Finding deep and meaningful relationships is hard. So many people turn to the interwebs to help them, hoping that making friends online will be easier. Yet, everyday as I scroll my Facebook feed I see people in some kind of hearty discussion. People getting fired up about something someone posts that elicits a colorful array of responses.
But here’s the thing: often these conversations get really personal. To lessen the blow, people put smiley emojis or xx at the end of their comment in an attempt to reinstate peace and settle their differences.But here’s the thing we always miss: most of what we read is headlines, and those headlines are designed to make people react. Even the content of the article once clicked is focused around making you react in some way. Advertisers and provocative people love social media because most people take the bait. They expect you to react in a way that propels discourse through the disguise of discussion.
It’s all pretty run of the mill to be honest and it’s highly addictive.
We need to resist the urge to fight back. Resist the desire to get angry. Resist the need to be right. Resist the desire to create click-bait headlines. Resist the feeling of offence. We need to be better than the lows the internet beckons us too.
Making Friends Online Needs a New Solution
The kind of discussions that truly move society to a better place rarely occur on Facebook. It’s bloody hard to have a civil conversation on social media, and from what I’ve seen, it makes everything much, much worse!
The message of a hope-filled future needs to be delivered in a context where the spectrum of interpersonal cues are present. We need to see people’s body language, hear their tone, look them in the eye and actually be in the same room. If we were, I doubt the same controversies we squabble over online would get any airtime.
By all means participate and contribute, share your stance and offer various viewpoints, but don’t neglect the offline interactions where true relationships can be forged, and each of the people involved can understand and connect with each other. Making friends online has nothing on those kinds of relationships!
A real, face to face conversation is counter cultural today. It takes time, planning, thought and an ability to hold a conversation. When we are face to face, mutual understanding can occur without subtly trying to prove the other person is wrong. Common ground opens up and we create meaningful relationships.
We can do better than offering a token opinion in an online forum hoping we are making friends online. Pick up the phone and organise a coffee.
Then you’ll discover what it means to truly connect.