MGU 325 | Online Friendships

 

With the world increasingly moving towards virtual, most of us have developed online connections of some kind. But how real are your online friendships? And are we placing too much value and trust in people we’ve never seen in person?

Discover why it might be better to disconnect and unfollow from technology. Join Whitney Lauritsen as she shares how stress and the intensity of a global crisis can lead to disconnection and compassion fatigue. Learn more about online dating and some of Whitney’s experiences with it. Finally, discover how to step away from social media addiction and rebuild your connection with people.

Life moves so fast. Learn how to slow it down so that you can see everyone clearly. Tune in and take a deep dive with us into human (or animal) companionship today!

Listen to the podcast here:


Disconnected: The Illusion Of Online Friendships

Stress And The World Today

I was going to start off this episode by saying there’s a lot going on in this world and then I paused and thought, “When is there not a lot going on in the world?” I’m recording this episode on February 27th, 2022. A few days ago, the crisis in Ukraine with Russia, I don’t know if it began or escalated but it has felt like an intense few days energetically. It had me thinking about something from a different angle than I was before. This is about human communication and how I felt like it’s a tough thing.

The Need To Pause

By the way, I’ve been waiting for an hour to do this episode because one of the dogs here is barking. It’s a long story as to why. I’ve tried to do everything I could to help this dog and I can’t. A little behind the scenes, it’s so frustrating because I’ve already pushed this episode back for a few days and now is my deadline to get it to my editor. I’m afraid that if I waited any longer that it would be a huge issue. This is the life of working from home, which I imagine many of you can relate to. In the grand scheme of things, things like this are not that big of a deal and that’s such an important thing to keep in mind when life feels tough. It’s all relative.

Many of us have these stresses in our life that can start to dig into us. Sometimes, we can step away. Sometimes, they feel insurmountable. What is happening for me now is this rage and I was reflecting on that before I started. I feel so frustrated with this situation with the dog, which I’m probably not going to address here on the show more because it’s a very private situation that the dog has related to. If that piques your curiosity, I apologize but there are elements of my life that I try hard to protect and keep private. That does tie into this episode’s topic but so does the stress because we have the stress of big things like a crisis in another country that has a ripple effect on everyone even if they’re feeling way outside that country. The fear that that specific situation has for us concerns over whether or not that’s going to cause a war that’s looming. By the time this episode comes out, who knows?

Going back to what I said at the beginning about how intense things feel, I was thinking back to 9/11 and the last time we were in a war. It’s interesting too because what I’m referencing there is the war on terror in the Middle East. I was in Europe at the time studying abroad when that was all happening. I remember this daily stress and panic. My classmates and I were trying to go about business as usual. One of those pivotal moments was the morning that I was traveling from where I was studying in the Netherlands to France with my friend. I remember we were up early to catch the train and watching the news unfold and thinking like, “Is it even safe for us as Americans to be traveling?”

It was really tough but we made it through and here we are. Hopefully, we’ll all make it through. I don’t mean for this episode to be about what’s going on in Ukraine, although it is important to put that into the context of what I’m going to talk about. I am 1/4 Ukrainian. I’ve pondered about talking about that because I’m not trying to make it about me by any means but my mom’s dad’s side of the family so the paternal side of my mother’s family, are all Ukrainian. I didn’t realize until 2021 how Ukrainian they were.

I grew up hearing a little bit about our Ukrainian heritage but very minimally. It wasn’t a big part of my mother’s discussion with me and my sister but we would hear things like the food that they eat. My mom loves sauerkraut. She also loves perogies or pedahehs. That is the Ukrainian term. I would hear those little things in the context of food but it wasn’t until 2021, that while I was visiting some family on that side of my family, I realized my mother’s father was 100% Ukrainian. Both his parents are Ukrainian. I heard some stories about them coming in. I thought it’s so interesting that that had never been such a big part of my life. Sadly, this situation in Ukraine has tied me back into that history, wanting to learn more and feeling frustrated because I don’t know what to do. I feel a bit helpless. It’s intense.

When life feels tough, it's all relative. When stress comes into your life, just walk away. Click To Tweet

I also want to say towards the beginning of this episode that I wish there were more ways for us to truly feel connected to one another. I’ve been pondering a lot. In general, my role online and how frustrating it can be at times because I feel like social media has, at the core, brought us closer together. I’ve had the honor of meeting some of you, the reader, in real life. That probably wouldn’t have happened were it not for this show and this show probably wouldn’t have happened were it not for social media. I love that.

