Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I've Considered Quitting the Internet

Now, now. Let's not be hasty here. I'm not ACTUALLY quitting the Internet. That would be, like, quitting eating. I mean, sure, I need to learn some portion control and reflect on my consumption habits, but it's not something I could just... ignore forever.

I've been doing a lot of introspection lately. I got hit hard upside the head with the existential crisis stick and I'm trying to find my bearings. Somewhere along the way, I've lost myself. I look in the mirror and I barely recognize what I see. Maybe it's the red hair. It looks great, I've gotten lots of compliments on it, but underneath, I don't really feel like myself. My roots are currently an inch long, and they're blended just nicely enough that I don't feel compelled to re-color it yet. I'm not sure I'm going to. I know it would cost roughly an arm and a leg to have the red stripped out and it colored back to my natural shade or perhaps a slightly brighter tone of blonde (maybe highlights?), but... I feel like it's symbolic, in a way. Back to basics. Back to my mental picture of myself.

Beyond that, though, I'm exhausted. I feel like I've been out playing society's game for so long that I don't know who I am or where I'm going. Maybe I never really knew; when I was young, all I really knew is that I wanted to be a Writer of Books when I grew up. I'm twenty seven. Do you know how many books I have written? Zero. I started blogging as a way to write again, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't help me through some of the toughest times in my life. I'd also be lying if I said it hadn't enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined. I've met some of the greatest people in the ENTIRE WORLD via blogging and Twitter and networking and all of that. Hell, I'm on my way to Vegas next month for a repeat performance of blog lovefest. I love the Internet and the majority of the people on it.

I've also wasted a lot of time - on meme sites, on reading blogs, on *cough* sites like Pinterest. Sure, they serve a certain entertainment purpose, but where are they getting me? I don't know. I'm pretty sure, though, that I could find better ways to utilize my time.

My problem, I've concluded, is that I've started thinking about... the future. (OH GOD!) Where do I see myself in ten years? Five years? Next year? I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA, and for the first time, that's starting to scare me a little. I have no plan. How does a formerly driven, Type-A, obsessed-with-success gal like myself even begin to operate without a plan?

Answer: she gives up.

I've been treading water for ages now. I began to question everything. What was the point of this, what was the point of that? Am I moving forward? No, but, well, at least I'm not moving backward... am I?

I had a startling realization the today when it was pointed out to me that this blog comes up as the #3 result when searching for my full, real name. I used to try pretty hard to keep my full name off of it, mostly to hide from my real-life acquaintances, because, let's face it, shit gets pretty personal around here. I've gotten a bit more lax about that, and it shows. I've gone further down the rabbit hole. I live an online life, but whether that was by choice, by accident, or by merely being a product of my generation, I don't know. 

Part of it is the industry I work in. The advertising and creative and marketing agencies of the world have fully embraced digital media - because they have to. It's the way to stay relevant. And if I want to advance or, God forbid, eventually change jobs - I have to be savvy in that arena. *I* need to stay relevant. And I've fully embraced the wave of social media and digital everything. But I'm starting to wonder, now, about how far that goes, and when/where/if I need to pull back.

The Internet has given me the opportunity to do the one thing I've always wanted to do: write. I've even found a bit of an audience, which I could not be more grateful for. A writer writes, not just because s/he has to, but because s/he has something to say, a story to tell, a truth to share. If it falls on deaf ears, then the writer isn't communicating, and it feels like failure. When I was little, I would FORCE my short stories ("books") on anyone and everyone. They were terrible and, in hindsight, embarrassing, but at the time, I was proud of it. Here is this thing, this finished thing, that I created. Having someone read it was validation of my very existence.

I'm digressing.

