Forging Connections through the Internet

connection

A friend shares a story about a CSI-style drug bust sans gunfire in her apartment building. When the police question her about her neighbours who are involved in the crime, they are surprised that she knows so little about them. I am not. Once, I saw a man fitting a key into the lock of a front door two houses from mine. He waved as I walked past and I nodded in response. I hadn’t seen him before. Maybe he is a neighbour. Maybe he is a thief. This is city life.

It is against this backdrop that I wonder if the internet and social media and the technology behind them are responsible for the distance and disconnect among people living in the same physical space. Before cell phones, Facebook, and Twitter, we insulated ourselves from each other with newspapers and earplugs on the bus or train. Maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are.

In his 2011 TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek argues that nothing replaces human contact. He says, “. . . technology is absolutely fantastic for the exchange of information and the exchange of ideas. Technology is absolutely wonderful for speeding transactions. It’s wonderful for resourcing and finding people, but it is terrible for creating human connections. You cannot form trust through the internet.”

Since that talk, human interaction via the internet has been steadily rising as evidenced by increase in social media use. When I emailed people whom I had only ‘met’ on the internet and asked them to each write a 300-word piece on some aspect of motherhood for my blog, I was asking them to trust me with their stories. How could they be sure I would treat their stories with integrity? How could I be sure that they would deliver the stories they said they would?

For me, transactional trust began by examining their digital footprint—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or blog profiles, and the writing on their blogs. I suspect the converse is true for them too and that having mutual digital friends played a part. Working together to polish stories necessitated questions about word choice and sentence structure, which fostered meaningful connection. It was humbling to hear their backstories.

In the end, you read the finished story, and all our worlds became smaller because story mirrors life and life mirrors story. Every story on your phone or tablet or laptop was an invitation to trust and an opportunity to forge connection.

Writing can create empathy and establish credibility. If trust is a function of the part of the brain that has no capacity for language, causing people to look at empirical evidence and still say, “Something doesn’t feel right,” then some kind of digital intuition is vital to navigate the future because we are using technology to form human connection after all.

I agree that nothing replaces human contact; nothing should. However, until I meet you in person, I hope technology continues to connect us through words.

I cannot thank you enough for knitting your heart with ours as we shared what motherhood has meant to us this past six weeks.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

p.s. Thank you Ozoz, Afi, Eileen, Elaine, Taye, Yvonne, Joxy, Brina, Unathi, and Tamkara!

 

Photo Credit: Kaboompics/ http://pixabay.com/en/technology-laptop-keyboard-computer-791029/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Advertisements

64 thoughts on “Forging Connections through the Internet

  1. And I am reading this as a ‘latecomer,’ God bless the day I crawled into your cyberspace. That is one of the numerous benefits of technology, to see the dirty side, take a walk along some of the streets of Facebook City. If you find yourself along one of the dark alleys you will be gutted.
    Finding a balance to everything is the key, I am not so much of an introvert in real life and I guess I am the same online. But I excercise more caution with my online relationships and I am even more carefully with what I say online.
    Some jokes you share with real life friends, laugh over it and you might get a retaliation then it’s over. Everybody moves on. But online, the most innocent of comments are taken out of context and one random person walks in, helleva!!

    I personally think we should think twice and think the twice again when dealing with technology. It’s a wonderful high way but there are potholes which can lead to disaster if one doesn’t drive carefully.

    End of Rant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The conversation never stops … 🙂

      Thanks for reminding us about the potholes, a ‘click’ to send or post, is so deceptively easy.
      Not being able to read body language while chatting doesn’t aid conversation. Emoticons don’t do justice either, but hey, we’ve got video chat! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ” Maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are.” This line can’t be truer. As an introverted person by nature, technology can make me too lazy to socialize. I frequently remind myself, “Stop hiding behind your computer, go out and connect with people.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have met a lot of wonderful people on the internet through social media. Many of them have affected my life deeply, in positive ways. With one particular lady, we moved from commenting on each other’s posts on a social network to exchanging long, revealing and poetic private mails between ourselves over the course of two weeks. Trust was built and we moved to Whatsapp and began more frequent chats. Finally, after three months, we had our first phone conversation.

