Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You walk through the hallways of your office, school, or church, and people start talking to you in great depth about something you or someone else posted on social media. They express their thoughts, through their conversation, as if you said those things directly to them or around them, and you thought it was as if they were “online stalking” you. It created awkwardness that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
This is an example of the strange dichotomy that exists between offline and online relationships.
At the time of this writing, this past Sunday I stood up before Church of the Highlands and told the church that I am deleting my private Facebook page and am only using my public one henceforth (shameless plug—LIKE my Facebook page here). It felt strange having to bring up my deletion of a private Facebook page from the stage on a Sunday morning, but online relationships matter more now than ever before.
What are some key things we must note pertaining to this dichotomy between online and offline relationships?
You know more about people, yet less about them.
I went to a pastor’s conference a couple of months ago, and ran into several acquaintances. Several came up to me and started asking about specific details of my ministry. They knew way more about me than someone in my situation ten years ago, but at the same time, they know less about me. What do I mean about knowing less about someone? They know a distorted view of reality.
You portray and consume distorted pictures of reality.
I’m connected with a lot of pastors online. Rarely do I read someone post, “I can’t stand one of my staff members,” or “I got four negative emails from church members this past Monday” (By the way, these are not true of me . . . they’re mere examples). Most pastors I know make their churches seem like perfect places, and I am guilty of this at times, too.
We don’t want to post pictures online if our living room is messy in the background. We show the world that we have it all together when none of us really do. This creates a picture that results in evoking jealousy that bleeds from the mere online aspect of a relationship to the offline part, too.
Tone is significantly different in various forms of communication.
Here is an example of tone that has messed me up: I made a Facebook post a few months ago where I said we should “deal with” something. I meant it in a kind, loving manner, but someone commented that I shouldn’t have worded things so harshly. If we were communicating in an offline manner, it would’ve been much easier to communicate through inflection that I meant it in a kind way.
I’ve seen things like this get out of hand with people simply because tone is very difficult to read online, in comparison with offline communications.
Conclusion: Complement vs. Replacement
Most of what I’m addressing in this post is about communication, and that is the key to healthy relationships—both romantic and platonic alike. If you want to build a friendship or any other kind of relationship with someone, interacting online is a fantastic complement to how you can grow closer and enjoy one another’s company, but it shouldn’t replace it.
Do you have any additional thoughts on the dichotomy of offline vs. online relationships? Let me know in the comment section below!