Marriage and Family Therapist
Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross is a licensed psychotherapist with almost twenty years of clinical experience in the fields of clinical psychology and organizational management. She has worked extensively with a wide variety of…
How Do People “Connect” on the Internet?
Posted in Anxiety by Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross on Apr 15, 2009

Admittedly I am of a generation that came to the internet either eagerly in early adulthood or reluctantly slightly later. I am in the latter group. I used to be a happy pen to paper letter writer, and I am an obvious advocate of face to face communication, but I have embraced the technology and certainly recognize its profound impact on how people engage with one another.

DailyStrength provides a community of individuals who share common goals and concerns. It offers professional and personal advice and even provides a venue for making new friends. This is all good stuff. Social networking sites are set up differently than DS but also provide many of the same things but with the stated goals of connecting or reconnecting with others either platonically or romantically. I have even had a few clients meet and marry as a result of internet dating sites. In a large city, where it is often difficult for people to meet likeminded singles, this is a wonderful option. So in general I am a big fan and often encourage my clients to make use of this (relatively) new technology to improve their lives.

What I am left wondering though, is if anything is being lost or missed by sitting in front of a screen and typing out our thoughts to a potential mate. Some people are very good at it and are adept at the screening process and others struggle to try and connect. Relationships sometimes take what seems like an unnatural course as personal information gets revealed on-line that may have taken several dates to unfold in the past. The lack of facial expression and body language can actually mislead the receiver of the information and result in unnecessary misunderstandings.

Then there is the problem of isolation. While chatting on-line is better than no contact at all, who doesn't feel more connected after seeing a friend face to face than they do when they communicate via computer or text message? There are certainly those individuals that would be more likely to motivate and seek social contact if communicating on-line were not an option. I recognize as well that there are also those individuals that, because of psychological or physical barriers, would simply be cut off from outside contact. For them this method of communication is invaluable.

So therein lay the dilemma that comes with all new life altering inventions - what is lost and what is gained? Overall the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but I think it is incumbent on us as a society, and certainly on those in my profession who are trained to help facilitate healthy communication, to emphasis the importance of human contact. Individuals need to weigh the time they spend looking at a screen with the time they are in the presence of friends and loved ones. If the scale begins to tip towards the former a conscious adjustment should be made. Connections may be made on the computer but cherished memories are not, and it is important that we don't miss out on participating in life because we are too busy responding to emails or meeting new faceless people on-line.


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The man I thought I was going to marry broke up with me via email just a couple days ago. It was a shock - out of the blue - and I am devastated. We met on eHarmony eight months ago and dated exclusively ever since. We spent a lot of our courtship emailing, texting, talking on AIM, etc. We had a couple fights that were the result of an email or text message taken out of context and resulted in a miscommunication. When we had our last fight, I told he we need to sit down and talk about this, or at least talk about it on the phone. He just continued to email me until he broke up with me.

I will never again go online to meet someone. I am 28 years old and I am fully aware that any relationship that is going to survive needs the intimacy and openness that can only come from face to face contact. Too much email, texting, etc. is very damaging to a relationship.
By clevelandgal  Jun 17, 2009
Thank you for this information. I can relate to this in so many ways. My partner met some really nice people on this site,but this lead and caused problems in our relationship because of all the hours spent. It became an obsession. In other words the scales tipped in favor of these people, and our relationship took a hit. Sometimes people can talk to faceless people alot easier than in person. I myself am a people person-I enjoy interacting with faces.Expressing ones self is normal.
By angel52  Jun 13, 2009
People now seem to communicate electronically, by cell phone, texting, email or the Internet, as often or more often than they do face to face. Electronic communication just can't match the quality of communicating in person. But our so-called "busy schedules" - sometimes due to legitimate responsibilities like work or child-rearing, but just as often due to distractions of modern life - seem to make finding time to get together difficult. I can't help but imagine that people must have had closer connections when life was simpler (in the '50s or '60s).
That said, I think the Internet is useful for people with common interests or goals (i.e., finding a romantic partner) to meet each other, although the relationship should transition from the computer to meeting in person within a reasonable amount of time. It's too easy to hide one's personality or character defects behind a computer screen.
It's easy to maintain anonymity on the Internet, although that can be an advantage if someone is seeking support for an issue or problem they are afraid to tell to someone they know. Some people find it easier to talk with a stranger about certain issues.
Generally, though, online interaction shouldn't take the place of real-world interaction with others. It's too easy to isolate behind the computer. Like anything else, it's okay in moderation.
By sadderbutwiser  Apr 21, 2009
As I wrote at my Facebook page recently "how many online personalities does it take to make a real boy" (or girl).

On the other hand my four closest friends I met online. Two I often talk with on the phone or they'll come over for dinner or vice versa. Turns out one of them lived five minutes away. She and I clicked from the word go but it was our first face to face meeting that sealed the deal. We're friends with the families of both. The third has just moved to our state with her family. We've been wanting a face to face for years and now we finally have the chance. The fourth still lives interstate but that hasn't stopped our friendship from growing and maturing over the years.