    It was a friendship that nourished both of us in amazing ways. We became better poets, better writers, better human beings. We shared our pains and glories at different times

    It’s been three years and we still haven’t met. But I don’t doubt it in my heart when I tell people she is one of my best friends ever.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A lovely example of how the internet can facilitate human interaction. It reminds me of those days when we would write long letters and exchange postcards and photos.

      I hope you both enjoy many more years of beautiful friendship.

      Like

  4. Timi: Technology has been invented and improved, and naturally, as humans, we have evolved with it. I got my first invitation to come share some thoughts on a popular Tv station in Lagos from social media. I have gotten invitations to attend events, facilitate trainings, contribute to popular blogs, all from social media interactions. The list goes on…
    I think that when we truly engage and share meaningfully on social media, we build social reputation and eventually command trust.

    And here i am, reading your amazing blog. All thanks to social media 🙂

    Like

    1. Facebook is the country with the largest population on earth (See link in Benn’s comment below). So I agree with you that “. . . when we truly engage and share meaningfully on social media, we build social reputation and eventually command trust.”
      Of course a country has good, bad, and what-not.

      Yes, here we are, reading each other’s thoughts and forming impressions about who we are. 🙂

      Like

  5. I feel bad for how people are disconnected in neighborhoods. Even in NYC my grandparents knew a wide variety of people of diverse cultures. Noth got naturalized in US and we’re eager to know others. I have never not known my neighbors. In my one bedroom apt. building I know college students, special needs adults, two elderly women and rely on a neighbor while I am gone to open my mailbox and keep my mail when I will leave for 10 days.
    Maybe time creates less connections but efforts should be made. Less violence more compassion.
    I connect close to home and then go wider with blogging, Timi. Just my point of view on making friends. Giving to our local homeless loft and food pantry, before I send off money to a different area.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to know that in your case city life hasn’t meant less connection. As Hakeem mentioned in his comment below, the Internet should be a facilitator, rather than a replacement for human contact.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I would have missed out on so many valuable connections with people on parts of the worlds I will probably never even set foot on, had it not been for cyber space. Like everything else, the internet has its pro’s and cons but I can’t imagine wanting to go back to a time when we only relied of telegrams and post to get in touch with loved ones. Now, at a click of a button, I can chat with my siblings who are on the other side of the planet. Although I value human physical connections, I thank the Bill Gates’, Steve Jobs’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s of this world for enabling us to connect on the web.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved hearing about how you wove your connections and the thoughtful ways in which you chose who to approach and why. And so agree- there is definitely a trust component that has to be there as well as a resonance for each other’s work or style or it doesn’t work. I think it’s a testament that so many of us have embraced working with you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @a resonance for each other’s work or style or it doesn’t work, I couldn’t agree more. That’s the place to begin…
      Thank you Diahann. It’s a privilege working with others to produce stories that inspire. I learn so much every time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So, Timi, I can say it simply. Without the Internet and blogging I would have never met you, or several other people I have come to like and respect. Yes it is a different type of relationship, but it is meaningful. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post Timi. Yes, there is no substitute for human contact. We were meant to connect and be in community. But I have to admit (and I think you’d agree), virtual relationships can be really quite fulfilling as well, and in fact, another way to connect. I have moved back to my home YWAM base a bit further south then where we were. I am always surrounded by like-minded people and have good friends (couples, families, single people, younger, older, etc.) But I also have relationships through the blogosphere and they are important to me as well. The opportunity to be able to create and share it with others all over the world is awesome. I could never do that before the internet, right.
    You got me think on this one. Thanks.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with Simon. But I also see the value of connecting with others via the Internet. Some of the bloggers I’ve met along the way have become friends. I really appreciate the blogging community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Linda. I often feel connected to others in the blogging community . . . it’s like having pen pals all around the globe . . . but I would not “trust” each of those “connections” with a secret. :mrgreen:

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Marie, like you, I’ve found that blogging provides opportunity to widen my friendship circles and in some cases deepen them. Human interaction via the internet will continue to rise and we’ll keep learning how to navigate digital relationships.

      Like

  11. Hello Timi,

    I have a number of “digital friends”, and I feel a connection with them mostly because of the sincerity that I can sense when I read their blogs.

