Talking about Instant Identiy: Adolescent Girls and the World of IMing, I am able to personally identify with this notion as I was an avid "AIMer" in middle school and high school. I can remember specifically in middle school talking to boys online in a flirtatious way. Ways that I would not have talked to them otherwise, at lunchtime or after school. I feel I used AIM mostly to talk to boys, especially if there was a boy I liked. Our "relationship" consisted mostly of online conversing rather than face-to-face or hanging out. It makes me wonder if that early onset of online connecting rather than personally has molded my comfortableness with the opposite sex in some ways.
After high school I stopped using AIM until Facebook chat came out and now I find myself returning to my old chatting ways. Not at all in exploring ways this time, but just a free way to communicate to whomever I want to and maybe even mild flirting here and there. There is a weird sense of immediate comfort that comes from talking to someone you don't know that well online...but I wonder if that transforms into more comfort beyond the computer screen with them?