I agree, no-one should spend the entirety of their time in front of the computer. You have to get out and meet "real" people sometimes, even if you have to force yourself to do it but the internet can be a useful way in which to break that proverbial ice.
By RAAFBrat  Apr 21, 2009
I recently attended a seminar where we discussed how technology was affecting the legal field. The first question the speaker asked was how many people knew couples who had met over the net. It astounded me to see that 75% of the lawyers in the room raised their hands.
I think the net for dating is meant to be a tool to meet people and take it to the next step-not the only means if communication.
By Heather1025  Apr 21, 2009
It seems to me that people in rural areas would definitely benefit from internet friendships, lest they be completely isolated.
By ALC67  Apr 19, 2009
I have made a couple of friends on DS but just platonic. I am wary of the romance web sites. Some of them seem to be legitimate, though. I pray for love and encouragement from those that I am physically around each day or every other day. Maybe I'll be less intimidated by the computer mates and step out there sometime.
By TlovesJesus  Apr 18, 2009
I wonder if there are any 20 somethings who have never written a pen and paper letter..
By olelady  Apr 18, 2009
Very thoughtful and insightful. I agree. (And it's not thoughtful and insightful *just* because I agree with it. LOL. You used good supporting details.)
By MudPuddLe  Apr 17, 2009
There are pros and cons to all human relationships, on-line or not.
By ALC67  Apr 17, 2009
I recently lost a DS friend, because we were connected romantically, but we could never meet in person, because of my schedule, so there are cons and pros about internet friends, at least in my opinion.
By Sara017  Apr 16, 2009
How fortunate you live in a community in which you have a diversified choice with whom you may associate with. Not everyone has this luxury, as I no longer live in the United States. Living isolated as a foreign national, married to a native, and living in a small rural town where the willingness to communicate is based on the fact whether or not I attended grade school with the natives, are all factors which make online communication to a culture I grew up with extremely attractive. This phenomena is not only familiar with many American ex-patriots, but also normal residents within the United States who also live in isolated areas, where finding people with similar interests can prove to be a nearly futile challenge. Of course vis-à-vis communication is always preferable. But if unavailable, we can be thankful of gratefully accepting second choice in a semi- Second Life.
By Weissdorn  Apr 16, 2009
Agreed. I have a lot of thoughts on this and relating topics so I will not bore with a long discourse, but to get down to it... agreed. I see many positives from a site like DS, and I think the good outweighs the bad, but I do see some fundamental issues with the new generations (such as my own, I'm 22), becoming more and more reliant on internet communication; or even with just the plain fact that texting and IM chatting has become a norm that often replaces face to face encounters in relationships- romantic, or otherwise. Even when it does not involve people meeting on the internet, I think the internet still absolutely irradiates a lot of necessary life learning experiences, such as asking out your first girlfriend, or communicating insecurities, etc.

Seeing as how there is no way to stop these developments due to the nature of evolving technology and the real life fact that we cannot go back in time, I think DS is definitely a positive, because these face-to-face social impediments are going to happen regardless, and it is now up to the individual to seek out healthy face-to-face relationships; DS allows people also to connect with others in a way that would otherwise not be possible. True, this can lead to a pandora's box phenomenon, and excess drama in some cases, but that too is a lesson that now must be learned and overcome. Simply a new human barrier. I think we should all be careful to monitor the things we say online as best we can, but that in general DS offers a temporary solution to an unmet need. I'm sure this is obvious to almost anyone who uses the site, but yeah, I think that people just need to be more careful with what they say when online, and to make sure to seek out outside support as well.

Okay, I said I wasn't going to go into a huge discourse, but believe me... this doesn't even scratch the surface of my thoughts on the matter. Have a good one ya'll.
By halffast41  Apr 16, 2009
I have DS friends and non-DS friends. I have more contact with my DS friends because I don't have to work out who's going to be home when or how to get together. I can just send an email to them and they pick it up when they can.
Some of my non-DS friends have moved away and I can't see them face to face as I used to and the internet keeps us in contact. Same with distant relatives. Without the internet there's no way I'd be in as close contact with them as I am now.
And for my DS friends, a lot of us wouldn't even have met face to face because socially we move in vastly different circles. Yet here we're best buds.
My neice married a guy she met on-line. They have two kids and are happy as clams.
A lot of people these days don't have the time to sit down and write a letter on paper any more. The immediacy of email trumps the postal service any day. Especially when your postal service is like ours and 'loses' mail more often than not.
And it's great for people who, like me, are more reclusive and just don't LIKE going out. We can still have social contacts while remaining where we really want to be-HOME.
I think the danger is making the internet the ONLY place you socialize. That's not good.
By ALC67  Apr 16, 2009
I've been dabbling in the Internet since the AOL and Prodigy chat room days. I've met people in various ways through the Internet but I've also learned nothing beats that analog, face-to-face connection you get with offline encounters.
By GoldfishCM  Apr 15, 2009
megmucus - thank you for posting that youtube video! What an inspirational piece. I am so glad you 3 found each other - a perfect example of the positives of this medium!
I wish you the very best,
By CSR  Apr 15, 2009
This was great to read!, I was part of a film about three of us young women who suffer from cystic fibrosis, and how we all connected through the internet when we needed someone who truly understood what we we're all going through.

you might enjoy this -
By megmucus  Apr 15, 2009
Rhea, I loved your reply. Unfortunately that is so true. It is a strange world. Hugs, FranD
By FranD  Apr 15, 2009
Though social contact is a must....I have to say on line is better than being around people but never having per se friends you socialize with. Both my husband and myself talk alot to people where we are vendors of a sort. Even daily about many things important to them.....but visiting outside of work would never occur to them. We are of a lesser social standing some may think. So for friends..... friends I tell alot of my thoughts to and really connect is HERE! DS!
In work life I consider myself their equal no matter what their position is. Society though has those silent rules that others whom do jobs you would never do are considered at a lesser rank and worth.
So though I may consider myself their friend....they probably don't. May not even know my first name but they talk to me everyday. For the last 8 yrs.
So though human contact is very can become closer to ones online than the people you talk to out in the supposed real world.
You can build good relationships anywhere by goo communication and respect for one another.
Just my take on the subject!
Love Rhea
By tiredtiredtired  Apr 15, 2009
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