The Internet and Interpersonal Communications

"The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choices words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech." – Edwin Friedman

Has the Internet hurt or helped interpersonal communications?

Has it made it too easy to communicate? Is there such a thing?

Does posting your feelings on-line help or hinder relationships?

As a communications professional, I lean towards believing the Internet helps relationships. Any tool, vehicle, technology that can assist with communication is, to me, a benefit.

Humans communicate and learn in different ways. Some are auditory. Some are visual. Some like to read and process and do things in their own time. Others like to jump in head first and get started. Some like to have information presented to them in small chunks.  The Internet, with all its rich media options, is a wonderful tool to aid in communications.

I believe it helps.

However, in the wrong hands, with improper use and intent it can also be highly damaging.

Consider the telephone. While I was not around when it was first developed I am going to guess that some part of the population was hesitant to embrace it. There may even have been those that felt the ability to suddenly talk to someone that was not present in your home was the work of the devil. And what about those operators who connected your calls? Did they listen in? How private was a phone call?

Did using the telephone cause problems in relationships? It certainly barred you from seeing body language. It can also be used to harass individuals with telemarketing or prank phone calls.

Is society better off or worse off since the introduction of the telephone? My father would say worse off since he has despised the fact that my mother could talk for hours to her sister or neighbors. My marriage version of my fathers complaint was my husbands objection to me being on the computer all the time.

Humans crave connection, understanding and validation. The phone, the Internet, can promote those deep connections. Yet they can also hurt or complicate.

For example:

I recently "met" a guy on-line. We started chatting. Professional guy, lived near me. We shared pictures. We emailed quite a bit. We had some things in common and it appeared as though we might meet for a drink. Without his knowledge, during our various chat sessions, I googled his email address to check him out. I also executed a search on myspace with the same email. In light of the fact that I was pondering meeting him live, I did not consider this Internet background check a violation of privacy.  It was a matter of safety.

I found his myspace.

I found his last name.

I found out where he worked.

I found out the name of the last woman he dated. (She left all these gooey messages on his myspace)

I found out he that while he indicated he was divorced, that was not entirely true. He is in the process of a divorce. According to my states public party inquiry system, I can actually see who filed for divorce in his case and what the current status is.

I know where he lives and I can even google map his home and get a satellite and street view of his neighborhood.

He shared none of this with me in the weeks we had been chatting. Oh, I asked him his last name. He just never answered me. I asked him where he worked. He gave me the industry but not the company. I asked him his ethnicity. He never answered me. While he held back from me, I also failed to tell him what I knew.

A few days ago he made his myspace private and I believe found me on-line via what was likely a google search. My private email address carries my full name. Anyone could do it.  I expect it.  I am clearly not trying hide my identity. He has not told me he googled me or read this blog He just went silent. His emails to me have nearly ceased.

Who is at fault here?

Is it a matter of fault? Or is it safety or something even more simple – like a love connection that never would come to pass. Am I a nosy female for checking him out without his knowledge or am I am smart thinking and savvy single woman watching out for her own safety by checking out a guy she met on-line before she were to meet him in person (in a public place)?

Is it the Internet wreaking havoc on interpersonal relations or is it the Internet aiding those connections? (Clearly he and I both have some honesty/trust issues. Aren’t we better off to have found that out sooner rather than later?)

I can argue my position and his.

But what about blogging about adoption reunions? What are the limitations? How much information should you share?

I absolutely filter what I write here. I do this to protect my daughter, her father, my family and even myself. However, it would appear that visitors like A think I don’t filter enough. That my writing of my feelings, my situation, my views, in a public forum is "undermining and second guessing" my daughter.

Is it?

What would A and others have me do? And whatever it is, should I do it? For them? For their views and their beliefs? (Can I say how much that would feel like giving my daughter away to make my parents, the church and the agency happy?)

What if I ever write that book I started? Should I filter myself then too? Should I only write what would make my daughter feel comfortable? Or should I be honest with myself, my feelings and my truth?

Is my responsibility to my own feelings first and my daughters second or vice versa? Or is there some way to balance them all?

