers fired up to share their thoughts." Whether I did it on purpose or not, that is certainly how it turned out. And it makes sense; ask a group of bloggers to talk about the blogging experience and you're sure to get an enthusiastic response. I asked for comments about the relationships you form with the folks who visit and comment on your site regularly.
Your feedback is completely consistent with my own experience. I truly get the sense that people are sharing their honest feelings and beliefs when they comment on my site, and many of you offered the same opinion. Another common insight was that you meet all sorts of people regardless of the forum. Some might be cranky on occasion, but the majority of people you run across tend to be friendly and well worth the effort you make in getting to know them. This is the same whether you meet them at a cocktail party, at work, or through your blog. (And when, pray tell, will the spellchecker dictionary makers at Microsoft learn that "blog" is a real word??? But I digress...)
Quite understandably, some of you rated your online relationships on a par with casual acquaintances. You know some of the superficial details of their lives, but you are unlikely to call them up to go pick out wallpaper together. I also found it interesting that several of you mentioned deep and abiding friendships that have developed over the years via your blogs. Regular contact over extended periods of time can breed mutual respect and trust (which relates to this week's question), even when that contact is online. (As an aside, this is great for those of us who develop true friends that way, but it is also unfortunate when online predators use this principle to gain undeserved trust from unsuspecting children.)
The story I found the most amazing and uplifting came from Dublin, who wrote about her younger sister's blogging friends. Dublin's sister has many longtime online friends who provide her with valuable feedback by pulling no punches and telling her like it is. These same online friends rallied around when Dublin's sister sat in an ICU room with her sick child. They provided 24-hour support when she needed it the most. It really is an insightful story and I recommend you read it here.
Thanks again to everyone for all your input, and most of all, for joining my circle of online friends. Many people have thanked me for providing this forum, but I assure you that the support I receive in return has made the experience more than worthwhile.