    I am usually pleased when I run into these digital friends when I am out and about. I’ll admit there’s the initial shyness from meting a stranger that you already know somewhat, but ah! it usually disappears and an interesting conversation follows 🙂

    I enjoyed the motherhood series, thank you.

    Like

    1. @sensing sincerity, aha, digital intuition …. I feel you.
      Talking, is one way we form bonds with our ‘physical’ friends. When we write evocatively and then interact via commenting we form bonds too. This takes some basic level of trust.

      Nice to hear that your experiences meeting digital friends have been pleasant.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Motherhood series. On behalf of all the writers, thank you for being a part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a good conversation and one that will most likely continue for a long time. I think there has always been this fear with what new technologies will bring (the radio, the phone, ATMs!), but of course there are amazing benefits, too. I wonder if we will learn how to interact with eachother via the Internet sooner/better than we do in person? 😉 Probably not. Who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lani, yes, these kinds of conversations will continue as we’re still writing the rules of engagement. Today, I have ‘talked’ to more people using internet technology than I did physically- on my job and on social media. Emoticons are a poor substitute for voice tone and body language, so we may see video chats rising….

      I like what Hakeem said in his comment below, “. . . the Internet as being a facilitator, rather than a replacement for human contact.” I’ve been chewing on it… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Timi, as I read your piece about forging connections on the internet I began to wonder if technology separated us or brought us together. As I look back over the years and think about all the places I lived I can honestly say that for the most part I did not know my neighbors on either side of me or anywhere else in the neighborhood. And this was before the age of technology and the internet. I find most people live and associate within certain “clicks” of people and don’t go much out of their own clicks of known associates. This is more true in small towns than in big cities, but big cities can be lonely places too.

    Simon says in his TED Talk that the internet is a terrible place to make human connections or establish trust. Au contraire mon ami! My own experience tells me otherwise. I have been engaged in social media on the internet for about 10 years. I can tell you I have many friends and connections from around the world and it has been for me a rich and rewarding experience. I have made lasting friendships, gotten to know people, watched their children grow up, I have had two friends die, and I mourned their loss, and I have felt emotionally connected to so many. I have met several of my internet friends and hope to meet more in the future.

    This brings me to the element trust. My personal experience with you, dear Timi, during our recent collaboration on our writing prjcect was an exercise in trust. I allowed myself to be vulnerable to you and you were very kind. You took a risk with me, and I hope it paid dividends. I hold friendship to be among the highest of virtues and I would never do anything to violate that sacred trust.

    My very best to you, as always,

    Benn

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As in life, so on the internet, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Though the element of anonymity on the internet makes some people do outrageous stuff.

      Benn, I’m happy to read that your interactions on the internet have been rich and rewarding. We know not everyone has a similar story. I think that the precautions we would exercise when forging friendships in town apply online and then some. That’s why I mentioned mutual digital friends and digital footprints and intuition. Some of us make more friends online than we do in real life.

      There are risks involved in reaching out to others and asking them to write for your blog. My experience has been mostly positive. Perhaps digital rejection is easier? XD
      I enjoyed collaborating with you to publish the post we did as I’ve enjoyed collaborating with others and yes, it paid dividends.

      There are real people behind the technology. We are on the right track I think if we are using the technology to facilitate human interaction. 🙂

      Thank you so much, Benn.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I just read about a nobel prize winner whose life work has been damaged by the internet mob due to a misguided comment he made. Those (women) who know him personally have come out to defend him, that he is not sexist, but none of that matters now.

    I’m one of those who are ambivalent about the internet. I’m excited about the opportunities it facilitates for learning and building bridges where I would never have imagined without it, but I also think it now seems to be precipitating the worst in mankind at a rapid rate.

    I agree with you, that “Maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are.” But soon we’ll have to consider how much of a good the internet is if its evil effects start to consistently over-shadow the good.

    Finally, I want to thank all the contributors to the motherhood series, and you Timi, for sharing your stories. You all are part of the reason this amoral tool still gets acknowledged as capable of good.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ife, on behalf of all the contributors to the motherhood series, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so encouraged. 🙂

      @nobel prize winner, how sad. What would have been splashed on gossip magazines and maybe CNN and taken a few days to traverse the globe now takes minutes.

