Sunday, February 03, 2013

Online Relationships

I kind of hate the Internet. People are rude, they assume... and that's just me! Hahaha. But seriously, it's hard to have any kind of real relationship with people online, simply because it's just that --not really "real."

Now before you tell me that your stranger-buddies on the what's-it forum on that one cool page are your "besties" and you would "die" for them, I want you to think for a minute: would you? Because I'm pretty sure that if your power went out and you no longer were online, or if real life dictated that you sever ties with your Facebook account, it wouldn't take very long for you to forget those online people.

Full caveat: One of my greatest and closest friends of all time is a woman I met through blogging. We started as blogging buddies, then email buddies, then phone buddies, and then real life buddies. We still talk on the phone 2-3 hours a week and we've gotten together "in person" five times...? I can't remember (she lives in another state). So, I know it is possible! I've met many friends through the internet, I've met several whom I've made a concerted effort to meet. So, I'm not saying it's impossible, what I'm saying is this: Could we survive our lives if our online time was severely limited or thwarted, even cut off?

There were people I blogged with many years ago. We've fallen out of touch and the truth is that I can't remember their names, let alone the names of their blogs. It's not because I didn't like them, and the truth is, when I think about it for a while, I can't even remember why we lost touch...

This has been on my mind because I believe that Facebook is polarizing my life.

On the one hand, I have a handful of amazing friends. Women I've never met (truly --in some of the forums I'm a part of, and many of the authors at Real Intent, both male and female), and many friends throughout all the different stages of my life. But then at the other side of the pendulum, I've seen how Facebook and it's casual atmosphere --coupled with instant communication --has basically eroded relationships of mine that would have otherwise been just fine.

It's not necessarily anybody's fault. It's just the medium of communication. It truly doesn't work very well, and it's hard to understand intent and the people behind the comments. It is simply too easy to vilify and react.

For example, just today I was hand slapped for semantics and ridiculed publicly for something I probably should have worded differently. Instead of beginning an argument (I mean, it was over somebody's death), I simply deleted my comment. Yes, my comment was made quickly --I should have thought it through. But really, I feel two inches tall, now. The person who chastised me didn't know that I've spent this entire day near tears, encumbered about by crushing exhaustion, debilitating depression, and constant lies from satan ("you're not good enough, you'll never be beautiful enough, you're going to be fat forever, your family doesn't need you nor want you, blah, blah, blah") only to come home to a public flogging where there was no chance I could ever defend my position.

And yet, within minutes, I was reading a post of a friend who had given birth, and I was able to celebrate with her.

This is why I go back and forth from absolutely loathing Facebook to loving it. To hating it, vowing I will quit, to realizing what I would miss.

I feel the same about blogging. The internet in general. There are so many GOOD things about it all, and yet, there is so much bad. So, so, so much bad....

I realized a long time ago that it was best for my soul to avoid discussions that would illicit contention. This is why I ignore the entire Bloggernacle and have unsubscribed from several people on my newsfeed. Am I chicken? You betcha. There are family members whom I can't even think of with good thoughts anymore, simply because our online communications have damaged opinions so deeply. It's awful. It's not worth it. I'd rather talk to somebody once a year and maintain a good opinion about them, rather than communicate with them daily and begin to dislike them, and to have them hate, or worse, pity me.

The truth is, I think I need to put in more effort into relationships with people I see in person, with people whom I am in contact with here on my street. My neighbors, my ward and stake members, my family. Depression makes me prone to hibernate, and without getting into another rant, I think Facebook and blogging has exasperated the problem of hiding from the real life that is right in front of me.

So, you tell me: What do you think about online relationships? Is Facebook something you love or hate? Both? Do you think we put too much effort into the "fake" relating we claim we are doing online and not enough with people we see in real life?

11 comments:

SuburbanZoo said...

Yep, pretty much everything you just said.

Julie said...

Hey pal! I k is I never comment,.....but---

I quit Facebook on January 1st thinking I'd miss it like crazy. I loved Facebook and rarely had negative experiences there.

Julie said...

Sorry- my phone isn't cooperating. Anyway, I loved Facebook and used it to keep in touch with my neighborhood friends as well as friends from the past. I really thought I would miss it so much. Surprise surprise- I don't miss it at all!!! Who knew?
I came to the realization that the friendships we make throughout our lives are meant to cycle. We aren't meant to keep in touch with every person we've ever met and liked. We enter new phases and leave others behind. Sometimes the people we knew then have to just naturally fade out with the phase they're associated with.

I have loved the friendships I have made online, but you're absolutely right- when they're gone, my life isn't really empty without them. I think you're completely right in your thinking that you ought to spend more time connecting with the real people in your life. It makes all the difference.

Love you!

notmolly said...

Another "Right There With Ya."

