Navigating the Challenges of Real Life, Online
- If you share everything, you’re an exhibitionist.
- If you share nothing, you’re closed-off and unapproachable.
- If you share too many good things, you’re fake.
- If you share too many bad things, you’re a whiner.
It’s hard to get the balance right, isn’t it?
Online interactions don’t always lend themselves to complete transparency. And even when we are trying to let our online lives accurately reflect our real-life lives, there can still be a disconnect. A common criticism accuses people of trying to “pretty up” their lives for others… but I think there’s often far more to it than that:
- You pull back on Facebook from everything but photos and chit-chatty nonsense, because you got publicly raked over the coals by a cousin after posting an article he/she disagreed with, and that was the final straw.
- The sheer publicness of the internet feels RISKY– like shouting out your heart to a crowded room– so you keep to picture-sharing and funny videos of your kids.
- You don’t post a comment about an issue you’re interested in, because you lack the strength to deal with fall out from the politically-correct police, especially when your whole family has the flu and you’re barely keeping it together in real life.
- You don’t share about the biggest thing in your life that’s burdening you the most, because you don’t want to invite criticism or dissection about your decisions when you’re already hurting so badly.
- Or maybe, other people are involved, and you can’t publicly talk about IT without also implicating/including THEM. So you say nothing.
There could be MANY reasons why you don’t share the most personal things in your life online, but a lot of them have nothing to do with fakery, and a lot more to do with genuine hurt, discretion, and wisdom learned over time.
A commenter on my 2014-Year-End-Survey wrote that she appreciated my old blog because I wrote more life-in-process sort of posts. Posts where I shared my then-current real-life struggles… and she misses that. When I read her comment, I could completely understand where she was coming from. I miss it, too.
PERSONAL CONNECTION via ONLINE INTERACTION?
But the truth is that I think a large part of this is an increasing awareness that the internet really CAN’T replicate what we get, and what we need, in real life. Even with emoticons, LOLs, and the ability to use more words than we might perhaps need in real life, and the ability to wait longer to craft and share them than we would if face to face, we STILL miscommunicate and misunderstand one another.
Text and a screen can’t do what flesh and blood are designed to do.
Online interactions lack the facial expressions and inflection to help us communicate with and comprehend one another… and they lack the interpersonal glues that bind us together in real-life relationships.
So for me, part of the difference between blogging in 2006 and blogging in 2015 is that we know more now about what the internet can and can’t do. I don’t think the internet can achieve the personal connections we long for. At least not singularly.
PUBLICNESS & DISCRETION IN ONLINE INTERACTION
In my personal experience of writing online, my husband is a pastor, and my blog has a wider audience than it did when I first began writing. When things happen in our real life community, I am less free to discuss them than when I lived a relatively quiet life in an unknown place (we lived overseas and my neighbors spoke a different language and would never read and feel affected by my writing about discouragement, stress, etc.).
I think many of us experience this. Those who work outside the home may feel hyper-aware that Facebook interactions reflect on them, and could impact them professionally for good or for ill, and they may limit their activity for that reason.
We all have our reasons, but many of us are still, I think, struggling through the balance of:
- what to share
- how much of our personal feelings to share
- how many details to give
We also have to struggle through, do I share real life hurts/challenges:
- Only in real life?
- Partly online?
- Fully online?
LIFE PARTICULARS ALSO PLAY A PART
In my life, these are some things that have affected what I’m willing/unwilling to share online:
- The older my children get, the less public I can be about my interactions with them, out of respect for their privacy, and out of respect for them. When they were little, I could write openly about disobedience or parenting issues we were facing in real life, and yet remain discreet about which particular child I was telling a story about. As they grow, I choose not tell as many of their stories in public settings.
- There are things that I no longer have the energy for. On more personal topics, or political issues, I have a natural hesitancy and self-protection that has been built out of wisdom. Now, I consider in advance whether or not I can “take the heat” and if I don’t think it’s wise at that moment in my life, then I don’t post about that topic at all.
- When I had a “small” blog, it felt and operated more like a discussion group. With over a quarter-million visitors last year, it no longer feels that way. And it isn’t. So I tend to write, and use my writing, differently than I did back when everything was more laid back and open.
- Honestly, too? During the first six years that I wrote online, I lived overseas and had little-to-no adult English interaction, and so my blog felt at times like a lifeline— a place for me to have real conversation with English-speaking moms about pressing real life challenges. I needed personal connection with other moms in a way that is no longer the case, because we now live in America and I CAN have those “what-do-you-think-about-X” conversations in real life with my church family.
And these are all just *MY* reasons/particulars of life. You have your own. Your best friend has her own. Your sister-in-law has hers.
ONLINE/REAL LIFE COLLISION
Another factor is the fact that many of us now experience an increased segmentation of our lives:
- people we’ve connected with entirely in real life,
- others, we’ve connected with entirely online (I participated for 5 years in an online forum about homeschooling, and another number of years in an online forum about childrearing… many of those ladies have become real friends, and yet, for the most part, they’re not women that I know face-to-face), and
- some people we’ve blended those things (i.e., my pastor’s wife & I met through blogging and are now real life friends).
Online life and social media has both complemented and complicated real life. There’s so many parts of this that we’re all trying to sort out.
FACEBOOK AS FRIENDSHIP LIFE-SUPPORT
Another factor I’ve been pondering lately is the way that online life unnaturally extends the life of some friendships that, in any other generation, would have died a natural death.
Friends that, if you lived 20 years ago, you might have lost touch with after the soccer season ended, still comment on your pictures and interact with you about politics, religion, cat posters, daily life, you-name-it!, years after that connection perhaps “should* have tapered off.
Is this producing a form of relational “clutter” in our lives? Are we friend hoarders? Do we, as a society, have piles of not-really friends and margin-sucking comments and valueless “likes” sitting around that make it increasingly difficult to walk through our social media “house?”
IN THE COMMENTS PLEASE SHARE:
- Are these concerns you share?
- How are you dealing with these things in your “real” online life?
Heads up: Doug & I are enjoying a device fast this week… I look forward to coming back and seeing what thought-provoking tidbits and comments you all have left for me when I return. Until then…
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