In the questioning of The Point, I settled on not only this blog, but all the platforms. The point of this blog is to write. Simply, to write. For that, I will not give it up, even if sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say. It's the only thing linking me to what was once my dream, and it's a sad, sad day when you let your dream die. Facebook? Twitter? Google+ (haha, just kidding)? It's a tone-downed version, kind of a mini-blog but not really. A life chronicle, a living scrapbook. One that I'm very careful with, most of the time. If it's not something I'm comfortable having EVERY LAST ACQUAINTANCE of mine know, I don't post it, I don't say it. I have coworkers and extended family members and, sometimes, clients, all part of my friend base. (I like to operate on the Grandma Hypothesis: if it's not something you'd want your grandmother to read, don't post it. Or, at least that's what I keep in mind, and sometimes ignore it anyway. Grandma, if you ever happen to find this, I am truly sorry and yes, I do swear this much in real life). I have people in there that maybe aren't as enlightened as me and will cast judgment upon me and my interests and choices, even though I've learned that what other people think sometimes means precisely dick. I try to not post anything that will put me in any sort of danger (I've been lucky, so lucky, knock on wood, on the not-having-a-stalker front - I know it happens far more often than it should, and by having an online personality, I'm almost asking for it - but, I try to be careful.) I only accept people in that I know. Even then, I'm taking that level of trust with a grain of salt... sure, we've hung out in the past, but do I really know you? Maybe I'm still pretty naive. Pretty idealistic. Is that a bad thing? I don't know.

At which point does networking become too much? I'm building the very best social network I could possibly have, one I never would have even guessed I would have been able to have, but I'm too lame to ever want to utilize it. I hate feeling like I'm using people, or taking advantage of them. Maybe someday, it will become absolutely necessary, and on that day, I will be glad it's there. I'm half-assedly building a brand, building a name, so that... again, ultimately, I can achieve my #1 goal: write, publish, sell a book. Maybe two. Maybe a whole bunch. I feel like an asshole admitting that I'm hoarding a network to possibly use for my own personal gain someday, but... I'm not using them for any gain right now, other than simply to connect to other people. 

The other big point, here... I find myself, now, as part of a team, with the BF that I have neglected to tell you much about. He's a very private person and is VERY wary of the Internet. I haven't even posted pictures to facebook because I am trying to gauge his comfort level with that. Sure, he has a facebook account... everyone does. It's expected. And I suspect it makes him a tad bit uneasy having a girlfriend who splays her life all over the Internet. It's a balancing act, of course - how personal do I want to get on here? I don't tell you everything, but there is a certain level of personal sharing that happens here. How much do I tell you? That's a question that every single blogger asks themselves at some point or another - because you have to. You HAVE to set that boundary for yourself, whether you decide to share a lot or a little, but it's a decision you have to make. Without it, you're flying blind, and it can get you in to trouble. So I'm trying to err on the side of caution... my side of caution being a bit on the opposite side of the spectrum of his. It makes him a bit nervous, and I don't blame him. I'm questioning even writing this paragraph, but I guess, ultimately, I just want to state it so you know: he's wonderful and I adore him, and just because I don't talk about him, doesn't mean anything otherwise. It simply means I am trying to respect his privacy. 

It would be easy to be all, "in order to make this the easiest for everyone involved, I'm just going to shut everything down and live entirely off the grid, so we can go romp off into a meadow full of wildflowers and live happily ever after" - but what would that serve? I know that there is a degree of change and compromise that goes along with any sort of relationship worth having, but I don't want to be the type of girl that gives up everything just for the guy she's with. Because what happens if/when he leaves me? I'll have thrown away the things that used to make me, me, and I'll be even more lost than I am now. I'll be honest, though - the weekends where I do completely unplug... they're refreshing. I'm having more and more of those. A year or two ago, I would have been twitchy and nervous, being away. But the world goes on without me, and frequently, doesn't need me. Everything is waiting for me on Monday when I get back. It's not that I care any less, except... I kind of do. I kind of like living off the grid. I kind of like living my offline life. I no longer feel like I need to apologize when I disappear. I'll always come back. I need to make my peace with having filler sometimes - not every post will be a pinnacle of fine writing, because it seems like that's all that I've got left in me these days, is filler. Except for big posts like this that nobody will read because they are too damn long. I don't want to sabotage this place, because I might need it someday. (Again, that feels selfish, like I am using you, each and every one of you that read this, and that makes me feel dirty inside.) Fuck, I don't know. To unplug, or not to unplug? To stay uber-connected, or to relax the death grip on my network? To stay in the fast lane, or to slow the fuck down and smell those proverbial roses? 

