I find that interesting too - certainly here on A2K - the feelings of others - happy/sad....and all in between, do appear to affect me and the people I know here - and with me, for even some of the people I don't know.
We have a close community here - when one of us is seriously struggling, it can really affect a lot of us - when one of us is jumping about on the deck having a laugh or has some great news to spill - others jump about too. There's a lot of us here who are in daily contact - not just on A2K but with email / phone etc.
Tho I shouldn't probably feel the way I do, I often have more concerns and regard for how my friends are doing here - than I would with my family/colleagues here in real life - for varying reasons. This kind of network is virtual so tho you can hear the pain people experience - you can't see it - sometimes allowing us to be stronger to give someone a lift. In the same vein tho - when celebrations are going on - i.e. when Dutchy became a Cosmic Eagle - folk actually hung around the computers to see this happen and celebrated with him - there was such a feel good factor going on - and for what.... a change of avatar - but it was HUGE for a lot of us - really happy. Same with weddings and funerals.... births and birthday parties.
Some people just pop by once in a while and for some people, a social network like this gives them their sanity.... or fun level, or safety net, or just a place to throw a political opinion in to and get crabby and vociferous - which they might not ordinarily do in their real life.
In social networking tho, I think on something such as A2K - when people are down - there is also a wave of support from quarters near and far which is incredible to see, and feel. Even for people you really don't know and on occasion for folk who in real life, you know you would never be a part of their life.
For me, having support from people who were just willing to support and ask absolutely nothing in return - who say what they say because they choose to say it, not because they have to, and offer perspective on many differing levels - well, if you don't get that in real life coz everyone is judging, just plain sick of the rollercoaster and has to "live" it too or you have lost trust in everything that was real in your life - then having people around who are not there every single minute, but will still take time out of there day to offer a kind word and be there for you - I think that is simply amazing. Or like on a thread where you know someone is waiting for results of say, surgery, or exams, treatment - you sit there waiting to check in on them - perhaps more so than you would with someone who lived next door to you, or a family member.
Social networking as it is here - IMO - even when there is a grumpy person around - if they ask for reassurance - they still get it because there is a whole world of different folk out there. You may not get that in real life if you are known to be Mr Grumpy.
However, in as much as some of us here feel the feelings of the others, or their pain or whatever in some circumstances - there is always someone who will come along and throw in a line and pull them up - and you can really see how that can turn someone around.
When someone starts a happy thread - so many people jump in - now, they could be sat at home feeling like cr*p and a whole load of stuff going on in their lives - but if you see something happy going on here - well, the people I know here just jump onto the happy bandwagon much of the time - it's kinda cool. Perhaps it's a form of escapism - who knows. The empathetic mimicry isn't there - except for an emoticon.
Also, there isn't so much a "status" of the person - what they do or who they are..... there are certainly clique groups - but quite honestly, in this kind of medium it really doesnt matter what someone does or who they are - it's virtual. You can talk on here to someone who in real life you would never approach. (Then again, I suppose that brings in the dangers of a virtual world where you could be talking to someone who is not really the person they say the are.)
I'm sure also that even virtually - eg talking about kids or illness - there is a degree of "does my child have this" "have I got that" when you are writing about symptoms or dicsussing behaviours... I think that is similar to the real world.... however, virtually, you would get MANY different perpsectives, in the real world - your home town, neighbours, friends and family - the perspective, IMO, would be far less.
Having never been on a forum before - I reckon finding something like A2K was actually a lifesaver for me.
Strange 'ole thing - virtual worlds and social networking.
<ha - did I answer the question or just have a big long ramble>