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