I'm a cast-iron introvert. Spending time with people drains me, and then spending time alone allows me to recharge. There's just enough crap that goes on in any sort of personal interaction that it always requires at least some level of concentration. I can't just go onto auto-pilot and relax. This is one of the reasons why I like the Internet so much: nobody can see if you pick your nose or scratch your bum; you can up and go to the toilet whenever you want to; you don't have to find the right pause in the conversation to say what you want to say and you don't get frustrated if one person just keeps on talking and never lets you in. And so on and so forth. That isn't to say that talking to people on the Internet isn't draining, because it is; it just drains at a much slower rate.
(And I'll point out at this point for anyone who doesn't know me that well that I'm not socially inept. I'll confess that I don't have many airs and graces, but that's out of choice, and I'm perfectly polite and amiable, and while I'm somewhat shy I am capable of initiating converstions, and so on. I can also, at times, be charismatic, entertaining, witty and articulate, even if I do say so myself. I mention this on the off chance that there's anyone reading this who hasn't yet had it ground into their skull that introverted and socially inept are totally different things.)
But enough of that tangent. I find myself, recently, without a home on the 'net. It's a long time since that was last true. I joined #lj_support very shortly after I left #afp, and I was on lspace IRC since march '99. And before and during the 5 years that they covered between them, there have been newsgroups, mailing lists, other IRC channels, and so on. And now, there's very little left, and I'm too jaded and misanthropic to go seeking out new places that don't suck. I have one small IRC channel, which I don't really count as a home or a ocmmunity for various reasons, and I have LJ, where everyone talks at each other and very little actual communication takes place.
And I'm realising that groups are important for two reasons. One is that they're even less draining than one-on-one online conversations. You can just disappear for a week and let everyone else do the talking, and nobody will notice. More importantly though, it's just that much easier to maintain friendships that way. There's a big difference between "person I enjoy talking to as a member of a group" and "person who I enjoy talking to sufficiently that we will both go out of our way to maintain an individual friendship even after the group connection has gone". I'm seeing recently the number of people I ever actually talk to gradually dropping, and I'm not really sure what to do about that. It's something of a disturbing trend though, because I know that the social contact that I get online does me good, and stops me turning completely to the llama-side. This is something I need to give more thought to, I feel.