What you’re about to read may indicate the highest form of hypocrisy, but I write it as a means to be thought provoking. This is not intended to establish a platform or perspective to judge the behaviors of others nor is it intended to provide “the answers.” Now, with that opening …
On a recent date-night with my wife we spoke about how we are connected to people on Facebook with whom we have little or no connection with in real life. Unless we take the time to work with Facebook’s Privacy Settings the content shared there is really open to anyone realizing, of course, that if we don’t invest the time to verify every Facebook update there will be breaches in securing access to the information we share.
We discussed how many of our online connections read what we post without our knowing they have connected with us in some way until, at some later time, they comment about something that was shared.
In real life we have real-time, two-way or multi-way dialogues and speaking with someone in person opens up not only the verbal communication, but the non-verbal signals as well. During phone conversations our brain processes the tonality, intonation, speed, volume and other parts of speech in processing the emotional intent of the one speaking. We miss all of that important information when we restrict engagement to online platforms (such as this blog).
More importantly, we lose the fulfillment of human interaction.
In speaking to a group of graduating BYU Idaho students, Elder David H. Bendar, (PhD on Organizational Behavior, Purdue), gave a fantastic talk on this topic entitled, Things as They Really Are. From the August 10, 2007 Wall Street Journal, Dr. Bendar quotes:
“Please note the lack of personal fidelity in the following episode as reported in the Wall Street Journal:
Ric Hoogestraat is “a burly [53-year-old] man with a long gray ponytail, thick sideburns and a salt-and-pepper handlebar mustache. … [Ric spends] six hours a night and often 14 hours at a stretch on weekends as Dutch Hoorenbeek, his six-foot-nine, muscular … cyber-self. The character looks like a younger, physically enhanced version of [Ric]. …
“… [He] sits at his computer with the blinds drawn. … While his wife, Sue, watches television in the living room, Mr. Hoogestraat chats online with what appears on the screen to be a tall, slim redhead.
“He’s never met the woman outside of the computer world of Second Life, a well-chronicled digital fantasyland. … He’s never so much as spoken to her on the telephone. But their relationship has taken on curiously real dimensions. They own two dogs, pay a mortgage together and spend hours [in their cyberspace world] shopping at the mall and taking long motorcycle rides. … Their bond is so strong that three months ago, Mr. Hoogestraat asked Janet Spielman, the 38-year-old Canadian woman who controls the redhead, to become his virtual wife.
“The woman he’s legally wed to is not amused. ‘It’s really devastating,’ says Sue Hoogestraat, … who has been married to Mr. Hoogestraat for seven months.”
A later quote within the same article:
“Nearly 40% of men and 53% of women who play online games said their virtual friends were equal to or better than their real-life friends, according to a survey of 30,000 gamers conducted by … a recent Ph.D. graduate from Stanford University. More than a quarter of gamers [who responded indicated that] the emotional highlight of the past week occurred in a computer world.”
I enjoy many new friendships, connections, opportunities and events from the wonderful connections I’ve made online. I’ve found that my online presence has deepened friendships, rekindled old connections, and enriched my life; however, I appreciate this caution to see things as they really are and not become more caught-up in the online world than in the real one.
It’s a balance and an approach with moderation that I struggle with and I know I’m not alone. What have you found works for you in balancing your offline and online interactions?