This is something I have struggled with since day one. My voice, my on-line presence, sharing or not, my daughters feelings or not. At this time, given the information I have, I can only say that I am conscious of my actions and how they may affect my daughter. Until she finds the emotional fortitude to tell me more concretely what bothers her or not, I will continue down this path.

And I will remain open to change.

5 Thoughts.

  1. First – You’re smart to check out anyone you’ve met online, with any resources at your disposal. You didn’t hack into the Pentagon, after all; you pulled up information that he had publicly posted, or that was publicly available to everyone.
    As for him going silent, well, it’s his loss, in my humble opinion. You’re cool and beautiful and smart and fun.
    Second – Part of what I admire about you is your ability to express raw feelings, even hurt and anger, while displaying compassion and regard for your daughter and sons, as well as others who may be affected.
    If anyone comes across your writing and can’t see those things, I can only assume they are reacting to their own demons and not to what you’re saying, or how.
    You communicate important things, Suz. You’re making a difference. Keep on saying it your way, in your own words, and don’t let nay-sayers try to preach the “Keep Quiet” gospel to you. You don’t have to listen to them any more.

  2. Your honesty, your up-front, in your face honesty is what I admire most about you. You have the courage to tell the truth and that is awesome. I wish I had your strength on this issue.
    Coco said:
    “You communicate important things, Suz. You’re making a difference. Keep on saying it your way, in your own words, and don’t let nay-sayers try to preach the “Keep Quiet” gospel to you. You don’t have to listen to them any more.”
    She is absolutely right. Your speaking for those of us, who don’t have the courage “YET”.
    So just in case I haven’t said it before…
    Thank you!

  3. Amazing! I never knew that. Do you come with an instructional manual. A simple email and all that! Anyway, he ran like a thief in the night.
    I also love the way you write. Sometimes I think its circular and then it becomes a direct hit.
    Dont even go on vacation.

  4. Re: “Is my responsibility to my own feelings first and my daughters second or vice versa?”
    Your ONLY responsibility is to own YOUR feelings. Not your daughter’s. That is HER responsibility, to own HERS, not yours.
    This has been a fascinating thread, Suz. And becoming even more interesting with your introduction of the challenges and benefits the Internet extends to communications and relationships.
    It’s a little scary how much we can find out about others, or have found out about us, online. Everyone should google themselves periodically to see what’s out there — and correct anything that’s wrong (for instance, I found a listing for my business that I closed when I moved three years ago).
    IMO, when we blog (or do myspace or facebook, which I know nearly nothing about) or any other online thing, we should ONLY share things we are not afraid for the public, including our families, to read/see. Dating dude should have considered what was out there before he was less than truthful with you.
    Equally important, we must never, ever share anything that invades the privacy of others — as in revealing identities. You’ve been very careful about that. (I fear, I’ve been less so… no last names, but pictures.)
    I feel we are providing a valuable service. It’s only in recent years that the public has been able to read honest accounts about adoption and post-adoption and reunion, in books and online. These things need to be heard. Your readers have thanked you again and again. This is important stuff!
    It is your voice, words, feelings, opinions. Don’t let anyone pressure you to stop — including your daughter. She too can share if she wants to, or not. And she doesn’t have to read what you have shared. Period.

  5. Oh, you aren’t a nosy female. You are a SMART female.
    You ask very difficult questions. On the one hand, you owe it to yourself to be able to say what you need to say on this blog. Your daughter does have the option of not reading.
    I worry all the time that I may be saying too much about my kids and how much it will affect them later. After I post, I give it a few weeks, and then I password protect.
    I read your blog daily and derive a great deal from it. At times, I’ve thought to myself that if your daughter is reading, it must be difficult for her because to some extent you talk about her actions and relationship to you and that may simply be too much for her to read about herself online. I remember once thinking she could even possibly be identifiable. I’m not sure what could come of that, but I can see where someone would be troubled by it.
    In short, yes the internet, and blogs specifically, can negatively impact relationships, even when it’s completely unintentional. While your blog may work for you and is certainly helpful to me as an aparent, I can see some instances where I think more should be filtered for the sake of your daughter.
    Just my 2 cents.

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