On the Internet, socialization refers to the ways that people communicate and the methods they use to do so. Socialization describes the customs, quirks and language unique to a particular culture. The Internet, while involving millions of people from countless different countries and backgrounds, has developed some cultural quirks all its own.
The Internet offers many different ways to socialize. Email is a simple form of one-to-one communication. Instant messaging programs offer more immediate forms of chatting, while video call software allows users to socialize visually, not just through text chat. Evolving technology means that new ways to communicate online are constantly developing. For example, Facebook — the world’s largest social network at the time of publication — includes elements of text-based, photo sharing, private message and instant messenger forms of communication.
Online socialization requires a computer or Internet-enabled device such as a smartphone. Online socialization doesn’t necessarily lead to fewer real-world relationships. Some evidence suggests that Internet users are more likely to belong to a group and be actively involved. For example, 69 percent of Internet users attended an event or meeting in the previous month compared to 54 percent of nonusers, according to Pew Research Center data.
Like the offline world, Internet socialization involves its own culture and subcultures. Internet “memes” occur when an image, phrase or video is shared rapidly through the social Web. The meme then becomes a reference point for Internet users. Other forms of Internet culture include the shorthand expressions used in chat rooms and social networks. The term “LOL” for example — meaning laughing out loud — developed from Internet socializing in forums and instant messaging.
Facebook has more than 800 million active users in 2012. The microblogging platform Twitter has 100 million, while the business communication network LinkedIn claims 64 million users. Internet socialization involves a huge number of people worldwide. Many American users consider Internet socializing as having a positive impact. For example, a 2010 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that around 85 percent of respondents to a survey considered that by 2020 they see the Internet as a mostly positive influence on their social lives.
Almost everyone encounters a difficult person now and then in personal and professional life. The best defense against conflict in such a situation is to be prepared for interacting with difficult individuals.
1. Be honest and direct.
State your concern from your perspective, for example:
- I have a hard time concentrating when …
- I can’t meet my deadlines if …
- It’s hard for me to be positive when …
2. Listen carefully.
- Listen to what the other person is saying instead of getting ready to react.
- Avoid interrupting the other person.
- After the other person finishes speaking, rephrase what was said to make sure you understand it.
3. Avoid blaming.
Focus on the facts. Finding fault can prevent problem-solving.
4. Stay focused.
- Discuss particulars; avoid generalizing.
- Avoid getting sidetracked into discussing other problems.
- Keep bringing the conversation back to the concern you’ve stated.
5. Say less.
After you state the problem, allow silence until the other person responds.
“Hi, new friend!” The woman’s words, coming over the phone, caught me off guard and nearly brought tears to my eyes. Don’t get me wrong. I have some great friends who would do just about anything for me. But I was touched by the possibility of a new friend — a woman who shares my journey of having a son with special needs.
The emergence of a new friend does not in any way minimize the faithful friends who contribute to my life in significant ways (I’ve written about them here and here.) But the older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve felt a need to foster new relationships. Maybe you know what I mean. Your steady friends feel like enough, and it seems like it takes too much energy to make new ones.
Consider a few benefits of making new friends:
- A new friend can offer fresh perspective. Maybe you just moved, started a new job or are experiencing a significant change in your life or circumstances. A new friend can provide a fresh perspective as you journey into a new season. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” There are times in life where God may provide you a new “sharpener” in the form of a new friend. The woman I mentioned at the beginning of this post is helping me navigate services for my son. Her personal experience (and being a few steps ahead on this journey) allows her to offer me unique, much-needed encouragement and support.
- A new friend may turn out to be your best friend. This has happened to me several times in my life. My best female friend was once a new friend. Similarly, seven years ago, my husband, Kevin, was a new friend. When you make friends with someone new, you never know how close of a friend he or she may become. If you close yourself off to new friendships, you may miss out.
- A new friend can brighten up your life. There’s something really fun and exciting about making new friends. Think of the last time you discovered a kindred spirit or someone you just clicked with. There’s a rush of excitement and even giddiness that can come with discovering camaraderie with someone new. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself… ’” Leaving room in your life for new relationships opens up opportunities for joy and more significant connection.
My encounter with a new friend made me realize how lazy I’ve been when it comes to developing new relationships. That brings me to my final point: Be a new friend. That woman who greeted me with, “Hi, new friend!” will probably never know how much her words meant to me. But she was ready to offer her friendship to someone who needed it.
As the old song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver; the other is gold.” As the song suggests, both types of friends are valuable. So be faithful to your existing friends, but leave space in your life for new ones. You never know how precious those relationships may prove to be.