I Don’t Trust You

I’ve recently heard the phrase “I don’t trust you” as a reason not to engage with someone in real life, even in a simple conversation. And the I-don’t-trust-you-person’s metric for defining trust? Online.

If that is the dominant lens to decide conclusive trust, of course one doesn’t trust that other. They don’t actually know them. I would even go so far as to say it’s a little odd one thinks they can come to a fully decisive trust/distrust decision from purely online means.

Too many people think that “online” is real life. It’s not.

Even for the good ones who use social media to its fullest extent in its proper place, no matter how transparent one might be online (or their online reputation is that of being transparent), it can never equate to knowing that person. No matter how transparent one might be online, they still filter things in their real life and decide what, and what not, to put online. One cannot know another from the filtered information one decides to put online; thus one cannot actually formulate an accurate assessment of trust through that medium either. One cannot truly trust another unless they actually know them. Culture has redefined trust and knowledge.

So the person you think you’re trusting or distrusting from online information, whether firsthand or otherwise, is not the actual person in their fullest sense. Even the firsthand accounts of someone showing you their life through pictures and words, it might be a portion or even a majority of them, but it’s not fully them.

Knowledge is not what you read online. Knowledge is about in-person interaction and accountability. And without those very important variables, one’s words, blogs, pictures, updates, comments and filtered transparency mean nothing. Including mine. Opinions are a dime a dozen.

The same with trust. These days, since online is the medium of which to engage with all of life, culture has accommodated a new understanding of trust and knowledge because it’s practically impossible to wrap our minds, emotions and cognitive processes around our ever expanding world without these new definitions.

Thus, we must remind ourselves that we can take the information given online and know that it is at best only a part of what you see and read from that person.

Without direct contact with said person or situation we must know that we cannot fully have knowledge, or fully trust/distrust the person or the situation until direct contact is made. And on a personal note, can someone explain to me when 140 characters became dialoguing? I don’t care what anyone says, a 140 character or less dialogue is not dialogue. I have a hard time taking seriously people on Twitter who very seriously say they want to dialogue with me on Twitter (refusing to do so on the phone or Skype or even email) about nuanced and controversial topics.

A brave new world indeed…

You can read Part 1 of Trust here.

Much love.


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  • Blake J Askew

    I think the way society communicates online is such a sad thing. This is the reason we are lonelier and more isolated as a society . It’s very very sad and Andrew, you are TOTALLY RIGHT. People refuse to answer their phone nowadays . It’s very troubling

    • Very troubling indeed. I love think that word hits it direct on.

  • naturgesetz

    OTOH even being acquainted with someone irl doesn’t mean you fully know them. You know the persona they show to the world — or the one they show to you. I think both in person and online it’s a matter of the extent of the acquaintance, of discernment, and above all, of experience which fosters confidence. We’re going to have to decide whether or not to trust those we interact with online so we need consciously or unconsciously to develop ways of recognizing online actions which show trustworthiness.

  • here’s my thoughts: I would say the same thing about people you meet in real life … for instance, I can go to church every week and interact with the same people during my time there, face to face, and many times never really “know” them, and the same thing goes for work and school and where I volunteer. I don’t think that online is unique in that way. Some people put up fronts and filters and you won’t know them unless you live with them. I do agree that twitter is probably one of the toughest online places to get to know someone because of the way the feed works and the limited number of characters but there are many online social networking tools that allow for people to connect and learn about and from one another very well if people invest the time and energy. I’ve made a lot of connections online over the years and have had the opportunity to get to know some people well. I certainly don’t think online relationships replace real life relationships but I think my life is richer because I have both.

    • I think that is dead on; as I also believe what you wrote is using the internet and social media in the correct way. I’m not suggesting that no one can be trusted online, or that online friends don’t sometimes turn into actual real life friends. I just feel there is a mix-up of the internet and social media’s place in relational life.

  • Andrew –
    You and I have significant disagreement on some bigger picture stuff. On this post, I agree with you whole-heartedly. I’ll add a couple of unsolicited thoughts…(I know you’re jumping for joy right about now)

    In general, I think we’ve confused “trust” with “agrees with my ideology”. I’ve been looking at some research behind group polarization (and how the internet exacerbates the problem). I think we often view those who don’t agree with our “clearly obvious” point of view as somehow acting in bad faith or lacking a moral foundation. We assign malicious intent to those who don’t see things our way. It’s as if we think that only those on “our side” are children of God created in His image. This is happening both in real life and online.

    [I’m not speaking of the real, warranted distrust that results from intentional opacity; that’s a conversation for another time…or never…]

    I’ve come to view this ideological self-ghettoization as a form of self-sabotage. We are robbing ourselves of a certain fullness of life that comes from a diversity of opinions and from knowing others. We’re carving out a very small and discontented existence for ourselves. We’re missing out on joy when we seek to dominate rather than understand others.

    Best –