Words. They are the means in which we relay everything to one another.
Hostility appears to be growing world-wide in virtual forums where face to face interaction occurs less and less and words represent our character "in action" instead of "in deed". We can choose not to interact in cyberspace, but if we do, our choosing to do so comes with our words only...and becoming void of face-to-face action in everyday life.
One time, for my first master's I wrote a hypothesis that relationships can meaningfully form and others can be intimately connected in an online learning environment or any other cyber environment also known as Computer Medicated Communication (CMC). That theory, even though not very well accepted at the time I presented it to a leary faculty of instructors...it was considered in some ways "hogwash" by academicians upon my defense of my thesis. Overtime, however, this theory of mine has proven itself true more so than ever.
Consider this, in 1350 A.D, there were 370 million people in the world and today there are 800 million Facebook users online who have an account interacting in cyberspace to some degree. Today's world population is approximately 7 billion according to a BBC report given on the news in October, 2011. SEVEN BILLION.
That means if there were 2 people in the world, essentially one person would have a computer and that same person would have a Facebook account.
What does this mean psychologically for individuals who are more communicative in cyberspace than face-to-face? Over time, social networking has replaced the telephone and research indicates from a Plymouth University study that "cyberspace users were found to be more lonely and socially anxious, and more likely to disclose their ‘real-self’ through cyberspace than via face-to-face."
This has produced a model of behavior where individuals were not able to locate their authentic selves - of the locus of their souls - and mediated negatively between the loneliness and social anxiety measures and the impact of these on relational outcomes.
One in eight couples who meet online, get married. These sites specifically focused on finding a partner have a different impact than those sites who exist and focus on maintaining a network of friends.
MySpace, Friendster and now Facebook have proliferated social networking to the next level of relationship development. Some of which isn't that positive for well being either.
Unfortunately there is little research completed with a wide enough sample to substantiate a full range perspective on the negative long term effects of social networking that focus on maintaining friendships, etc.
The biggest danger of social networking is the tendency to trigger isolating behaviours. Biological and chemical changes ensue according to several studies completed in the medical fields regarding neurological changes from using social networking sites like Facebook.
Isolating behaviours then trigger and "fool" the immune system, change the way genes work, confusing the immune response, hormone levels, arterial function, and damage to mental performance. This is indeed contradicts the aim of the establishment of social networking sites, where users promised hereafter to be able to find old friends and network and "keep up" easier in a social realm.
The average facebook user has 130 friends according to Facebook's statistics. What can this mean long term?
The user may eventually be drawn into an artificial world. Someone who’s friends are mainly individuals who are just found on Facebook eventually will find it difficult to communicate "face-to-face". This behavior can increase the risk of serious health issues, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and dementia (senility), according to Dr Aric Sigman in The Biologist, in the journal article released by The Institute of Biology.
Not meeting is face-to-face has an effect on the body that are not visible when sending e-mail. Levels of hormones such as oxytocin which encourages people to hug or interact with each other often change, several genes, including genes related to immune system and response to stress, act differently, depending on how often a person does social interaction with others.
Also, according to Dr. Sigman, "The electronic media is slowly destroying the ability of children and young adults to learn social skills and reading body language. “
- Whether you like it or not..be ready and accept the fact that there is bajillion amounts of small talk. About the weather, the color of a person's dog, my hair (like tonight), the peas that burnt on the stove and things like that. Focus on commonalities in small talk when starting to form relationships with one another. Be authentic and real with yourself. Good online communicators will intuit your authenticity.
- Be clear, be direct, be concise. When I taught Business Communication at the Undergraduate leve... I often told me students this motto, "Get in, get out and get going". Be efficient but kind in your words. Humour and sarcasm often get lost in the translation in virtual environments...as does meaning. Write your posts on a separate page first and read them a few times before posting if you are not sure about how it will be interpreted.
- Make a person feel comfortable online. Break out of the awkwardness and compliment and encourage others often to post how they feel postively. If they unintentionally offend you, private message them and request a conversation or chat session of possible to clear the air. RESIST THE URGE TO FLAME THEM.
- Respectfully disagree if you have to disagree on something. Disagreeing with someone is MUCH better done in private than on a comment string. Be respectful and take disagreements OFF LINE and INTO THE PRIVATE REALM.
- Just like we don't want people to drink and drive. Don't social network under the influence! I don't think I have to go into the reasons why that is the case. Ever wake up with a social network hangover? Not pretty-- AT ALL!