The internet, especially social media, makes people weird. This includes: suspiciousness, rudeness, aggressiveness, unresponsiveness, misplaced common courtesy, absent social norms, lack of typical friendliness, bluntness, etc. I notice the differences in others, as well as in myself.
For instance, there is a fellow blogger I know. We mutually follow each other’s blogs. He recently shared his personal experience in his blog. He doesn’t usually write about personal experiences and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to get to know him better. I responded with some personal experience that was similar to his. I had interacted with this guy before and was trying to make a personal connection, to treat him like a normal person I might meet in normal life, but he gave me no response whatsoever. Just silence.
As another example, I was interacting with a guy I know on Facebook who lives in my community. He mentioned working at a library. As there are several libraries in town, I asked him about which library he works at (with an added “if you don’t mind my asking”). I got no response, not even saying that he’d rather not tell me, despite my having interacted with him online at least hundreds of times over many years, live in the same area as him, know some of the same people, and likely have met him in person at some point.
Ignoring people like that seems rude, or at least it would be in normal life. How can people apparently be so oblivious and unaware about their behavior? why don’t they think the same rules of conduct apply in all aspects of life? Why the division in relating, the dissociation of experience, or whatever it is?
It isn’t just strangers and casual acquaintances. I’ve had similar experiences with people I known personally for years and decades. Sometimes close friends won’t even acknowledge comments I make to their Facebook posts or posts I make to their page. Such silence wouldn’t be considered acceptable in a face-to-face encounter. Why is it acceptable online?
I always respond to people, even strangers, as long as I deem them worthy of a response. On my blog, if I deem someone unworthy of a response, I also deem them unworthy to have their comment to be approved for showing up in my blog. I treat my small corner of the internet as a semi-personal space and so I treat people I meet on the internet personally, which includes both positive and negative responses.
People I meet online are real to me in my experience, even if I’ve never met them in person. I’ve had internet friends who I’ve known and regularly conversed with for years. I know about their lives and their dreams, although I’ve never even heard the sound of their voices. I also treat people I know from my everyday life the same way online as I do offline. I don’t treat the two worlds as separate. It is all the same world, same common courtesy, same way of relating.
I do act differently online, in some ways. I’ll admit to that. I’m an introvert and, like many introverts, I find it more comfortable to be friendly online. I like meeting people online, but less so offline. I’m not a social person in the traditional sense, but I’m not exactly a private person either. I’ve always been a person to which applies, what you see is what you get. The internet hasn’t changed that, although the internet has given a vehicle for that philosophy to play out differently.
I also can be more aggressive online, at times. So, maybe I’m not in a position to judge others for acting out of character. That said, I tend to only act aggressively online to strangers, the type of people I’d never normally interact with at all. So, the internet merely opens me up to interactions that wouldn’t otherwise happen, but it doesn’t change the way I interact with people I already know; at least, I don’t think it does.
I’m not sure what is my point. Maybe people are always weird, but are better at hiding it in everyday life.