Lesson #11: The Internet (It’s Complicated)

Note:  This post is one of my 35 Lessons in 35 Years.

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It is interesting that this is the next lesson that I will be talking about, because it has been something that has been on my mind a great deal lately.

I have a complicated relationship with the Internet.

Two year ago, I gave up Facebook.  I found it sucking up my time, and I found myself drawn into non-productive political debates.  I desperately sought connection, and on Facebook I felt alone in a crowd.  So I deleted my account.

But that doesn’t mean I was never online.  I began e-mailing a number of other bloggers and developed some very close friendships.  And through these friendships, I found the courage to make some major changes in my life.  In that basement, I spend the vast majority of my time online.

And that was okay.

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After we moved, I found that I was kind of at a loss with my writing.  My personal journey became more private, and I found my inbox filling up with unanswered e-mails.  I spent more time reading, more time looking within.

A number of my blogging friends quit writing their blogs, and I wondered if this was the next step–if it were the “right” thing to do, when I reached a certain level of “maturity.”  I began to see my time online as a vice, and went through a cycle of forced digital breaks.

And that was okay too.

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And now, I kind of feel like I’ve reached a balance for the moment.  I’ve rejoined Facebook, so that I can check in with everyone, and save the more occasional in-depth discussions for e-mail.  I’m happy with the frequency of my blog posts, and I’m glad that y’all have come back to restart the discussions!

What works, is what works for me in this moment.

And that’s okay.

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So, my thinking is a little different than it was when I wrote that lesson #11 was “The answers aren’t online.”  I no longer think that a certain amount of Internet time is “good” or “bad.”

 But I do have a few thoughts on the issue:

  • Beware of using the Internet out of boredom.  Sometimes, I find myself refreshing the same 3 pages, just biding the time.  This isn’t “bad” or “immoral,” but it also isn’t something that I enjoy or something that makes me happy.  When I catch myself doing this, I ask, “What would I rather be doing?”  Sometimes, I’d rather write a book or take a walk.  Sometimes I’m just tired or hungry!
  • Online time can become an escape.   When something is bothering me, I often find that I get involved with discussions or search for a diversion online.  Again, that’s not good or bad.  There is nothing wrong with an escape, when your mind needs it!  But escaping is a short-term solution.  Eventually, we need to deal with whatever it is we are trying to escape.
  • You don’t need to try to change the world.  I have sworn off political discussion, because they only led to anger and hard feelings.  But I’ve found myself sucked into other discussions, feeling like I needed to advocate for something.  It’s good to inform and to share your ideas, but it’s also fine to bow out if the discussion becomes emotionally draining.  A great example of this for me has been all of the discussions that have started after Robin Williams’s death.  For my own mental health, I’m only engaging in those, in moderation!
  • Everyone you meet is on a journey.  Through my online interactions, I have met some people who have shared amazing ideas and completely rocked my world.  But it’s important to remember that these people are not fully enlightened beings, they are just people on a journey, just like me.  They have ideas, but they don’t have the Answers.  And they bring their emotional baggage to the table, just like I do.
  • Online interactions are great practice for “real life.”  While I don’t really buy into the whole introvert vs extrovert thing, I do realize that I haven’t fully developed the skill of being assertive.  So I practice online.  The conversation is slower, and there is time to think through my responses.  I’ve found this to be a great way to practice, and it does gradually transfer into my “real life” conversations.

I think the most important thing to remember is that the Internet and the many communities on it are tools.  Use them to help you in your journey and to get closer to finding your answers.

Just remember that then answers themselves are not “out there.”

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16 thoughts on “Lesson #11: The Internet (It’s Complicated)

  1. I can relate to this, Bethany, on all points. Even though the internet is a great tool to connect, learn and share it can zap our energy and lead us away from what’s real in our lives. I’m discovering this myself — hmmm — seems like we’re on the same wavelength, my friend. Happy Friday and have a great weekend. 🙂

    • We often are on the same wavelength, aren’t we, Pat? I have found that I’ve had a LOT more energy since spending less time online lately. And…the world is still turning without my input on FB. 😉

      • Right on, Bethany. The world doesn’t stop without my input for sure. I don’t know about having more energy but I’m happy to just enjoy what’s going on around me in my life and take time to soak it in and be thankful. Happy Monday. 🙂

  2. Hi Bethany! So very true. What great reminders for us all to “use” the internet rather than let it use us! My husband Thom stayed off for the longest time but when he finally joined a few months ago he only befriends and follows pages (and people) that are completely uplifting and/or educational. He stays away from all negativity and politics…except for an occasional John Stewart 🙂 As you say, it’s fine to use FB and other social media but usually what we are after is our deepest self. ~Kathy

  3. The internet is complicated! Facebook is good and bad … I love keeping up with people but some things I just don’t need to see;0) You’re right, it’s okay to use it as you wish!

  4. I identify a lot with this part: “After we moved, I found that I was kind of at a loss with my writing. My personal journey became more private, and I found my inbox filling up with unanswered e-mails. I spent more time reading, more time looking within.” But I feel really guilty about it. At the moment I feel like I’ve run out of words but I just can’t get enough of reading… even more than usual.

    • Sometimes I just send people a quick e-mail saying that I will be getting back to them, but it will be later. Most of my friends are used to me being an e-mail slacker now. 🙂

  5. You wrote it down so well. I haven’t totally figured out what kind of relationship I want with the internet but for now I am happy to do a bit of everything. Will see what the next phase brings, if there ever is one. Happy travels, A.

  6. Three years ago when I bought a vintage trailer to restore, I joined a forum and had several “friends.” I found it started to suck time from what I really wanted to be doing and of course they weren’t real friends. I try to remember the internet, and all technology, is just a tool. But it’s such a balancing act and I continually need to readjust.

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