I've been on-line for a long time for business (going on 17 years now!), so early on, I had to figure out how to have a public persona without it being "me." "Me" didn't need to be out there. I still maintain the business persona on-line, and she's mostly me. Well, the nice parts of me. :)

I do have some very important relationships that are maintained only via internet. And one very, very important relationship that was restored to me via internet. I would truly regret not having those contacts in all the great and small things of life. I feel far more connected to multiple siblings than I ever had felt once I left home at 17. That's a good thing.

There are people I know only on-line, and have known for 10-15 years, and we've never met (though there was a close opportunity during a snow-storm in Chicago... if my flight hadn't gotten out, I'd have been attending the wedding of an internet-only friend who is truly dear to my soul. Our flights missed one another by three hours, as she came in from Israel. But, she got married under the chuppah I made for her. We would not know one another if not for our on-line relationship, and I would be poorer for it.

Being a hermit, I entirely relate to the hibernation and isolation issue. I find many of my on-line friendships easier, because it's always on my timing, and according to my energy availability. In-person is more exhausting, and more demanding. I can't answer an in-person friend's need at 3am, usually. :)

I whole-heartedly encourage streamlining the network. I keep entirely separate lists for particular types of acquaintances, versus people I consider family, for instance.

One quick hilarious thing: Facebook sent my best friend's wife (who has become a best friend of mine, too!) and me a notification asking us to confirm we are step-sisters. We each got a kick out of that, and said, "Sure, why not!" Facebook algorithms are so confused by the wonderful mess of people we each have classified as "family" that we have a totally new relationship to share. And I do adore my "step-sister"... without her, I'd have a big hole in my heart. And we've seen each other in person ONCE in 17 years. Internet/email/FB keep us talking about the large and the small events that do knit our hearts together.

So I guess my super-long thing boils down to: I try really hard to use my Internet Powers for Good, and not for Eeeeevil. :)

sariqd said...

I was just realizing that I'm more social via fb with my new ward family than I am in person. How crazy is that??? So not right. In addition to this, I think it has made me socially backwards in real life now. A woman came over with a plate of cookies and I just stood there at the door and kept thanking her over and over. It was really awkward and painful. It wasn't until later I thought it through and realized I should have invited her in. See - all this internet stuff (plus all the other stuff in my life) has made me so awkward in social situations that I wonder if it exacerbates the "I'm such a dork, nobody loves me or even wants to get to know me" junk that I deal with. AHHH!!!

Anyway. I do agree with Julie though. Friends/relationships are meant to cycle through. My baby sister pointed that out to me that she believed people are meant to cross in and out of each other's lives. Once the purpose is met, they move on just like I should move on. Something to think about.

MamaMia said...

Wish I had the answer...

Amanda D said...

I think I am on too many social media platforms. Blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and now Instagram. The problem with quitting FB for me is that a lot of real-life social things are put together and organized through FB. I think that the people in my ward that aren't on FB miss out on a lot.

My ultimate goal: LIMIT MY TIME. Check Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram 1x a day. Blogs 2x. I don't though -- it's too easy to check all three on my phone, and it only takes a minute to check on the laptop when I check my email. Checking too often does affect my happiness though.

Basically, I am rambling and don't have much to add, but Julie is right. :)

Julie said...

I completely agree. I have lost some of my real life social skills because of Internet communication. The fact that Internet relationships exist only at our convenience is a detriment (at least for me). I have loved the fact that if I want to communicate with someone in my neighborhood, I have to consciously seek them out. Of course, I still text too frequently and that kills my social skills as well, but I have seen my social skills improve again because I have not had Facebook for a crutch.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Since you and I originally met online, I do have to say I will forever be grateful for the internet's ability to bring people together....but I completely agree with Julie. It is unnatural for us to expect to keep up with every person we've ever met. I do believe that social media sites can be used for positive purposes, but it seems to be human nature to abuse/misuse them, often to the detriment of the people right in front of our faces.

This type of misuse is exactly what pushed me off of Facebook two months ago, and I do not miss it. Try it and see...those who really care about you will call, text, email, or (GASP!) stop by to say hi. :)

madhousewife said...

I've thought about giving up Facebook, just as I've thought about giving up blogging. But I'm afraid that without the internet I wouldn't have any friends at all.

Never A True Aggie said...

I liked reading your posts and will miss seeing you from time to time, but totally understand. Completely agree about the Bloggernacle. Not helpful. I do hope that if you have something cool to share every once in a while, you will do it. One of your posts totally helped me with a personal issue with one of my kids and the link you posted was inspired. Who knew? Anyway, I have also eased up on the constant reporting of my life/commenting on other's lives. Life still goes on oddly enough.

As for the depression and too much going on in your head, plus anxiety. I have decided that I hoard my anxiety a great deal. The number one thing that helped me turn things around was listening to the Mormon Channel. I find that when I turn off the TV and pipe that channel either through my car stereo or home stereo my anxiety goes WAY DOWN! I can't say the thing I am worried about changes too much, but my approach certainly does. I have also found the kids reflect either my anxiety or peace that I am giving off. So, it helps with the kids too. Maybe you are already doing it, but thought I would pass it along.