One thing that comes up so much in my heart is that it feels like there’s so much going on. Things are moving at such a fast pace. It’s hard to keep up. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out but it’s also incredibly easy to feel disconnected, especially with all of that. It feels like everyone is moving at such a fast pace. As I’m saying that, I’m visualizing myself as if I were standing still and the world is moving so quickly around me as all these blurs and all these people are streaks of light moving past me. I’m standing there feeling alone, helpless and wanting to reach out and grab some of that light and pull it in and connect with it.

Compassion Fatigue

Every once in a while, I feel like I’m able to do that and there is a way to get connected to one another. At this moment, all I can hear is the dog barking. It’s like, “What do I do?” I don’t know what to do. Do I start over? Do I wait? This dog needs 24/7 care. I can’t give that dog the care while doing this. There’s no one else here at the moment to give the dog the care that it needs. Even at this moment, it feels like an example of is it selfish of me to be continuing without giving you the whole story about what this dog is going through at this moment? Do I put everything on hold and at what costs to take care of another being?

It reminds me of that subject matter of compassion fatigue and compassion fade where you feel like you’re constantly taking care of another person or another animal and how at a certain point, you feel like in order to take care of yourself, you have to distance yourself from them. Maybe that does tie into the subject matter of the reason or one of the big reasons that we feel so disconnected is because of that compassion fatigue.

Maybe what I’m describing as feeling like everything’s rushing around me, moving fast, not connecting with m. I’m standing there seeing all these people or these flashes of light that I’m describing. It’s this weird sense of disconnect and loneliness because how can you feel lonely or helpless when there’s so much around you? It’s moving so fast and because each of those people or beams of light is its own center of its own universe, they’ve got their own stresses, problems, burdens, challenges and obstacles.

Each of you reading this is at your own center of this feeling that I’m describing and moving at your own pace. I have this compassion and awareness that people aren’t purposefully disconnected. They just need to be in order to get by and sometimes, at the cost of something else. It’s like this dog. It’s breaking my heart because I want to go be with it but I’ve been with this dog so much more again that I’m going to describe because this episode is not about this dog but this dog is serving as an audible reminder of when you want to do something for yourself and you feel like you’ve given so much to something else. You’re finally focused on yourself but something’s asking and asking of you. You’re faced with that question of do you ignore it to focus on yourself like I’m trying to do and focus on you?

MGU 325 | Online Friendships

Online Friendships: There’s so much going on and things are moving at such a fast pace that it’s hard to keep up. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and burnt out, but it’s also incredibly easy to feel disconnected.

 

I want to connect with you, the reader but I’m being asked over and over again to care for this animal. It’s tough. I want what I’ve given this animal to be enough. I imagine that’s similar to being a parent sometimes. Since I am not a parent and haven’t been outside of animals, I think about my mom and what it was like sometimes to ask a lot of her and for her to get frustrated, angry and yell. It’s these bursts of frustration and rage that have come forth from my mother at times but in these moments, I can understand because my mom gives and just needs some time to herself like any other parent. Even when they step away when they feel like they’ve done everything, they’ve cared and they know that this human being or this creature will be okay, it’s not enough. It’s a lot. It’s heavy.

It’s important to pause during the heaviness. It’s important to listen to those sounds but not react to them. It is those parallel feelings that I’m having in this moment of hearing cries for help from this dog but I know that the dog doesn’t need the help. For context for you, this dog is old and its mind is going. After a vet visit, it was determined that the dog is towards the end of its life and has got a lot going on mentally. The dog doesn’t need help. I checked right before I started. Everything was taken care of. All the needs are met but this dog is probably wanting to be held. I would hold the dog but it’s a lot.

I know in my head that this dog doesn’t need to be helped. My heart is similar to, I imagine, what a mom feels when they hear a baby crying in the other room. It’s hard to ignore but sometimes, we know the right decision at that moment is to ignore it and let this being care for itself and know that we don’t need to be there for every moment with that being. It ties into how I feel about other people sometimes. Maybe, that in itself is part of the answer that I’ve been seeking, which I’ll give you some more context in a moment.

