Monday, October 22, 2012

Life Online vs. Life Offline

So, now that I've kind of started to get back into the swing of things with the posting of the blogs, I'd like to take a quick moment (hahahaha) to talk a little bit about why I fell away from it.

It's not just that I've been busy with work and life, though that's definitely part of it.

It was guilt.

It's been a feeling that I haven't been able to dissociate from this blog lately... but not the way you might think. I don't feel guilty about not posting, except for the fact that I was sort of letting myself down. But that's not new. I've gone long stretches of not posting before. I mean, I'm not so naive to think that it matters to anyone but me if I post or not. There are a bajillion blogs out there (as I was reminded today as I was trying to clean up my Reader).

No, it wasn't like that.

I felt guilty when I DID post.

I felt like I should have been spending my time elsewhere - working out, cleaning my apartment, getting drinks with the girls, spending time with the boyfriend, calling my mother. I felt guilty taking the time to sit and punch keys and photoshop pictures and play online. I felt like I was being selfish. I felt like it wasn't fair to neglect them for my solo activity... because I have a hard time finding that ideal balance. I wanted to be a better [insert role here].

Okay, I may or may not have read a book about friendships somewhere in there that I've been slightly obsessing over... which is another post for another day, hopefully, if I get around to it.

I was also experiencing a lot of dissonance simply about how much time I generally spent online. BF hates the Internet. Well, that's not entirely true. He hates the Internetization of our culture - how people spend more time on facebook than they do interacting in person. How shallow we all have become. I see his point, and I don't disagree with him, not in the slightest - I've noticed the negative effects on our culture... but I've had a different experience with my life online. (Which, okay, most of which probably leads back to BiSC, which, to me, is cold hard proof that you CAN build meaningful friendships from the Internet. Which we all know is hard for non-bloggers to understand.) He, like many others, doesn't understand why I'd want to splay my life online. He's supportive, of course - he wants me to succeed as a writer almost as much as I do (if not more). He knows it means a lot to me. (In fact, as I was blubbering about all of this somewhere between scribbling it out by hand and typing it up, he flat out told me he thought I should blog MORE. It was actually an epiphany-laden conversation about all of my current hangups, but we'll save some of those for other posts, because they belong to other thought trains. But, I swear, that guy is so full of insight. It blows my mind every time. I am lucky to have him. I'll never understand why he chooses to put up with me, but I'm not going to question it too hard because I don't want to jinx it.)

The other problem is that I don't know where to focus my energy. It's been months since I've written a baking post - I don't even know if my column is alive anymore. Structure and routine is both a blessing and a curse. It stresses me out, and yet I crave it. I fear being overscheduled and stretched too thin, which I think has been part of the problem lately. Something was bound to give and it took all my energy to focus on not letting it ALL crash down.

But that's neither here nor there. It's just a random aside.

Back to the issue of blogging, writing about my thoughts and feelings... it felt almost like a betrayal... to the BF, to my IRL besties. Why should I write about all of my feelings online instead of discussing them in person, like a normal human being? I'm new to this whole Good Relationship thing... I don't know how to find a balance. I don't know what to share with who anymore. I don't know how to justify retreating to my blog - not without feeling like I'm putting my own vanity/narcissism before interpersonal relationships. I've acquired a bit of a perspective shift, in which I feel like pouring my heart out on here is misplaced; should it be a conversation I have with someone in person? I suppose I could find a Thing to write about instead; but I'm not an expert in anything and I'd get bored easily. It would feel like a job. Any subject I would pick, there's someone out there doing it better. The only thing I'm an expert at is being me, and observing what I see and expressing how I feel and knowing what I know. 

By putting it all here, online, does that diminish my relationships and trivialize those conversations? I've had several catch-up sessions that were interrupted with, "oh yeah, I read that on your blog." On the one hand, it leaves me a bit lost for new conversational bits, but on the other... it kind of streamlines those. By having outlined my initial thoughts online, we can jump right in. The backstory is online. It's like a sequel - you can really dive into the content, because the situation has already been set up.