It's not just about that relationship, either, as important as it is to me. It's about all of them. Friends, family, employers, coworkers, clients. I need to think about where I'm going, how I'm going to get there, and how much of an effect this online presence is going to have on it. How much am I willing to change myself in order to reach those big goals? Is this blog helping, or hurting? Is facebook helping, or hurting? I don't have the answers to that. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, either. Because it's different for everybody. But for me, here in somewhat smallish-city Iowa, with somewhat conservative family members and a somewhat conservative-ish employer and a very special boy who doesn't really share my fondness for this particular bit of culture - maybe it's not the best fit for my future Life Plans. Maybe I'm piecing together two different types of lifestyles - maybe I'm going to have to make a choice. Maybe, just maybe, I can find the happy medium between the two. Hell, I don't know. Tomorrow, I'll probably have an entirely different outlook on the situation. I'm fickle like that.

Today, though, I'm still a bit unsettled about how accessible I've become, about how much of me is out there, about what implications that might have. Right now, I think it's fine. But it's something I need to think about, especially as I make some sort of attempt to plan my career and my life.

Additionally, and totally irrelevantly, I worry about future generations. They have no boundary. They don't even know there IS a boundary. The stuff they will post makes me physically cringe, and I want to shake them. It's not only because they are unaware of the implications it could/would have on their future... but they're painting themselves in such an awful light. It undoubtedly affects their present. It affects how they are viewed. I know I look down on them, even though I'm only slightly older and slightly more matured. I guess the difference is, I grew with the Internet. I was around when it became mainstream. I've watched the technology change, and I was able to jump in at the right times. Kind of like playing double-dutch jump rope. I knew how to hop in without getting tangled up in the process. They were born jumping, and they don't know anything but the rhythm of the ropes. They don't know there are people on the sidelines watching their every move. They don't know that it's possible to trip.

Unexpected metaphor is unexpected!

Fuck, I don't know. I have some questions for you people:

1. How does having an online presence affect your life/career/ambitions? Does it? How connected are you?

2. Those of you with non-bloggy or non-Internetty significant others - how does that work? How do you find that balance? Is it something you've talked about? 


Ashley, the Accidental Olympian said...

Having an online life doesn't affect me professionally. I have gone through and made sure my full name does not appear with my blog when googled as best I can, and I stopped sharing blog related things on my personal Facebook and using only the blog's facebook for blog posts. i do not befriend coworkers on social media networks.

There has only been one single time I've offended someone in my real life with my blog, and it was my damn mother. Because I didn't put any picture of her in a slideshow. Go figure.

One thing my blog has given me, besides online friends, a hobby, or an outlet is honest to god SKILLS.

At work I now build author's websites from scratch, I manage a few social media accounts, council authors on social media, collaborate with other businesses on blogging, Facebook, Twitter... what started as something to do in my free time is turning into my job. It's pretty cool. Maybe we can't all have our online platforms help us in our careers, but if there is a way for you to still share some things, and it feels good to do so, then I say do it.

When it comes to talking about relationships, friendships, and worrying if they'll be offended or it goes too far, don't. I don't talk about the deeply personal aspects of my relationship with Adam, but that doesn't mean my blog lacks meaning, you know?

You've having a blog growing pain! It will settle, and when it does we'll all still be here.

Megs said...

With regards to my husband and the blog: The husband is also very wary of his internet privacy. Plus, his job is super conservative. He freaked out once on his sister for posting on facebook that we were eating together at a certain restaurant. He gets mentioned in general, unimportant, non-identifying ways. I don't really even have to do those. Yes, he's a big part of my life. But I have lots of other stuff going on, much of it actually more interesting (at least to me) than talking about my husband. And I know that you are that way too. The way I see it, you are in a new relationship and going through a growing pain (like Ashley said), and if that means you are a little more guarded or need or want to take a step back, or just have better things to do with your time right now, that's normal.

Of course I've also been with my husband for 11+ years. I'm bored of talking about him now :P

Megs said...

