The digital world is pretty awesome for helping connect people like never before.

We can connect with strangers who share an obscure interest thanks to a crazy sub-reddit or a Facebook group. We can find friends we’ve lost from many years ago. We can see behind the scenes with our professional colleagues and get to know them better as people.

But that’s not always sunshine and roses.

One of the biggest challenges of this frictionless connectivity is the habit we’re cultivating for perceived intimacy.

Just because I know you from a Facebook group doesn’t mean I really know you. I understand a bit about your interests maybe, but that’s an ocean of difference from knowing someone’s heart and mind.

Because we’re colleagues and you see that I’m tweeting about my kid’s riding lesson, I’m not necessarily welcoming you to comment on that (or am I? That I suppose is debatable)?

I can click a button without a second thought, but in the analog world, getting to know someone requires a lot more than being in the same room with them, or having a single thing in common.

It’s more and more common for people to feel a little overstepped, a little invaded, a little bit like people are assuming too much friendship and familiarity when their only commonality is knowing the same people on LinkedIn.

Let’s make each other a promise.

While digital connections become a significant part of our reality, let’s give them a bit more respect. I love that they remove the barriers of geography and circumstance from our ability to know one another. But I don’t love that they make some of us feel as though we’re entitled to a trust and an intimacy that we did not earn.

Whether it’s sending emails or connecting via text or gathering offline, there’s still some basic matters of courtesy and decency to follow. Be polite. Ask permission. Show some respect. Never assume.

By all means, connect with one another. But let’s recognize that trust and friendship and familiarity are still things that are earned through time and investment and reciprocation, not things that are granted immediately upon a click.

And let’s act accordingly.

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