There was a time when finding friends on the Internet seemed a good option. I always had difficulty fitting in with my peers, and so to find others who liked Christian Bale (for example) was a real boon. I have several friends I only met on the Internet, and I appreciate all of them. Yet, having said that, I no longer view the web as a good place to meet like-minded people.
The truth, hammered into me from too many gone-sour web-based relationships, points more to an idea that the Internet is not actually a good place to have a discussion with strangers
For one thing, you cannot adequately express your point of view, regardless of the depth of your vocabulary. Ultimately, someone you contradict is not going to “get” what you mean; either because their own vocabulary is much more limited, or because you used a word or phrase incorrectly.
Secondly, tacit friendships formed on the web are more likely to go spectacularly bad at a spectacularly rapid pace. A blink of an eye pace. Most people believe their anonymity–or at least distance–gives them license to be mean and cutting without consequence. The result is emotional damage, often without resolution.
Once you have extended the hand of friendship, you have made yourself vulnerable. In real life, real time relationships, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of our communication is non-verbal, so it’s possible that your meaning is better understood through your facial expression and tone of voice. Friends and acquaintances are also able to determine what state of mind you are in through your physicality. That’s not possible on the Internet. The result is that you get more leeway to be an ass in person than you ever will in a chat room or on Facebook.
However, since moving to the Atom Mill Town, I’ve noticed I am losing my patience with most of my formerly in-person friends. The same people I would happily share hours of debate with in a coffee shop or pub are the same people who find reasons to call me out on Facebook if I don’t word things the way they feel I should have.
The problem is, I have no face-to-face contact with more than three of them. I don’t know where they are in their lives if they don’t put it on Facebook. I have literally drifted away from just about everyone I knew in London.
When I post something somewhat political or religious (or anti-religious, as is my wont), I know I am opening myself up to the kinds of discussions I don’t want to have on the Internet, especially not with people I barely get to see anymore and miss. I don’t want miscommunication and misunderstandings to come between us. I have few ways of rectifying whatever negativity gets generated.
So I have stopped, as of today. My posts will be about the cats, the weather, the play I’m working on, and sometimes humourous (I think) reflections on my state of mind. Anything deeper than that I’m going to have to learn to ignore, because my only outlet for that kind of thing is this blog, and I don’t enjoy writing here the way I used to.