With regards to my husband and the blog: The husband is also very wary of his internet privacy. Plus, his job is super conservative. He freaked out once on his sister for posting on facebook that we were eating together at a certain restaurant. He gets mentioned in general, unimportant, non-identifying ways. I don't really even have to do those. Yes, he's a big part of my life. But I have lots of other stuff going on, much of it actually more interesting (at least to me) than talking about my husband. And I know that you are that way too. The way I see it, you are in a new relationship and going through a growing pain (like Ashley said), and if that means you are a little more guarded or need or want to take a step back, or just have better things to do with your time right now, that's normal.

Of course I've also been with my husband for 11+ years. I'm bored of talking about him now :P

The Phoenix Rising said...

I can relate so much to this post it's like I wrote it. For me I need to expres myself somewhere. I can't keep all that is inside bottled up all the time. I'm a private person. A sufferer in silence type. I wish I could go around and tell certain people to fuck off because they suck. When I started my blog it was just going to be my shitty poetry. Then it turned into simple thoughts of mine either witty/funny or deep thoughts like Jack Handy. Then it turned into bitches and gripes. Then venting about idiots or things I had to deal with. I post photos all the time. Now I'm trying for some reason expalin why I am why I am. Like people care or something. I came full circle. I just bitch mostly, lol. I don't know how healthy that is. I bet I sound like a complete idiot or some breaking news story waiting to happen.

chimes said...

TLDR ... I will later but sometimes I feel like Fred on Portlandia:

Steph A said...

I toootally feel you. Nathan is a very private person, and my internet presence has definitely caused some friction between us in the past. First of all, because he was able to read about some of my relationship history that he really didn't want to know about and didn't want the whole world to know about. And secondly because i used to want to blog about things that he considered private. So i don't really blog about anything anymore, haha. But that's also partly because i can't think of much to say that isn't either A. boring or B. offensive.

Also, the next generation? Yeah, holy shit. I'll never forget reading about my nephew's sex life on Myspace. TEE EM EYE!!!

Caryn said...

There is so much here that i want to comment on and say - so much that I want to remember this post and talk in person (IN 24 days!)

I started blogging because i missed writing and flt I was missing something. I agree about the grandma theory and that you shouldn't give up who you are for someone else/boyfriend and the idea of future generations. COMPLETELY AGREE and am constantly irritated by their demanding selfish ways and lack of knowledge of what a floppy disk is etc.

I loved the double dutch metaphor. Really, well done.

I think it is normal to have this question of who i am, where am I going, what am i doing? I think thats a huge part of 20's and it is part of growing up that we face these questions about our future. Hell this year, I dove face plant first into all the questions and self discoveries.

I'm always here to talk! and would love to talk more about this in vegas.

"except big posts like this that nobody will read because they are too damn long" haha! i caught that!

terra said...

I blog for me and me alone. I sometimes forget that, but the blog is for me and I try not to stifle myself and limit what I will and will not talk about. Obviously some stuff falls into the realm of "not okay to blog about," but by and large, I'm an open book. I've recently sort of come out on facebook, choosing to post my blog posts their on my own personal account and amazingly, the world hasn't come crushing down on me. Quite the opposite actually. I've been afraid some of my bold statements would frustrate some, but people have instead been incredibly supportive.

My husband? He's not bloggy, but he is on twitter. He sees all the blog has given me - the community, the real life friends and the passion, and he supports it 100%. He knows it's important to me and trusts me not to be a dumbass or write about anything he wouldn't feel comfortable sharing himself. That said, he's a pretty damn amazing guy and probably more understanding than most.

Tori said...

Unexpected metaphor was unexpectedly fantastic.

I've had to tone down my blog quite a bit. I no longer mention my place of work by name, nor do I mention places I volunteer or use my last name (or Dan's last name) anywhere on the blog. (After a certain amount of time, it will stop being Googleable.) I'm less concerned with what my family thinks than with what potential employers might think, and so before I post anything, I ask myself how that would reflect on me if I applied for a job and they Googled me and found it. If the answer is "not well," I'll privatize the post.

Dan is also wary of the internet. One of the first fights we got into after we started dating was because I posted something on Twitter that he had explicitly asked me not to post. Boundaries are important. I was apparently unaware of this, so good on you for recognizing and respecting them early on.