On Digital Relationships

It's a bit late for the IndieWeb carnival February topic on Digital Relationships but I just want to write and share my thoughts about it.

Like many others, I grew up with the internet and digital communication fully integrated into my life from a young age. My dad was always tinkering on the computer doing whatever the heck he was doing, while my mom used it extensively for her work as a professor and researcher. In the Philippines, at that time, one could own a computer without having internet access. The computer was primarily used for writing, printing, and basic software like Microsoft Paint and Encarta Kids, which I spent hours playing with. It was only when my father went abroad for work that my mother got me set up with The World Wide Web and introduced me to communication platforms like Yahoo Mail and Yahoo! Messenger.

Yahoo! Messenger was likely my first experience with digital relationships and communities. I remember browsing through user profiles, striking up conversations with strangers who shared interests, and making some really good online friends that way, despite the service later gaining a reputation as a dating hub. We’d chat for hours, play great flash games together, and form bonds that transcended physical distances. Some of them introduced me to forums. Some of those early digital friendships faded as life went on, but they left an indelible impression.

The landscape of digital relationships has transformed drastically with the rise of social media. While the early days of chatrooms and messaging services provided intimate digital spaces to connect, modern social platforms have blown the doors open. The scale, noise, and fleeting nature of social media make it challenging to maintain the same depth of digital relationships I experienced in the past.

But personally, this whole social media thing has made keeping up real digital bonds a lot tougher. It’s like there’s this constant stream of superficial posts, viral videos, and random updates coming at you from every direction online. And it can be exhausting trying to have an actual meaningful chat amidst all that noise and fleeting content.

I have kind of a weird thing going on with social media for that reason. On one hand, I feel like I have to be on it to keep up with what’s happening with friends and family. But on the other hand, it’s just so much. Too much scrolling, too many distractions from genuine connection. The friends I’m closest with online, the ones I really trust and who really get me, we’ve figured out ways to rise above all that social media chaos. We’ll hop on a video call every now and then to actually catch up. We share the real highs and lows going on, not just the shiny, filtered version. And we keep things chill, low-key, none of that frantic stuff.

Nurturing those digital relationships that truly matter boils down to putting in the quality time. Tuning out the distractions and being fully present, listening, and relating human to human. That’s the tough part these days when everything online is so frenzied. But it’s the key to keeping your closest digital bonds strong when there’s so much noise clouding up the internet. And I’m glad that blogging still exists because, in a way, it’s how I manage to keep up with my online friends while keeping things at a slower pace. Blogging has remained a sanctuary for deeper expression and connection. There’s an intimacy to blogging that’s increasingly rare elsewhere online. Sure, you put thoughts and experiences out there, but it’s a calmer exchange at a more purposeful pace.

Digital relationships are their own distinct phenomenon, with their own unique dynamics, norms, and etiquette. They don’t replace in-person relationships but co-exist as a modern layer to how we relate to others. And for those of us who came of age alongside the internet’s evolution, these digital relationships have been deeply woven into the fabric of how we experience relationships and community.

Looking back, I can see how my experiences with digital relationships and connections have ebbed and flowed in waves over the years. Each wave brought new communities, new ways of digitally relating, new shared experiences and life events marked by both tragedies and celebrations. Yet through it all, these digital relationships have been a constant thread, allowing me to transcend my local surroundings and forge connections across vast distances.

Thoughts? Email me.

Did you find this post useful?

Please consider sharing it with your friends. This blog is entirely self-funded, and relies on the generosity of readers to keep things active and ad free. If you would like to support my work, you can make a one-time or recurring donation here

Buy Me A Coffee