I used to want to prove so badly that digital connection could be just as fulfilling as an in-person connection.
Looking back, I think that was because, at that point in my life, my in-person friendships were changing. My friends were getting married, having kids, and didn’t quite have time for me anymore. I was not having kids nor getting married and as such, I didn’t always feel connected to the conversations we were having. I couldn’t relate the way I used to.
When it came down to it, I was lonely.
But for as much as I wanted to prove that a digital circle of friends could provide the support system/network we all crave, it was always lacking.
I found that a lot of times, there was a lack of depth. Not to the individuals I connected with, but in our conversations. People can (and do) pretend to be someone else online. Whether knowingly or unknowingly. You get the “best version” of people instead of the real, authentic person. Additionally, people can become more argumentative and brazen behind screens and say things they would never say to someone’s face. People also misinterpret communication because there are no verbal cues and facial context (unless you’re video chatting).
There are good things about online friendships of course. They can be very supportive. You certainly can get to know someone well enough that they do become your best friend. But if that online friendship never becomes an in-person reality, there is always a disconnect. There is always a chance that someone will shut the computer and not see your message until the next day.
It’s not quite as satisfying. And if you are lucky enough to find someone that you really connect with and the friendship is really deep, it can sometimes be ruined when meeting in-person because it’s just….different. This is especially true with any online romantic relationships. Sometimes you meet in-person and the chemistry just isn’t there.
So while I wanted very badly for digital connection to truly be a way that people felt less alone in the world, I am now just not convinced that’s a plausible outcome.
There’s something in the shared silence between two lovers.
There’s something in the shared hug between two friends.
There’s something in the shared experience when two people are in the exact same place at the exact same time.
Life is in the sharing.
The digital world has yet to recreate that.
Even with video chatting (which is as close to a shared experience as you can get online), there is still the physical touch that is lacking. The comfort in a hug when you’re grieving. The laughter that ensues when a parent is tickling a child. The security in a snuggle with your lover. The joy in the excitement you feel when your dog gets all “wiggly-butt” when you walk through the front door.
But what we’re doing these days is shying away from that. We are creating distance from each other.
We “ghost” each other because it’s easier than having a difficult conversation.
We put down our phone and say we “didn’t see the text” instead of honestly answering a sincere question.
We present only the “curated” version of ourselves because we’re afraid of showing the real us.
And in the process, we’re dying inside.
We expect immediate responses from people because we can. We are constantly in fight or flight mode because the notifications sound on our devices has our body instinctively hypersensitive to our environment. Repeatedly and consistently. We feel safe to be mean to each other. We feel safe to ignore other people when they “speak” to us. Things that we would never do in-person.
With digital connections, we’re training people that it’s okay to abandon others. We’re training people to have superficial relationships because you can only interact at 140 characters at a time. We’re “sound biting” our relationships and providing the world with the tl;dr (“too long, don’t read) version of ourselves.
And it just doesn’t satisfy my soul in a way that I crave these days.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you found extremely meaningful connections online that can replace your in-person relationships with the same satisfaction?