I’m thinking about how at other times, when we hear cries for help, maybe the right decision is to go help that person or that animal. Maybe we want to selfishly ignore it because it feels too hard or we’re overwhelmed or stressed and we think like, “I want to ignore this but deep down, I know that I shouldn’t.” With what’s happening in Ukraine, I feel that in order for me to figure out how to help, I’d have to devote all of my attention to it but what a lot of people have brought up is that life is not stopping for the rest of us, especially in the United States. Our lives and work are continuing. It’s not like the beginning of COVID where the whole world felt like it was stopping and we all could focus on COVID. The dogs are still barking. Our bodies still have needs. We have work, education or other things that we have to care for, which doesn’t allow people, like me at least, to put all my focus on helping out in Ukraine.

It’s tough because I hear the cries and I see that there might be needs. I want to contribute and help sometimes but in order for me to do that, I would have to pause everything to first understand. Maybe that explains this bigger issue that I was hoping to tackle in this episode. It seems due to the dog barking that my brain has now prioritized other things. Even when I’ve turned on my noise-canceling headphones, I can still hear the dog. It’s causing this panic in me that completely sucks, to be honest but I need to do this episode.

Disconnection And Connection

For those curious why do I need to do this episode now, my editor needs at least a week to edit and the episodes coming out in eight days so if I don’t turn it in now, it might not come out on time. Why does it matter for things to come out on time? A great example is when an episode didn’t come out on time because of some tech glitch. I realized that people were very confused by that because I’d been on a regular schedule for over two years now. If I get off schedule, it impacts people and confuses them. That’s why I have to do this episode despite the circumstances. That ties into this concept that despite the circumstances, we have to keep moving. We can all relate to that. Sometimes, it sucks to keep moving and life is tough.

People aren't purposefully disconnected. They just need to be in order to get by. Click To Tweet

Let me now start to weave some of my points into what I wanted to get into, which was that idea of the disconnect. I noticed this especially due to my work in Web 3.0. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter and a significant amount of time on Discord. For those that don’t know, Discord is similar to a Facebook group. You can join a bunch of what they call Discord servers. These are all different groups that you can go into. Both Discord and Twitter are really big in Web 3.0, which is cryptocurrency, NFTs, the metaverse.

As I’ve been trying to learn and get involved with Web 3.0, I’ve put more of my attention onto those platforms and I’ve noticed a couple of things. One, they’re overwhelming and confusing. Two, it feels like I’m entering into this space of newness and mingling with people at all different stages but it seems dominated by people that have a lot more experience and knowledge. There are times when I feel like Twitter and Discord are magical. I have access to all these incredible people that are willing to connect with me, give me their time and share their knowledge. I’ll post things and it’ll feel like a deep connection but it’s fleeting. This is where these thoughts started circulating with me. It reminds me of most of social media and how fleeting it is.

It’s this idea, again, of being a person amongst all of this rapidly moving light. Sometimes, the light will stop. I feel like the image of the light is a light trail. It’s like in the movies or cartoons when something moves so fast and all you see is the light trail but when it slows down, you can see the human being. On a platform like Twitter, there will be moments of somebody slowing down and suddenly, you see their humanity. You see that they’re connecting with you. They’re taking a pause.

For me, there’s this woman that I’ve been like, “Thank you for connecting with me.” Its’ that gratitude. Maybe that person follows you. I don’t know where else I can go with the visual of the light but maybe that connection feels like it’s going to last but that person starts to speed up again and suddenly, they’re gone. You might see them in the distance and they might circle back around. Maybe they’ll pause again to stop and talk to you but it’s fleeting because then they run away again. I hope that’s a good visual for how I feel on platforms like Twitter. You never know when they’re coming back.

For me, maybe there are core abandonment elements of deeply wanting to connect with somebody and they’re always running away. I’ve experienced this in romantic relationships. It makes me feel so uneasy because I like stability. I like reliability, deep connections and time to slow down. I don’t like those fast-paced flashes of lights. It might be entertaining and stimulating. Ironically, I love platforms like TikTok where everything moves so fast and you can consume and consume. Within an hour, who knows how much you’ve consumed? It’s probably at least 60 pieces of content but maybe close to 240 pieces of content.

The average Tik Tok is between 15 seconds to 1 minute so in 1 hour, it’s 100 plus or 200 plus pieces of content. That’s also very overwhelming but it’s stimulating. It’s a rush. Maybe, it’s the dopamine effect and you’re getting so much and you’re feeling these brief moments of connection. Twitter is very similar. You can refresh Twitter. It’s content after content and all these short little lines. It also feels relatively easy for people to follow you on Twitter and even Tik Tok. You get that rush. You’d be like, “They followed me. They acknowledged me. They saw me.” I feel that way a lot but then I immediately feel sadness. This is what I stepped back to reflect on. It’s this burst of excitement and satisfaction followed by a drop of sadness because it doesn’t feel real and lasting. That person is there and gone within a second.