When I almost quit the Internet that one time, I knew I'd have to adjust my MO slightly - especially when it came down to the BF. He is fiercely protective of his privacy, and I am determined to respect that. I assumed I'd just leave those bits out and not really mention much about the 'ship. But those bits are the bits that mean the most to me, and I've found that I tend to use this blog (or even facebook) as a chronicle of my life. If I needed to go back and look up a life event or find a picture, I could pretty much count on the fact that I'd documented it accordingly. Now there are gaps and holes and ultimately, it doesn't REALLY matter, but it kind of makes me feel unorganized. Feeling unorganized makes me feel overwhelmed because I feel behind. If that makes any sense at all. [Ironically enough, my blog hero and life role model Nicole posted something similar on her blog recently - so it's fully possibly to maintain a private relationship offline and not feel like I'm leaving out key elements of my life as I strive to hit some degree of openness and honesty in my writing. As she says: "I want to respect the fact that this is my blog, not his, and that just because I put my life on the Internet doesn't mean that he has to have his up here as well. The bigger reason, though, is that I'm actually quite a private and introverted person when it comes to relationships (romantic or otherwise), and I prefer to experience everything - the good and the bad - within the confines of the relationship itself." 

It's an expression of the exact sort of balance I'm trying to find. I am not the sort of person to air private grievances online because I'm not sure any good can ever come from that, only regret and hurt feelings, and also: duh, it's private. Even if there was dirty laundry to share, I wouldn't. But on the flip side, like Nicole, I haven't really been writing about the good, either. And there's been so much good. I mean, I found my other half - he complements my personality in ways I never knew I even needed. And there is no way in hell I'm letting something like a blog jeopardize that. Because as far as priorities go, this blog is not at the top. And that's not something I will ever apologize for.

(I feel like I'm walking on a minefield just writing about how and why I'm not writing about certain things. There's sharing, and there's oversharing, and then there's sharing things that aren't yours to share. It's kind of a tightrope walk some days, because I'm so intertwined with all of the people in my life, it's hard to not talk about them. This includes more than the BF - but the BFFs and the family as well.)

I don't know. This is why I've been stuck. I guess I could make craft projects and baked goods until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't alleviate my need to connect. The Twenties Hacker column couldn't sustain me alone, when I pared back my time on ICTH this summer. Ultimately, both blogs suffered. As a supplement to this blog, I was happy to write extra things about food. But the emotional connection to this blog is at the core - without this, I collapsed under the weight of all the unwritten words.

When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. And that's kind of why there's been such a prolonged radio silence. I didn't know where to pick up again. Then I go stir-crazy inside my head if I don't get the thoughts out. And it's not enough to just write it. I need to share it. I need to feel like someone is listening, that someone can hear me, and, with any luck, can relate. Maybe even offer some insight back at me.

My kindred spirits are spread across the country. The world is smaller because of the Internet, but in some ways, it feels bigger. Underneath the big Midwestern sky, I feel a little isolated. I love it here, I don't want to leave... but I want to be connected to the rest of the world, too. And sometimes it's nice to not have to burden my close friends with my perpetual and often redundant woes. They've got their own lives to live too. Sometimes it's nice to just reach out across the void and throw my thoughts to the bits and pixels, and maybe someone, somewhere, is up late thinking about the same things. The only way to connect to those people is to park my voice somewhere that they can find it. And I know there are shady people out there, and I've been pretty lucky. I've tried to be as careful as I can, but from what I can tell, my little corner of the Internet is pretty safe. Knock on wood.

I feel a little better, already - sometimes writing is better than therapy, I swear. I kind of feel like I'm draining the dam a little bit... instead of water, though, it's words. Hope the Internet has flood insurance.


chimes said...

I feel the same way. I always feel guilty when i'm blogging when I could be doing something else. I usually write in the morning before anybody is awake.

and Kasey was super private. In fact, I never really mentioned him other than "the boyfriend" in my blog, and all other things were edited out after we broke up because I knew how private he was.

Tori said...

It's VERY difficult to balance blogging with real life - what you can write about vs. what you should write about, whether you should be doing this at all vs. living your life. I think we all find a balance eventually.