A few thoughts on the interesting dynamics of on-line communications.
It’s been decades since I’ve drank alcoholic beverages. Never really liked beer, and anything easy to drink, I’d tend to drink too much of too fast, which does not have good results (in my opinion). I haven’t ever really missed the drinking at all. But as I was pondering the unique dynamics of on-line community and friendships I started to see a correlation between the two. So, bear with me, as I explore this thought direction. Way back those many years ago when I did participate in the consumption of alcohol, someone once told me I was a lot more fun to be with after having a few drinks. I loosened up and lost some of my inhibitions, wasn’t as shy and reserved as I normally was (otherwise known as boring). I’m sure that was true. I really didn’t like the fact, though, that you had so little control over how that liquid courage was going to affect you once you swallowed it. There’s always that fine line between courage and stupidity that’s easily crossed when your brain isn’t functioning in full capacity.
So what has all this got to do with on line communication and relationships? Are we getting drunk off the Internet? Not exactly. But, particularly for the more reserved personality types, or those uncomfortable in some social settings with people they don’t know well, I do see a similar affect. When interacting with people over the Internet, that you have not, and in most probability, will not, ever meet, there seems to be a tendency towards a greater freedom of expression. The anxiety levels are greatly diminished. Number one, I can make a statement without having to see an immediate reaction on your face. No raised eyebrows, no snicker, no confusion, no shock, horror or anger being seen by me in the middle of my speaking . I get to simply say my piece and wait for any possible response or reaction. Those on the receiving end, in turn, have the opportunity to think out their response before giving it also. Choosing to reveal , or not reveal, their true feelings, which may not have been as easy to do in a face to face situation. The ability to carefully choose your words, should you take the time, is a huge thing in itself. If I look down at my typing and don’t like what I see…Delete! I just start over. No need to ‘eat my words’. I can come off sounding as polished as I take the time to be. These factors alone contribute greatly to the removing of the normal inhibitions of face to face communication. Add the fact that you can choose to leave an on-line community or discussion at any time, with little or no repercussions, further decreases the inhibiting factors. I don’t have to worry about ‘bumping into you’ at the grocery store or the gas station after having hurt your feelings, gotten you angry or just said something stupid in front of you. I can walk out of your world without a goodbye and not worry in the least about ever seeing you again. In addition to the area of communication, we have the added benefit of not being judged by our appearance. I can post a picture, or not. I can post a picture that isn’t me, or one from 10 years ago and 20 pounds lighter. As much as we all would like to think outward appearances don’t affect our perception of people, it just isn’t generally true. Ever met a radio announcer for the first time and been shocked to see that deep booming voice come from someone five feet tall?
So, is this a good thing or a bad thing? And are you getting to know the real me or just who I would like to be? Probably a little of both, in answer to both these questions. If we met face to face we might chat away as comfortably as we do on-line, or it might be quite awkward as we stumbled over words and found difficulty looking the other in the eye, since we’ve never had to before. I actually get to do this in a few days, meet one of my Triond friends in person. Should be interesting to see how it goes. Makes you think about what impressions you may have given of yourself and/or the reality of the view you have of the other person. For myself, if I’m honest, I think my on-line friends probably get to see more of who I am inside than most people who know me face to face. Katie Marie is probably ‘a lot more fun’ via the Internet than in person. I get to lose some of my inhibitions without risking a DUI or a hangover. Of course, you could stick me behind a pulpit and it could do similar things for me, but that’s a whole different story that I’ll just leave you to wonder about.
Belly up to the bar friends. This rounds on me.