Online Dating

This is also expressed a lot when people talk about online dating. I haven’t done online dating in years. I feel so relieved to not be because I feel like online dating got more fleeting and less substantial. I remember my time with online dating. You would match with someone, which is similar to someone following you back on Twitter. Most of us have had on some social media a moment like that where someone followed us back or at the very least, they acknowledged us through liking our comment or responding to us. It’s that rush like, “This person acknowledged me. This person likes me. This person sees me.” I felt similar things on online dating. Like many others, I’ve come to learn that you may never hear from that person using the chat.

MGU 325 | Online Friendships

Online Friendships: When you want to do something for yourself but something else keeps asking for your attention, do you stop? Do you ignore it to focus on yourself?

 

I’m going to go over this on the basics in case you’ve never online dated because I imagine there is at least a handful of people in the audience who have a long-term partner and they’ve never done online dating. On most of these platforms, you can match with each other and then you can go chat with them. That’s the next step. I remember that there’d be a lot of cases where you’d match and you’d never hear from someone. Me, as a woman, I date men. I would reach out to the guy that I matched with and he would never respond. That would be the case. Those experiences were very quick-lived. You get the high of the match and you get the low of no response. It sucks but you move on.

To me, what was worse and again, very similar on social media matching with somebody on a dating site. They do respond. Maybe they reach out to you first and say hello. There’s a rush like, “They acknowledged me. They’re connecting with me.” You write back. Maybe they respond more. You write back. The back and forth starts to happen. The stakes start to rise and you think, “This person cares about me,” and then it’ll continue until it doesn’t.

The majority of the cases will continue. Maybe plans will start to form but a lot of times, they’ll never get to an actual in-person connection. For me, I never kept track of how many guys I matched with and talked to but I would guess that maybe somewhere between 10% to 25% of the matches led to a substantial conversation. In my most serious concentrated time of online dating, I probably went on less than ten dates purposefully. I don’t know if it was just me but I was trying to be particular about who I connected with. I also don’t really like dates with someone new. I find them incredibly awkward but deep down, I did them because I wanted a connection. I wanted to meet somebody and date someone.

There were a few dates where maybe two of those dates never went to a second date. One case, for sure, was me not being interested in the guy. I met up with him and could immediately tell it wasn’t going to work. He asked me out again and I said no. One of them was scarring for me because we went on a date. I wasn’t that interested in him and I could tell he wasn’t that interested in me. I never heard from him again but it impacted my self-esteem. I was like, “He wasn’t interested in me because I never heard from him.” Part of me didn’t care but part of me felt offended, like, “Was I really that bad or disappointing?” I remember we had some good chemistry before we met in person and then after meeting, it was over. My self-esteem was like, “Did I not look the way he expected me to?” I don’t know. It still hurt even though this was many years ago.

There were guys who I connected with and we went on a few dates. There was one guy that I dated for a few months and then it didn’t work out. There was another guy with who we had something going on. Situationship something like that. According to what I’ve learned online, it’s like you’re dating but you’re not dating. You’re “hanging out.” You’ve got consistency simultaneous with inconsistency. That was my thing. That was awful. I could probably do a whole episode on how traumatic that was for me but my point being is there are all these different types of connections but a lot of them end.

Having A Small Group

It’s feeling that even if you’ve dated someone for a long time, a lot of that relationship completely dissolves or substantially dissolves after you break up and you’re left wondering, “How did we go from being so close to one another to not talking or seeing each other ever again?” I’m someone who maintains communication with most of the men that I’ve dated. There are very few that I’ve never talked to again. Even the less long-lasting or shorter relationships, I still could reach out to them and have some sort of rapport. I do that because I like that connection. That person meant something to me but tying this back into social media and this bigger conversation of how you can start an online rapport with somebody simultaneously feels significant and insignificant at the same time.

It's important to pause during the heaviness, to listen to the sounds in your environment, but not react to them. Click To Tweet

For me, I’m left feeling unsure about how much I matter to this person. I’ve even felt this with IRL friendships or In Real-Life friendships. These are people I met outside of social media. How we can go for a long time without talking and feel this awkwardness or insecurity if they would still want to be friends with me. I have an anxious attachment style and a lot of social anxiety. This is certainly specific to that but I would love to hear from you how much you can relate.

