That's the way it always works.

If people actually meet, that means that their paths have crossed. If paths don't cross, people don't meet. But of course that wasn't the issue, but rather the idea of there being something special in that unplanned meeting, something beyond chance, something that hints at a hidden order in the universe.

We're not going to get overly metaphysical here, but, considering the almost limitless number of variables involved, a "chance encounter" would seem to be the only sort of encounter that exists - in cyberspace, or in physical space. We meet someone on a bus because we were running late that morning and missed our regular bus, only to discover that the person we've met was intending to drive that day, but a flat tire caused a change in plans. An elderly woman crossing the street with her dog doesn't get through before the light changes and because of that we don't get through that light, which makes us arrive two minutes later than expected, where we meet someone who because of a dog barking outside his or her window woke up a few minutes earlier than usual that day. And of course we meet people via these chance encounters every day. It's just that in the vast majority of these encounters the person we meet turns out not to be the person we think we were fated to meet, and we therefore don't fill them with extra meaning.

Of course without scenarios like these, we wouldn't have movies. (And considering that only last month I referred to television sit-coms, maybe we wouldn't have the Boidem either.) But the extent to which chance permeates popular culture isn't what concerns me here, but rather the question of whether being connected to a particular network at a particular time carries with it a hint of fate that might cause us to expect that a passing encounter should develop into something more than that.

I see no reason why it should, yet I have the strange feeling that the amorphous enormity of cyberspace, coupled with the vast interconnectivity we encounter there, creates such an expectation.

Go to: Strangers on a network.