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How often have you googled someone you’ve just met? How has your perception of this person changed once you’ve clicked through the first search results, their Facebook images, or what people wrote on their timeline? Does your perception of people who you’ve known for years change or at least manifest because of social media?
In recent years, I’ve had many conversations about how to navigate the internet. In my opinion, social media – as it is today – is a tool that gives us access to information and people, independent of their ancestry and their social status. Pretty much anyone is accessible. Pretty much anything is available through Google.
My answer is always more or less the same. To use the internet to your advantage, use it as if it was a wish list; a wish list of activities you want to pursue, people you want to meet, topics you want to talk about...
Once you put out there what you’re good at, what you can offer to others, and what you're truly and genuinely excited about, people who are looking for you will find you.
So that's one perspective and the reason why I like the internet so much.
On the other hand (and if you’re friends with me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn), you might have realized I share something almost daily. However, I'm very aware of the things I share. Unless others do, I hardly ever share my personal life online. I use Facebook to promote my work and spark conversation about topics that are important to me, and I use Instagram as a way to express gratitude for the little things and to say thank you to the people who cross my path. What I don’t do online is I don’t share how I feel or what’s currently bothering me. That to me is private.
Now, what I find interesting is that to others what I – or let’s say people in general – share online makes for the whole picture. People would sometimes say “...but I know you’re well because I’ve seen it on Instagram.”
What I really wonder about is why so many of our relationships have become passive? Why do we believe that by liking our friends' images, they’ll know we’re thinking of them, that we care for them?
In recent weeks, I've been reading Sherry Turkle’s books. Turkle is a researcher at the MIT and her work is dedicated to digital media and its impact on interpersonal communication. I’ve been reading her books slowly because she gives a lot of food for thought, starting from the possibility to marry a robot in the future, how we’re more comfortable going to bed with each other but not talking to each other, and how true love is a lack of desire to check one’s smartphone in another’s presence (she quoted Alain de Botton here). She, of course, makes more general points, but I wanted you to think about some of them specifically.
Besides recommending you to read Turkle’s Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other and Reclaiming Conversation: The power of talk in a digital age, I’d also recommend asking your friend when you can next talk on the phone or meet in person before you assume everything’s great and they don’t want to hear from you. Because they do.
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