I have this underlying fear of all sorts of people don’t like me, that I offended them, that I upset them or that they’re only being polite to me. I felt this coming up on social media. Back on Twitter, I’ve noticed this a lot. Somebody will follow me. We’ll have some exchanges back and forth and then suddenly, I don’t hear from them either for a while or ever again. It’s like, “Where did that connection go?”

It ties back into the situation with the dog barking. I feel stress from the dog barking. That stress may lead me to feel disconnected from others because all of my attention and energy is going to the dog barking. Whatever I have left goes into my work and then whatever I have left might go into focusing on Ukraine and seeing where I can help. It’s like a lot of us are spread so thin that connecting with a lot of people at once is tough. Maybe we only have the energy to connect with the people and the animals in our household. Maybe we only have the energy to connect with our circle of friends and barely even have time for that.

I’ve noticed with a lot of my friends who have young children that I rarely hear from them. When I do hear from them, I understand how hectic their lives feel. I realize that they don’t have the energy to connect with me that often. We have these fleeting moments where the light stops and they’re present. We’re connected and then they’re off again in their swirling light experience where I can see them off in the horizon but I can’t touch them, talk to them or reach them. I just have to wait for them to circle back and maybe, they’re waiting for me because if we change perspective, maybe somebody else sees me as that fleeting trail of light buzzing around.

I’ve thought about this a lot too knowing how much this affects me. I recognize how I simultaneously want to be connected to a ton of people but very few people at the same time. Meaning, I crave the intimacy of less connection. I want to go back to that human root of a small tribe. I try to use that word mindfully because I feel like the word tribe has been a bit culturally appropriated. A small group, let’s say is perhaps a better word for this of knowing fewer people. You only know your family, the people in your town and that’s it. You didn’t have internet and phone lines. You only knew who was in your space. We didn’t have these big cities. Human beings were spread out in smaller areas.

At this very moment, I’m looking out my window and seeing strangers walk by on the sidewalk. I’ve seen windows from all these different homes around me. I’m seeing the plane fly by in the distance. Within my field of view, I could probably notice hundreds of people. There are hundreds of people in the sky above me. There is a handful of people on the sidewalk. There are cars driving by. There are people in the buildings around me. Speaking of buildings, I don’t even know the majority of the people that are in this building that I’m in. I don’t know the people that are in the homes around. That’s weird. Yet, here we are using social media and dating apps to connect with people. Maybe it’s an opportunity to redefine connection and also set more expectations.

MGU 325 | Online Friendships

Online Friendships: There are all these different types of connections, but a lot of them just end. Even if you’ve dated someone for a long time, a lot of that relationship dissolves after you break up.

 

I was thinking earlier, “Should I follow fewer people on social media? How would that serve me?” Maybe it would be nice to only be in a few people’s lives socially or maybe only have a few people on my phone. Could I reduce my contacts there? Could I reduce who I follow? It’s really tricky because then, other elements of socialization come in where people are going to be offended if I don’t follow them. I’m on all these different platforms. If I were to add up all the people that I’m following across social media, it’s a lot. Because of the way the algorithms work, I barely even see them.

I would have to constantly be on social media and go through every one of my contacts to see a glimpse of each of their lives. It’s strange when you step back and think about the way that our relationships and dynamics with other human beings have shifted so much. I know these thoughts may feel a little bit disjointed but the theme is this connection. This theme is disconnection. The theme is compassion and wanting to have it but also feeling completely drained by everything going on in life and only having the bandwidth to do so much.

Unfollowing

Discussing this out loud has helped me because in those moments where I feel sadness over the disconnection I feel with other human beings, it’s helpful to have the perspective that everybody is hopefully trying to do their best. Each of those people we’re connected to are likely connected to hundreds if not thousands of other people. How could they possibly give us a lot of their attention? If they don’t respond to us, maybe we shouldn’t take it so personally. There’s that perspective. There’s also that deep yearning that I have of wanting to simplify and wondering if I even can. I certainly could but what would I lose? What if I did unfollow? What if I chose very intentionally and wrote down a list of 100 people? What if it was the list comparable to if I was getting married and whittling down my guest list for the wedding? I imagine that would be really tough.

