The Impersonal Internet

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 / 1:08 PM

Sometimes, I'm afraid that social media has replaced so many of the interactions I've used to treasure and hold so dearly. A tweet or Facebook status update is assumed to be enough; a blog post or Instagram photo appears to tell a full story. Even with my own parents, who follow me on most social platforms (sometimes, to my dismay), they'll refer to tweets from three weeks ago as if it was a story I had told them personally.

It's not that I'm exactly complaining about this. We all participate in social media willingly; nobody forces you to tweet or Snap. But it's easier, isn't it, than writing lengthy emails or talking on the phone. Sometimes, it's even easier than making time to sit down for coffee with someone and catch up on life.

I write a lot on my blog (especially this year, since I made it my goal to blog at least once a week), and I'm also guilty of being on some form of social media every day. Sometimes, I feel like that's telling enough about my life, but it's not really. You could follow my travels or the work that I do, but you don't know every detail. You don't always know how I'm feeling or what might've gone wrong in the process. And not that those things are important to everyone, but they are what's built conversations and connections in the past.

But lately, I've felt sharing those things can be seen too much as oversharing. Why does it matter how I feel and what I think, beyond paper? And that's a terribly unhealthy way to see it. The internet is a great tool for sharing stories, but we shouldn't rely on the impersonal parts of it to also send messages and build or strengthen relationships.

I had this moment last week where someone said to me, face to face, "You're doing an amazing job. But how are you feeling about it all?" And not only did she ask, but she listened: without judgement, without immediately trying to fix it, and without jumping in and making the moment about her experiences, which had been similar to mine. It opened this insane floodgate of thoughts and emotions that I realized I hadn't expressed before – because I hadn't really been asked before. It led to all sorts of conversations and clarity that I hadn't experienced in awhile, and it made me realize that not only do I need to do a better job of focusing on personal connections, but I also need to demand a little more of myself when it comes to others: to focus on the friendships built on mutual effort, to back away from those who see your presence as a convenience, and to wipe the slate clean when it comes to the toxic environments of the past.

Of course, this doesn't mean I have to replace blogging or creating content online for any of that. It's about balancing the two, and knowing when it's appropriate to push on a topic and when it isn't. That's something I think we all have to learn and re-learn throughout our entire lives. But I suppose that's what also keeps it interesting too, right?

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