It is said the key to a good relationship is good communication.  Well, communication is a universal societal element and while some may view the Internet as a communication solution, the fundamental rules of good communication remain unchanged from our non-binary lives.  The sender and receiver still dictate the ends of the relationship and the Internet, telephone, hand-written letter and smoke signals merely vessels.

For instance, a general rule of conduct is you should never say anything behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.  Agreed?  The same holds true for online conversation.  Anonymity emboldens people, but more often than not it’s for the wrong reasons.  If you are saying something online that you can’t or won’t say in person, think about why and chances are you really should be having a live conversation.   In another example, the person who criticizes online may do so more intensely and without regard for responses, whereas if he or she is face-to-face chances are somebody will respond immediately and they will have to handle it.  If you aren’t interested in what other people have to say or of being challenged, then by all means, spew away online.  However, this is not what makes society grow.  We all lose when we are not challenged to be held accountable to our words and actions.  If you say it, back it up.

In general, you shouldn’t type or post anything that you wouldn’t say in person.  After all, these things usually get found out anyway.  The Internet doesn’t protect one’s identity 100%.  In fact, it really makes tracking the average person a lot easier.  Also, technology is a false barrier between people.  It may physically distance us from each other, but that usually complicates things more.  Think about that email you shouldn’t have sent or the text message that was written too quickly without review or the picture that you really wish wasn’t in cyberspace.  Imagine that everything we did and said was live in front of everybody in the world…including our moms.  How would our actions and words be altered?  If you really think about it, in many ways we have to be more careful of what we say and do online because it’s so much harder to clarify or change once it’s done.  There’s a reason why corrections from news organizations get significantly less attention than the initial headlines.  Those first impressions, man, they can be killer.

Also, more frequent communication does not necessarily equal better communication.  I was recently in a casual dining restaurant with my husband, kids and in-laws.  The table next to us had about five or six individuals who seemed to all be under the age of 25.  No one was talking.  They barely even made eye contact with their food.  Heads were down and phones were out.  It made me feel sad.  Just sad.  While they were communicating on their phones they were also communicating to me and the rest of the restaurant their disjointedness.  Oh the double-edged sword of technology that both connects and divides us.

So, my point is in this day and age of instant communication my wish in the new year is for you (not to mention for our illustrious US Congress) to more carefully consider what we say, how and where we say it, who we are saying it to and who might be receiving it.  Though messaging may be instantaneous, relationships are not and it can’t hurt to assert more effort into engaging with each other, whether online or in person.  Good communication is key.