It used to be that when you had a disagreement or an argument with a friend, the worst that could happen is that they would “bad mouth” you behind your back. Local rumours might be spread, hurtful yes, but in many cases repairable, if on a small scale. If you were in the public eye, the slur might end up in print, in extreme cases a book could be written about you and it might go global, but that would take a while.
With the advent of the internet, and especially social media, there are some very big changes to our personal and professional relationships occurring. Sustaining a long term healthy friendship or partnership whilst engaged online can be a minefield if you let good judgement be taken over by anger, impulsiveness, and the perceived power of the internet.
How easy is reconciliation if one or both party’s have gone “public” on the internet with their grievances?
Courts today are full of warring couples who are exposing their partners bad habits and at worst their supposed dalliances and addictions online. Facebook is actually being used in court as hard evidence in many divorce and custody cases.
If more relationships are breaking down, never to be repaired today, it might be attributed, in some ways, to online behaviour.
Once you post online your grievance, even if you disguise it as “a friend of a friend” or dress it up as a commentary on a similar situation, you are almost never going to be able to repair your friendship if the other person finds out. Using the internet to garner support for your side of the story from your online friends, is in my opinion, the cowards way out. What you are doing is avoiding a confrontation or discussion with the one person who you probably most need to talk to. If the relationship has really gone beyond repair, then just move on my friend, let it go.
As humans, we can forgive each other for words said in anger, and perhaps even if those words are repeated amongst family and close friends, but anything that is written down and not able to be deleted is much harder to overcome. Memory can fade but hard evidence doesn’t. Everything that is said on the internet is forever, and a bad rumour or slur can now go around the globe at the speed of light! You may try to erase the comment or delete a post in regret, but it will still be stored in a data base to be dragged up at a later date, and as soon as it is published it can be easily captured and passed around, and often is.
The social networking highway is littered with ex-employees who blabbed on Twitter or Facebook, perhaps innocently forgetting which account they were on. Online slurs are irreversible and in some cases you can be sued.
So how are social networks and the internet affecting our very real friendships if one or both people in the relationship go “public” online with a dispute. Can we forgive a very public permanent betrayal?
I’m certainly noticing more and more amongst my own friends, both offline and on, and family and their friends, that friendships that might have weathered a storm in the past, are now being completely blown to shreds. I think there’s a new mantra being developed in this digital age, “Good friends keep confidences and don’t stab you in the back on the internet”.
The internet has changed the fabric of our relationships and the ability to sustain long term friendships. The remedy for avoiding relationship “Death by Facebook” is education and a greater awareness of how we use the web our responsibilities on social networks and how the internet actually works.
Children, and many adults, it seems, must be made aware that “what is said online, stays online”. And to keep in mind, that if you really want a long term friendship, then take care you must never…absolutely never, wash your dirty laundry on the Web.
This online betrayal effects so many types of relationships, partnerships both married and unmarried, working relationships, client relationships and friendships.
Next time you want to Tweet or post on Facebook a private grievance with a friend or loved one….stop…YOU might be the one who ends up regretting it more than they.
What are your thoughts on this? Leave a comment below. Have you had any experience where you have had to sever a friendship because of something that was said online?