We are all guilty. Each of us has digitally left someone hanging.
In the super-connected world we live in, facing problems, answering tough questions and connecting with people has become much easier to do and much easier to avoid, all at the same time. The availability of endless forums online in which to communicate has given us infinite ways to not only reach out to our friends, colleagues and acquaintances, but has given us a wall [screen] to hide behind.
At its extreme, kids bully each other online everyday, using their own names, but hiding from their victims by carefully posting terrible things about them on social media. According to dosomething.org, 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person. Cyberbullying though is not just reserved for adolescents. Maybe adults haven’t learned, through growing up, that we must face the hard decisions and hard conversations in person or at the very least, tell people the truth, even via a digital message.
On a professional level, many of us attempt to network online using LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch with current or former coworkers. I don’t even know how many times we reach out to someone to say hi or to ask a question, just to get radio silence in return. There are always reasons for delays in response, but no excuse for outright ignoring someone.
In the dating world, “ghosting” is a rampant epidemic, made easier through online dating, text messages and the screens we all easily hide behind.
When we reach out to someone, we put ourselves out there, vulnerably. When someone reads our message and instead of saying something that might be slightly difficult, or not what we might want to hear, our culture has allowed for us to ignore them. It’s rude, and frankly, awful.
Although I would challenge that answering a message or being nice to someone online doesn’t quite make us brave, being mean and ignoring those who extend an olive branch definitely makes us weak.
I challenge each of us to say the hard things, the things we once had to handle in person, when they need to be said. Instead of using the internet as place to hide, let’s all use it as a place to shine.