"That's one of the wonderful things about the internet," says Gwinnell. "There's always somebody awake out there."

She also recommends email interaction to married couples whose communication skills have broken down. If one spouse needs to travel, she or he should keep in touch via the internet. It is as good as writing in a journal for expressing personal feelings, but those feelings can be shared with little or none of the anxiety associated with face-to-face communication.

Gwinnell's personal internet destinations are less romantic and more intellectual. She enjoys participating in job-related or issue-oriented electronic forums, discussing subjects that were "the things I remember talking about until 2 a.m. at the coffee shop at Reed.

"I like having intellectual discussions whenever I feel like it . . . and you can do it in your bunny slippers!"

Gwinnell, 44, is an Alaska native who visited a friend attending Reed and thought, "This is the place for me." After earning a degree in biology from Reed she went to the University of Washington medical school. She found psychiatry fascinating and fun, and she loved her rotation at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, so it occurred to her: "I might have a knack!" She completed her residency at Oregon Health Sciences University in 1983 and decided to stay in Portland.

"I'd gotten attached to the place," she says.

Gwinnell says the internet comes in very handy in her psychiatric practice. She emails patients with new instructions for their medications, finding that email is more reliable than dictating over the phone. And she encourages patients to email her anytime they have problems that don't require immediate attention.

"I get to deal with it in my own good time. That's markedly less intrusive than calling."

But no endearments, please, or funny nicknames. For Gwinnell, email is strictly business.

Susan G. Hauser is a Portland freelance writer whose work regularly appears in the Wall Street Journal. She wrote about the class of 2000 in the November 1996 Reed.

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