Building Trust in Online Relationships
Let's face it, none of us *really* know who we are talking to online. The bit of distance between person and online persona can be fertile ground for bad behavior. We have all seen it a thousand times. People troll and behave badly because they lose track of the human on the other side of the computer screen. We react to the words and our own interpretation of the words, which may have little relationship to the other person's intent. We find ourselves angry or upset and then we begin to doubt ourselves and our friendships. Things can get pretty ugly here on the Internet.
I know I personally have planted gardens of mistrust in the gap between friends and their words on my screen. Even when a person has never given me any reason to believe they will act badly I have found myself withholding trust in them because of my own past negative experiences online.
The absence of physical closeness is a fact of online relationships that adds a layer of complexity I am still trying to figure out. Daily I wish I could look my online friends in the eyes and give them a real hug instead of *hugs* and *kisses.* Somehow, I think it is easier for me to trust someone when they are sitting next to me over a cup of coffee than it is when we are hundreds or thousands of miles apart, typing away at each other over the Internet.
Having said all of that, there are moments in any friendship when I am able to quiet the voices in my head and really listen to what someone is saying to me, as opposed to what I think they are saying to me. I do find I have to work a little bit harder to build relationships online because the challenges are real. Still, the rewards of getting to know people I never in a million years would have met otherwise are so, so worth the extra bit of effort.