I could easily fill that list of 200 people for a wedding. I’ve never planned a wedding. There’s a lot in there but I know the concept of having to struggle to decide who do you invite, who do you spend money on, who do you put the effort into with the invite and who do you bring into that very sacred space of a wedding. What if I did that with everything in my life? It would be an interesting experiment. At this moment, I wish that I could give my energy to creating a list of the most important people in my life and what if I unfollowed everyone else. It’s plausible but it would take a ton of time.

I got to be honest. Years ago, I unfollowed as many people as possible from Instagram on my @EcoVeganGal account and it took me days. I went through it person by person. If I recognized who they were, I would consider following them. I unfollowed anyone I didn’t even recognize or I couldn’t recognize their name or username. I went back to my list and clicked on each person remaining to see who they were and if I was still resonating with their content.

To clarify, if I recognize the feeling of who they were but didn’t have a deep connection to them, I would then go into their profile to remind myself of who they were, why I followed them and who they were at that exact moment because we’re all evolving with how we’re posting on social media. The person that I followed, are they the same person that they had become? Do I still resonate with them? That’s how I determined to continue or not continue following them. That took a lot of work to do that and that was only on Instagram.

Each person is connected to hundreds, if not thousands of other people. So when someone doesn't reply back, try not to take it personally. Click To Tweet

I did something like that similarly on Facebook many years ago. I need to do that on LinkedIn and Twitter. I have all these different social accounts anyway. This is me giving all the platforms that I’m on but I’m sure you can relate. You can think about this with newsletters or emails you’re subscribed to, podcasts you’re listening to or social media accounts plus contacts on your phone. It’s an overwhelming amount for most of us. There are so many people. It’s asking yourself what’s the percentage of those people that you feel connected to or deeply care about. For the rest of the people, why are you still connected to them if you don’t deeply care about them?

I took some notes from Sherry Turkle who I had addressed at least once on the show. I remember Jason and I covered at least one of her books that I read in 2021. I went back to some of my notes in the context of this one because she has some really great perspectives on how technology gives us the illusion of friendship and how a lot of us use technology because of something that we think it gives us but it gets in the way of that deep connection.

She spoke on this. It may be a TED Talk about how that illusion gives us friendship without the demands of companionship. Maybe there’s a difference between companionship and friendship. She said that offers us three fantasies. 1) We’ll have attention everywhere. 2) We’ll always be heard. 3) We’ll never have to be alone. I wrote that down because it helps me understand why I have followed and connected with so many people over the years and why others do as well. Companionship is demanding like the dog downstairs is demanding. It’s tough because we don’t always have the bandwidth to meet those demands or maybe, we’re choosing not to meet those demands at that moment. This illusion though is still important to us.

Let’s go back to Twitter. Following somebody gives us an illusion of friendship. Not constantly speaking to them allows us to stay away from the demands of that companionship but by following them, we get their attention. We feel like they’ll hear us when we speak and we won’t feel so alone. What makes this difficult is that I take it so seriously. When somebody follows me, I feel not only like they’re giving me their attention, they’re hearing me and I’m not alone but I feel like, “Let’s connect with each other.” That’s my desire. I’m like, “We’re connected,” but it becomes demanding if that person wants my attention or I expected of them so then, we step away.

It may be similar to online dating. In fact, I would be fairly confident in saying that a lot of people go on online dating to get attention. It feels good for someone to match with you. It gives you validation. Why do people want to date? A lot of people don’t want to be alone. If they get married, they’re not alone. They have companionship. Maybe, they go on the dating apps in hopes that they’ll find companionship but it’s complicated so they also try to avoid it because it feels too demanding.

Sherry Turkle also says that we get a neurochemical high from connecting. I describe that jolt as dopamine that we feel in our bodies when someone follows me on Twitter, for example. Especially when it’s somebody I know, when they follow me back, it feels good. I get that high. Sherry Turkle says that when we have this feeling that no one is listening to us, that makes us want to spend time with our technology. Again, similar to dating social media is something that we turn to when people in real life don’t feel like they’re listening to us.

MGU 325 | Online Friendships

Online Friendships: Most people have an overwhelming amount of contacts on their phones. How many of them are they actually connected to? And why are they still in your contacts if you don’t deeply care about them?

 

One thing I remember Sherry Turkle getting into is that it’s the cycle where because we have the technology, other people may not listen to us and because they’re not listening to us, we go to technology so now, we’re not listening to them. They may turn to technology and because they turn to technology, they’re not listening to us. The cycle goes on and on. The person who is right there in front of us in real life can be in the same room but they’re using technology and no longer listening. We’re both going into our own worlds to try to get something that’s right in front of our face.

