The Algebra of Trust and How the Virtual World is Playing Havoc with it!
We have all noticed that all too often online, feedback descends to trolling and then degenerates to hate on all sides. Why is that? Why does this honourable form of human commentary from one person to another rarely work online?
Fundamentally what has changed is the nature of trust and as trust changes, so do relationships precisely because of how we are hardwired to form connections with people. It is no surprise that trust in the virtual world is very fragile(though easier to establish initially). Feedback depends on trust. In face to face relationships where there is trust, when one side screws up, it would be causing anger, friction, resentment, mistrust to creep in. But, if the connection is strong enough, things can be salvaged, an apology rendered and trust can get restored. Indeed, once restored, the bond of trust maybe even stronger than what it was erstwhile.
It’s different in the virtual world- once trust is threatened, it’s instantly broken and almost impossible to reestablish. People simply move on. Since trust was fragile and on egg shells in the first place, it gets broken at the slightest provocation.
Let’s look at the resident flaws domiciled in virtual feedback. Firstly, there is much less of it because it is harder to give than face to face feedback. Secondly, virtual feedback is much less robust and more likely to cause irreparable harm. And as an extension of that a weaker feedback has far diluted meaning.
Though lacking the unconscious stream of emotional information we receive automatically from other people face to face, virtual feedback, less robust as it may be, still stings- why is that?
We humans are social beings; put us face to face, we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately( more about Neurons and Narratives in a separate post). We leak emotions to each other. Yes. We anticipate and mirror each other’s movements when we are in sympathy or agreement- singing from the same hymn sheet shall we say. And we can mirror each other’s brain activity when we’re engaged in storytelling and listening-both halves of the communication conundrum.
All of that leaking and sharing creates intimacy, trust and connection. It fuels receptivity and interest in other people’s point of view. There is a quest to achieve this state of human communion. Make no mistake- it’s wrong to think that most humans prefer the solitary life that so much of modern virtual life imposes on us. We’ re most comfortable when we are connected, sharing strong emotions and stories.
The virtual world in stark contrast is much less engaging. This stems from the fact that the forms of the virtual world lacks the emotional information we crave. With this we can segway into another critical aspect of the virtual era that has high premium written all over. The issue of authenticity. More on it at a later date in time.
As an aside: Do you think Twitter needs a crash course in Anger Management? It is said that your audience is the product– just a polite enquiry… ( Well it’s for a different discussion!).