It’s always wonderful to make online connections, especially when you discover kindred spirits. And I’ve been doing that a lot lately. In fact sometimes I feel closer to my virtual friends than I do to some of my real ones. I wonder what that says about our culture when we feel a sense of genuine connection with people we’ve never met.
Many people talk about being addicted to Facebook or Twitter. But it’s not truly an addiction to social media; it’s the connection we crave. Meeting online, reading about others’ triumphs or sadnesses, and having others congratulate or commiserate with us is a large part of our daily lives. For those of us who are introverts, it’s the perfect amount of contact. We can seek out people when we need a bit of closeness, but don’t have to stay for extended lengths of time in awkward social situations. We can take the time to form our thoughts before we post, or if we blurt out something we wish we hadn’t, we can delete it or hope it rapidly will be replaced by another post of greater interest.
We don’t have to listen to bores or braggarts or people whose views we disagree with; we can ignore their posts or even unfriend them. And we can expand our social circles to include people who interest us. We can eavesdrop on conversations, or even offer an opinion on a stranger’s life. In fact, it’s easy to make friends by offering advice or comments on posts by people you’ve never met. It’s also much easier to stay friends when you have time to think or react to someone’s provoking comments. You can gather your thoughts, plan your response, and write a meaningful response. No face-to-face confrontations, angry words, or hurt feelings.
Online you can be ten or eighty, but no one knows unless you post a picture. Even that can be of your best self or a Photoshopped glamour shot. It’s even possible to post a picture of a random stranger. No one meeting you online will know. You can be any race or gender, any size or shape, any socioeconomic group. You can hide handicaps, blemishes, or personality flaws. It’s the perfect place to be the ideal self you always dreamed of, or to try out new personas. To be brave when you’re normally cowardly, to be a jokster if you’re normally sober, to be wild if you’re normally staid, or even to show your true self if you usually hide it. The possibilities are endless.
In fact I’m wondering if we’ll eventually stop meeting in person anymore. Everything from work to schooling to banking to grocery shopping can all be done online. We can order anything we need and have it delivered. The only thing we need now is a way to give 3-D hugs. Hmmm… maybe one of those new 3-D printers will solve that problem.