      I remember hearing that some circles once considered television evil. Those same group of people are now on TV. I guess they realized that you have a remote control and you can choose your channel. You can even buy your own TV station and broadcast the kind of content you want….

      I’d have to go back to my history books, but I won’t be surprised if I find that there was a similar outcry when Gutenberg invented the printing press.

      On the internet, opportunities for good and evil exist. Every now and again, I focus solely on sites that promote the good that technology has accomplished, just to remind myself that there is light in this dark world. 🙂

      Thanks again, Ife!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Benn, and times are still changing. According to Eric Qualman (#socialnomics 2015), videos are on the rise. I’m thinking more vlogging, less blogging maybe? Time to polish my speaking skills 🙂 Interesting 2 minutes video if you’re interested…

          Liked by 1 person

  15. Lovely post! Yes, nothing can replace face-to-face human connection and interaction, but we are so blessed to find others in a like-minded community who are one click away and completely understand us. This is especially true for those in a rural community who desperately seek sisterhood or someone else who can relate!! Thank you for sharing this. It was wonderful to read and reflect on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ina, I understand. For example, while many of my close friends read and appreciate good writing, if I wanted to discuss the mechanics of writing, I’d have to find an online community of writers since they aren’t writers themselves. Within that group, I could possibly find understanding and connection, which could enhance my writing skills.

      Thanks for sharing and nice to meet you! 🙂

      Like

  16. Livelytwist, you might be interested in this: https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together

    This another different speaker interview, a Canadian psychologist on the value of face to face meaningful relationships:

    I have not met any of my regular blog readers who are also bloggers –yet. There’s a handful that actually live in my city. But that’s ok. I like just commenting….it’s like coffee on the Internet. And having my own face to face, long term friendships and family members as my inner circle.

    That said, I have met women through cycling forum for women where I participate for past decade. Also very light since I didn’t sustain any friendships with them. When I met, we had a coffee/meal or went for a bike ride. Just the right thing. That’s all.

    I think it’s important not to overplay our Internet people contact especially if we haven’t yet met with them and had several sustained face to face interactions.

    But true, on an international scale, I’m glad to have blog-met some terrific folks outside of Canada.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Jean, thanks for sharing. Yes, we have circles of friendship whether physically or virtually/digitally.

      When you have good exchange of ideas on subjects that matter to you, you have a sense of connection not unlike what obtains while attending an interactive seminar in a physical location.

      “I think it’s important not to overplay our Internet people contact especially if we haven’t yet met with them and had several sustained face to face interactions.” Well said!

      I watched part of the TED Talk. We need talks like hers to add balance and reason. Here’s the thing though, before internet and mobile technology, we isolated ourselves behind newspapers and we used 24-hr TV as a companion ….

      The second talk is 33 minutes long… I’ll have to find the time to watch 🙂

      Like

    2. I speak as an ancient who lived before Television! I grew up in big cities where you didn’t get to know your neighbors for fear you wouldn’t like them. Then when married with five children, I moved to a small town where everyone knew each other and even if you didn’t, you waved and spoke and asked how they were and listened when they replied. We lived way out in the country down a dirt road and through a creek where we were the first outsiders to move into the “hollow” since America’s Civil War. It was culture shock for both us and the neighbors. We discovered that the families there would have falling outs that involved shooting above each others’ heads or calling the sheriff, but then when there were fires or the winter snows turned the roads into bogs, everyone gathered and worked together. Stealing on a minor scale was permissible, but when you were robbed you weren’t afraid of actually being hurt and you knew the same people would come to your rescue when you needed help. Relationships, face to face, personality to personality, neighbor to neighbor, culture to culture vary extremely. The same thing applies to the internet. But the internet opens up the possibilities of understanding and knowledge across previously unreachable distances and impregnable walls for all people, not just a few.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Eileen, lol@ ancient XD

        This says a lot about urbanization, “. . . you waved and spoke and asked how they were and listened when they replied.”

        For all that’s wrong with the internet, here’s something you mentioned that’s worth keeping in view:

        “But the internet opens up the possibilities of understanding and knowledge across previously unreachable distances and impregnable walls for all people, not just a few.”

