I read this post today over at Comma N' Sentence about excessive online openness and the subsequent superficiality it tends to attract. Laryssa is certainly not the first person to address this issue, (and oddly, several of my online colleagues have of late started to adopt very similar views over the last two months), but she does express it in quite an illustrative, if plain manner in this post.
Her post addresses the angle from the heads side of the coin, if you will. I won't rehash what she said here. Read her post.
And when you have read it, consider my approach to this issue on the tails side of the same coin. Instead of addressing the fear of commitment, I want to talk about the ease of insensitivity and rudeness.
Since my very first days on the internet, I have been of the mind that online communication ought to consist of just as much decency, respect, and effort as that in which we partake offline. In other words, if you wouldn't cross a busy highway, scour a store, and seek out the stranger with a certain bumper sticker just so you could say, "fuck you" to their face, don't do it online. Or if instead of staring blankly and walking away, you would do your best in "real life" to answer someone that politely asked you for assistance at a grocery store, do so online. If your "friends" can count on you to give them a minute in person when they ask for it, have the spine to give it to them online when they ask for it by actually returning texts and emails promptly for a change.
I have been consistently shot down, flammed, trolled, and attacked for expecting such behavior. Dating sites, message boards, chat rooms, emails, Facebook, comments, etc. I am told, ("told" is putting it lightly) "don't expect the same treatment online as in 'real life' when you talk to people. It's obviously different."
And this is the problem.
We get a text. An email. A Facebook message. And despite declarations that all of these technologies can bring us all closer together and make the world smaller, the first advantage we take of such things is generally to ignore them. We don't have the time or energy right now. With zero effort we can opt to pay no attention to a co-worker's question, a family member's complaint, or a friend's cries for help. "Just turn off a machine and that drama is gone" I heard one person say. Not that you even have to turn off the machine anymore...
We generally try to avoid drama and unpleasantness everywhere, of course. But the standards that define "drama" and the other things with which we don't wish to deal are skewed in the social media age. Our tolerance for interaction that isn't instantly gratifying has gone way down. Many of us have no problem clicking off a cell phone that wakes us up before we are ready. "I'll deal with that shit later," we say once we check the sender of the text message. Yet how many of you would, if a friend showed up at your door in distress at 2 in the morning actually close the door on their face, roll back into bed and say, "I'm so not into that drama right now"?
Like Laryssa says, the days of calling a land line or writing a letter required effort. But those days also required some effort and a sense of discomfort if we wanted to blow people off. (At least it did for people who are worth a damn.) But these days, even otherwise "decent" people can just punch a button and decide they are not in the mood to be polite to you. It has become ingrained into our subconscious that to ignore someone who is texting, calling or emailing us is acceptable, even among people who wouldn't think of just ignoring someone that approached them in person and began to speak, for whatever reasons.
80% of my friends are notorious for this shit, actually. There are people who have not returned a my messages in two years. Years. People that have never, since having my phone number, actually called me back. They are "busy" or their "life is hectic".
And mine isn't?
When people are trying to reach out to us for something, in a sane, respectable manner, we should respond. Especially if they don't do so very often, like me. People, after all, are what we ought to be investing most of our time in. And it is, ironically, people that are easiest to blow off in the emerging world of social media ubiquity.