John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article dated May 96 (v1.0)

Transference Among People Online

The psychoanalytic concept of "transference" is especially important for understanding online relationships. Because the experience of the other person often is limited to text, there is a tendency for the user to project a variety of wishes, fantasies, and fears onto the ambiguous figure at the other end of cyberspace. The "blending" of one's mind with the other, as some users describe the experience of relating in cyberspace, may reflect this transference process. In fact, some users describe this blending of mind with the computer itself. Transference to the computer and to other users may interact in very subtle, complex ways. As one avid cybernaut once told me, "wherever I go on the internet, I discover myself."

Unconscious motivations related to the transference will also affect the "filtering" process that determines the choices the user makes in establishing relationships. Users may be surprised to find that the close friends they make online all seem to be the same types of people, even though this was not immediately obvious at the start of the relationship. This unconscious "homing" device can be very sensitive. Even when communicating only via text and in cumbersome or distracting online environments, we nevertheless zoom in on relationships that touch some hidden need within us.

When people exchange photos, call on the telephone, or finally meet the other, they are often surprised at how the real person does not always match the image they had developed in their mind. Meeting face-to-face challenges and reshapes the transference reactions.

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See also in The Psychology of Cyberspace:

The online disinhibition effect
Transference to one's computer and cyberspace
Cyberspace as a psychological space
Presence in cyberspace
Conflict in Cyberspace: How to resolve conflict online
The black hole of cyberspace

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