Humans & Technology

It’s depressing when I think about it that way. Sherry says we want to be with each other but also elsewhere connected to wherever else we want to be because what we value most is control over where we put our attention. That’s interesting too because there’s this deep hurt even if we don’t even recognize it when someone ignores us or when they don’t respond to us. That was part of what inspired this episode initially as well. I would write to somebody on Twitter and never hear from them. That’s okay because it’s their prerogative. I don’t have control over whether they respond to me enough but it hurt because I wanted their attention and connection. When I didn’t get it, I felt disappointed, hurt and sad but they have control over whether they give me their attention or not.

We see a lot of this on social media where maybe somebody feels hurt because they didn’t get attention from one person so they try to get attention from other people. That also becomes a cycle. We see this on dating apps too. We can control who we give our attention to but we can’t control whether we get it back from them. If we don’t get it back from somebody, we go on to the next person and try to get their attention. Maybe we become addicted to attention. It never feels satisfying because there’s always more of it. There’s always somebody else to talk to.

Sherry says we can’t get enough of each other if we can have each other at a digital distance. It’s not too close and not too far. It’s just right. It’s deeply fascinating to me. Another thing that Sherry said is certain conversations tend to fall away. It’s the most endangered, the kind in which you listen intently to another person and expect that he or she is listening to you, where a discussion can go off on a tangent and circle back, where something unexpected can be discovered about a person or an idea. Those are endangered conversations because we’re so distracted. We’re always moving on to the next one.

Sherry says that we use technology to “dial down” human contact to titrate its nature and extent. People avoid face-to-face conversations but are comforted by being in touch with people and sometimes, with a lot of people who are emotionally kept at bay. That’s what it all is. It’s keeping people at bay. One of the things that Sherry touches upon a lot and this came up in that TED Talk article I mentioned is that we need to cultivate a capacity for solitude. That’s interesting because each of us craves human connection. It’s at the root of us.

As humans, we feel like we need it. Maybe in some ways, we do. It’s part of our well-being. When we feel lonely, it’s distressing and scary. It’s part of survival and yet, now we have so much connection that we’d dial it down and can benefit from solitude. Maybe part of this disconnection is that we haven’t learned. We’ve reduced our capacity for solitude. We become so addicted to the connection that it’s at such an extreme thus creating that disconnection. What if we cultivated that capacity for solitude as Sherry Turkle says as a way to become more connected? Then, once we feel that satisfaction with being alone, it allows us to become more tuned in perhaps. That’s something interesting to ponder.

Technology can give you the illusion of friendship. Click To Tweet

Wrap Up: Beyond Measure Community

There’s a lot here that has been circling in my mind. Thank you for reading. I’m going to wrap up now. This episode ended up being about as long as every other episode despite the dog barking. Thank you for bearing witness to this conversation and also through the challenges that I had. This conversation is tough but everything is challenging. In every moment, we are faced with these decisions and we are constantly having to ask ourselves, “Who do we prioritize, ourselves or others? When do we walk away from another?” There is not always going to be a good time. It’s not always going to be an easy decision. We’re like, “When do we disconnect? Are we disconnecting to protect ourselves, take care of ourselves or nourish ourselves? Are we disconnecting because we’re addicted to connection and we have to move on to the next one?” That’s my overall sense and where that sadness is.

I want a more intentional connection. That’s at the core of why I started Beyond Measure. I’m so grateful that I finally moved through my resistance to making it public. If you haven’t heard me talk about Beyond Measure yet, it is a community that I’ve been cultivating for a couple of years now. When I was reflecting on all these feelings about feeling so disconnected from others and social media, I felt so grateful for the Beyond Measure community. The last time I checked, there were about 30 people in there, meaning that new people have been joining since I made it public.

I would say maybe 8 of those 30 are super engaged. Every weekend, we have a group call that ranges from 5 to 8 people at the moment that all turn on their cameras. There is an option there to turn on your webcam. There is an option there to just talk on their microphone. There is an option there to observe and listen. The fourth option is that you can use the chat and have conversations in there. Every Saturday, the group holds space for one another. It has been amazing because the members of that group have all stemmed from connections I’ve made on social media.

