Remember that’s a human at the other end!

I read this most amazing blog post yesterday and it serves as my inspiration for today’s post. I think sometimes we forget that when we are using social media no matter what form that we are interacting with real humans at the other end. Over the years especially as we have moved to using sites like twitter where someone who doesn’t blog may engage with someone who does, there seems to be a growing tendency to frankly be rude, dismissive and generally hurtful.

Like the blogger in this piece, when I started blogging I had no idea what would come of it, frankly it surprises me that I am still blogging. Guess I have a lot of shit to get out of me! One of the coolest things though to come out of my blogging is just making human connections. I admit for the longest time I was one of those who viewed online life as being separate from my “real” life but it recently it dawned on me my online life is no different than my work life or any other part of my life. The me you meet on this blog, twitter or anywhere else online is the same me that my employees and volunteers see daily and anyone else I connect with offline. I don’t change because we have never sat down and shared a drink.

That said, it is way too easy for others to be hurtful, in recent months I am not ashamed to admit there have been a few moments when someone else’s flip comment had really left me emotionally bruised and feeling vulnerable. Often those are the moments when I walk away and unplug and get centered and realize its okay to be vulnerable for when I am vulnerable it’s when I am being me in all my messy glory. Granted it doesn’t take away the discomfort or even disappointment that happens when an online pal doesn’t come through. A few months back an online pal had offered some assistance with a project, I followed up as they requested and pretty much never heard back on the matter. I was hurt, I was mad but I also got over it, just like I would with an offline pal.

I have heard others say that many use online life as a substitute for “real” life and I will admit I have been guilty of uttering those words at times myself. The reality is the world has changed; the way we connect has changed. For many of us for a myriad of reasons, some good, some not so good. Gone are the days when you pick up the phone and chat for hours on end, at present there are exactly 4 people I talk to on the phone with regularity and three of them are family members. Even dear friends, we email, we text, oh we get together when time allows but the standard of how we connect has changed and at last I have come to accept it.

Yet what needs to happen though is a general understanding that the same manners and ways we behave offline need to be the norms online as well. I think that change is slowly underway as we see a shift away from anonymity online, more and more sites require you post a real name and email address. Sure some skirt it but technology is already changing so that our online and offline selves will merge.

At the end of the day though remember you are talking to real humans and while all may be well in your world that may not be the case with the person on the other end. In recent months I have had conversations with people facing financial crisis of huge proportion, hell one of my tweeps was facing homelessness and considering she has been offline over a month now I am guessing things did not get better. Remember we are all human!