From online dating to Facebook ranting, the Internet has provided countless ways for people to connect. But is that a good thing? As with most things, it depends on how it is used. So if someone spends all her time in front of a computer screen, that’s not healthy. But as part of a balanced “diet” the Internet can provide great opportunities to build relationships.
Probably the two biggest problems with online interactions are the loss of tone and the lack of physical interaction. Everyone who has ever sent or received a flame email or FB message knows about the perils of loss of tone. Positions get entrenched, humor is misunderstood, and people who would never raise their voice in a cafe digitally scream at everyone. The other problem is the lack of physical interaction. Touch, body language, sharing food, etc. are all wonderful elements of relationships. Learning another person’s tics, watching the rise and fall of his eyebrows, feeling the tightness of her handshake: these are all lost in the digital world.
So what are we to do? Well, make the Internet just a part of your relationship building. As a new mom, I was isolated and depressed. I posted desperate status updates on Facebook and a community of encouragers rose up to keep me sane. Some were people I hadn’t talked to in years, and yet their words got me through the tough times. For 3 AM feedings, my online community was a lifesaver! But I also relied on my local friends: for babysitting, for meals, for advice, and for comfort.
So give the Internet a try. I love Meetup.com. It’s a great bridge between the online and physical worlds.