        For this reason it’s a mighty tool in the hands of whoever ‘shouts’ the loudest ….

        Thanks for sharing your experiences.

        Like

  17. I get what he’s saying and what you’re saying, Timi. Because there’s trust . . . and then there’s TRUST.

    Growing up, we exchanged confidences with friends, trusting them to guard our secrets. Our best friends knew as much about us as we knew about ourselves. The rest of our classmates remained classmates . . . not “friends.”

    When we started working, we befriended a few co-workers, promoting them from the rank of casual acquaintance or co-worker to friend. These friends received the promotion the old fashioned way ~ they earned it through mutual trust and admiration. Other co-workers remained co-workers . . . not “friends.”

    These days, people refer to people they’ve barely met, or perhaps never met (except in cyberspace) as “friends,” in part because Social Networking Sites have leveled the playing field. Facebook, for example, doesn’t provide separate hierarchies or categories for Best Friends, Close Friends, Classmates, Fellow Alumni, Co-Workers, Casual Acquaintances, Strangers with Shared Interests, etc. You’re either friends, or nothing.

    And nobody wants to be nothing!

    “Facebook . . . is to friendship what fast food is to nutrition ~ a quick way to feel like we’ve gotten what we need. But when compared with what we really need, what we get is insubstantial.” ~ Arleen Spenceley, Facebook is Going Public, Tampa Bay Times, February 12, 2012.

    Virtual friendships on social media sites require little more than a shared interest in reading, writing, politics, music, TV, sewing, cooking, philosophy, virtual farming, motherhood, or Chia pets. Friendships in “real life” require much more ~> mutual confidence, support, affection, trust, admiration, acceptance, intimacy, respect, encouragement, continuity, reciprocity, etc..

    Lasting friendships built on mutual trust require more than a cursory connection derived from sharing facets of our life stories on line.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Nancy, I don’t completely agree with Arleen Spenceley’s observation. One reason being that there are circles of friendship. Some friendships are close and others take up less time. For example, lets say I bump into a classmate from high school at the mall. If we weren’t in a hurry, we’d catch up a little, exchange phone numbers, agree to keep in touch, go our separate ways, and probably not contact each other again. Same exchange could have taken place on Facebook 🙂

      Facebook has options for friends, close friends, family, acquaintances, etc. You can categorize your ‘friendships’ and even limit access to your posts. You can determine whose posts you want to see and whose you don’t. There are also options for groups, both public and private.

      Language evolves. So social media is redefining the word ‘friend’? Well once upon a time, ‘gay’ meant happy, and the word ‘selfie’ did not exist …. 😉

      Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize. Technology has made the way we do business and life different and it is here to stay. The rules of engagement are still being written and we don’t have to do away with the former ones; we just have to adapt them…

      A few of my friendships that began online have progressed into lasting friendships.

      I hear what you’re saying Nancy. Very valid points too. I just wanted to show another side. At the end of the day, it is people who ‘operate’ the technology.

      Thanks for sharing and adding balance and caution.

      Like

      1. Good points, all.

        And LOL . . . it’s been a LONG time since I checked Facebook settings. I had no idea we could extend a “friend” request and then demote the invitee to “casual acquaintance.”

        Off to play with my settings . . .

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I agree with you. Blogging is one way I have gotten to know people I might never meet in my life. I have come to understand the Internet as being a facilitator, rather than a replacement for human contact.

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I get my coffee and go to face book where I see what my grand children and great grandchildren are doing where they live across countries and across oceans. I get recipes i would never encounter otherwise. I hear opinions expressed that I am both challenged by and others that affirm my way of being in the world. I get to see photos of places I will never get to visit. I sometimes am offended and sometimes I offend, but can also learn from even these experiences that come from frequent interaction and stretch our abilities to related. There are certainly up-sides and downsides, but that is true of everything in life.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Eileen, your summation is so on point, “There are certainly up-sides and downsides, but that is true of everything in life.”

        It is internet technology that is making this conversation possible. I might never meet you, yet we have connected by sharing words. 🙂

        Like

The conversation never stops, please join . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s