It's been over a year now that we've maintained relationships "filtered" by screens – and not just because we choose to do so. I've noticed how the tools that often help us communicate (and we have to admit that they really do help us communicate in this day and age!) sometimes make us fall victim to inauthentic relationships.
We already highlighted some of the limitations of the communication tools we use to stay in touch , but the problem has several facets. Let’s explore some of them.
A few months ago, a person I hadn't seen for a long time – the pandemic being yet another reason for this – ended our friendship after a somewhat heated discussion regarding gender theory, where I argued the need to recognize gender difference . The person had simply blocked me on social media without a word. There was no clarification whatsoever.
A simple "click," and it was all over. It was a sad experience, but I learned a lot from it....
1. Social media doesn't facilitate discussion about sensitive topics
That day the conversation with my friend got pretty heated. I recognize that almost nobody is exempt from the danger of the "depersonalization" that social networks encourage, nor is anyone exempt from the temptation of the indefinite back-and-forth.
I blame myself for having decided to dissect such a serious, complex issue (at least for today’s socio-cultural situation), instead of "squashing" it after briefly stating my opinion. I could’ve just said: “Let's talk about this when we see each other in person.”
If we want to speak our mind without being sucked into a vortex of arguing, it is more effective to be brief – outlining one’s own position and suggesting further discussion in a more suitable context.
Once the argument has taken place, it’s better to suggest a resolution in person.
Social networks have the strange power to make us see the other person as a real monster.
Feelings are numbed by the keyboard. You can't see the face of the person you're talking to, and it's easier for you to say nasty things that you would never consider saying to the person’s face.
I urge each one of you – and myself – to not ruin relationships just because we want to see our own opinions typed out as comments.
2. Having the courage to say things face-to-face: an aptitude we are losing
This behavior a person might have to end a years-long friendship via social media, I find it problematic; especially a person who’s an adult, intelligent, well-educated, respected in many circles…
I must say, to justify my confusion: this was a woman who had been there for me through many important life events including my wedding day, the baptism of both my children, and my mother's funeral. She visited us often and even babysat my children.
One "click," and we lost it all.
Why don’t we all think about whether we use social media to get out of a difficult or uncomfortable situation or if we still have the courage to talk face-to-face with people even when we have to communicate disappointment or discontentment, or to correct someone?
Let’s not forget about the possible outcome of having to end a relationship.
3. A friendship that ends on social media already had underlying weaknesses
Of course, we can't always blame social media alone.
It’s not the usual outcome that a friendship ends via social media due to an argument online.
Arguments happen, but misunderstandings can be dealt with if there is mutual respect and sincere care for one another.
The love that we have for each other outweighs the difference of opinions. Conflicts are not a side note; they are overcome together with patience and forgiveness.
It is likely that relationships end this way when there are already many differences in opinions, when there is little in common, or when two people have different values. Social networks, in the face of conflict, make people want to fold rather than patiently try to close the gap.
However, if we are being honest, we must admit that social networks widen cracks that had already been there. This was certainly the case in my friendship.
I have learnt a lesson: reflecting on the bases of my friendships. Asking ourselves if they could withstand an argument on social media is a possible indication of how solid the friendships really are…
Finally, I'd like to mention that social media can become an important bridge for our relationships, especially in a time where contact is limited due to extenuating circumstances.
But it would be great if we might take this time of isolation to consider how technology affects our lives.
How does it hinder me? How does it help me?
It could be worth considering keeping a journal in which we could jot down, most sincerely, our thoughts about how social networks enslave us, isolate us, and make us run away from relationships versus when they help us to love and show affection. It might also be helpful to understand why we are unable to do the latter in person.
We look forward to your thoughts and comments!