If I think of time before social media, that's how the Internets mostly was; if I communicated with someone over the web, e.g. in a forum or chat, it was usually someone that I had never met before in the physical life.
I talk about it as a hybrid world, an easy combination of life offline and online. That's why I was very glad to see some current research on the topic.
According to Caroline Haythornthwaite and Lori Kendall, professors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois, online interactions not only have positive outcomes for real-life, place-based communities, but the intersection between online communication and the offline world also forms two halves of a support mechanism for communities.
Previously, most attention was paid to highly virtual, online-only experiences. But as information and communication technologies have become increasingly intertwined with everyday life, the Internet and social media have combined to create a vibrant and indispensable communication and information platform and infrastructure for today's world.
"In its earliest incarnation, the online world was considered a separate realm, and it was not viewed as a serious venue for work or business," Haythornthwaite said. "But as more people have come online, the more online communication has become the norm. So it isn't thought of as a separate realm anymore, but as one that merges and overlaps with our daily activities. Full article"
This is something that I have also experienced with the eTwinning action, and it's quite interesting. It is just something rather had to pinpoint.