Everyday perceptions of the internet.
I have worked from home for more than 4 years now, since the large corporation I work for is trying mightily to reduce employee expenses (including offices), compensation, benefits, and employees themselves (in the US - all foreign workers welcome).
It occurs to me that at this point, I've never met 99% of the people I work with daily. My coworkers are no longer friends. Some faceless voice over the phone who I can't go to coffee with will never be my friend, just by definition. We can never really share anything in person.
If you do find you have something in common with someone and you want to get to know them 'outside' of work, the only choice is the one I'm using right now. That is, I have to turn that coworker into an internet acquaintance. Then the person can spend time off hours with me exchanging ideas, photos, blog entries, facebook, whatever.
So in essence, my acquaintances on the internet are more real to me than my coworkers.
Look at it this way, my coworkers can be fired any day or moved to some other project in the company. In which case we would lose all connection abruptly via our work network and phone calls. So in order to maintain contact, I have to bring them into the more 'solid' existence of the rest of the web/internet. That relationship doesn't just vanish at the whim of some executive.
This is not to say that internet acquaintances are more vital than friends in the real world - not at all. But unlike my coworkers, I've met the majority of my online acquaintances. Overall, this makes my non-work time spent online more 'real' to me than when I'm working.
This realization came to me when I was wondering why I and my coworkers feel so disconnected from each other and the company we work for. It's not just the threat of layoff, the crazy policies - those were there to some extent when we all went to a building. It's that there's no feeling of permanance or connection to the people I work with. I think no matter how committed you try to be to your career or profession, this is an alienating way to work. And it will ultimately be unsuccessful.
There is such a push to turn knowledge workers into piecemeal assembly line workers. But without continuity of project, people, environment - how can employment be anything more than earning money? As far as investing actual thought and creativity, there's nothing there.
Back to the idea of working over the internet - pop psychology tells us internet addiction is a problem. The amount of time we spend online is unhealthy. Certain the work time online would fit into that because it doesn't contribute to giving a person any social connection. In that regard, it's actually WORSE than the rest of what we do online. Because your work connections are less likely to be meaningful or long-lasting if they are only remote and they are less likely to require any creative or deep thinking.
So after work, I remain online in order to connect with people or places which do mean something to me. Ah, the perils of the sedentary life...