In the past, when it was private, I was intentionally inviting in each member. Now that it’s public, there’s still intention but anybody can come in. Everybody’s invited but they have to be intentional in order to stay in the group. I’ll put the link in the description at Wellevatr.com or you can go to WhitneyLauritsen.com. You can also message me. I want to make it easy for you to find this. If you use that link to Beyond Measure, you can check out the community and see if it feels like a fit. I made a little landing page for it with an overview and then there’s a Join button.

It’s free to join at the moment. I’ve been thinking about charging a small fee to join Beyond Measure to cover my costs for running it. At some point, you may be faced with that question but at this very moment as of the end of February of 2022, you can join for free. When you go in there, you get to explore it a little bit. You get the option of joining the Saturday calls that I mentioned. If it appeals to you, you can become a full-on member which gives you access to all these amazing conversations.

I hope that it always stays small. I am very grateful that it’s 30 people and that only 1/3 are active. Not everybody comes to the calls but the rest of the people of that 1/3 of the 10 people or so are writing things and sharing things with another. It feels so connected and intimate. Even though I want to keep the doors open to everybody, maybe one day, I’ll have to be more mindful about how many people are in there because my aim is for it to feel like a safe place of connection and not another Facebook group, Discord server, Twitter or TikTok where you’re exposed to hundreds or thousands of people.

MGU 325 | Online Friendships

Online Friendships: People use technology to dial down human contact, titrate its nature and avoid face-to-face conversations while being in touch with people. With technology, they can keep people at bay.

 

It’s an intimate group of people that you can truly connect with. I’m so grateful for it because when people join the calls, I get an opportunity to look them in the eyes through their webcam should they choose to turn it on. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is but my point is I feel so grateful to see people’s faces, their expressions, hear their voices, hear about who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re feeling that day.

It is becoming more of a passion. The more I see the disconnect or feel the disconnect on social media, the more grateful I am for places like Beyond Measure. I want to remind you that there are places like that there. If you’ve been looking for one and you want to come and check out Beyond Measure. Please use the link and come on in and see if it’s for you. We’d love to meet you. I’d love to get to know you more truly. I am yearning for more of that.

As cool as it is to know that a significant number of people tune in to this show and I’m grateful for that, it’s nice and satisfies my ego, to be honest but deep down, I wished that I knew everybody that tunes in to the show. I had this moment of feeling less than when I heard that this other show had thousands of people tuning in. It had a significant number. I’m not there yet with this show. I felt this envy, like, “Why does he get to have all those people tune in to his show?” Envy is there for ego and money because the more people listen to your show, the more monetization opportunities there are.

The truth is I don’t do this show to monetize it. I do monetize it. I have sponsors here and there but that’s it. I don’t make these episodes to make money. I make these episodes because I really like to have conversations. Frankly, it feels weird to have a conversation by myself like I did now but what feels amazing is when people like you send me emails or messages, join Beyond Measure and connect and say, “This episode resonated with me.” That brings me the greatest joy. I yearn for more live and connected experiences.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet with the way things are set up in podcasting. There are certainly options for that. We’ve got a long way to go because most people prefer to read at their own pace and maybe stay disconnected but I want to end this episode by encouraging you to examine your relationships with others online and ask you the question why you do, if you do, feel disconnected or choose to be disconnected from others online.

For those that have never connected with me, I want to ask you that same question. It has always perplexed me on YouTube, for example. I could see the number of people that watch a video. Only a fraction, maybe 1%, of them would comment or message me. The same thing is true with podcasting. For most of what I do, I can see the numbers. I know there are human beings but they’re all those distant flashes of light. I want to remind and invite you to connect. Know that I care and that I want to connect with you but ironically, if all of you connected with me, I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to connect with you back. That’s why this is all so complicated.

Thanks again for reading this specific episode that has felt very real, I suppose because it has gone in a lot of different directions and had a lot of emotions in it. When I do episodes like this, I feel vulnerable because I feel like the episode wasn’t concise and cohesive. It feels all over the place but that is what a real connection feels like. Isn’t that what most friendships or conversations with your friends are like? They’re a bit all over the place. You guys don’t have an outline of what you’re going to discuss on the phone or when you hang out together. You just talk. Whatever comes up, comes up. That’s why I do my show this way. Thank you for embracing that.

I will see you again in the next episode. I have a very different episode coming up for you. I was really nervous about it because it was so different than the other guests that I’ve had but it blew me away. You got something exciting coming up. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you do. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you soon.

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