I have been discussing "modern technology" (for lack of a better term)- facebook, twitter, blogging- with several friends recently. The consensus seems to be that it increasingly feels so empty. While I can read 10 friend's blogs in a half hour, check out all the pictures my 703 facebook "friends" post, and look at my twitter feed a few times a day to get the blow-by-blow of various people's lives, I don't feel any more connected to them. Really. Particularly when I compare that to how connected I feel to someone after an hour sitting down with them and just talking, asking questions, and listening. We have all this technology, all these mediums that claim to be ways to help us keep better in touch with more people, but does it all really do that? Or does it actually isolate us more because we spend 3 hours a day alone at our personal computer on facebook, blogs, and gchat rather than with actual real people live and in person? Are we actually so busy "keeping up" with our facebook news feed and tweets that we don't pour into the people who are actually around us here and now? And what do we actually "learn" about people from 140 characters, a blog entry, or a carefully managed facebook page and photo album?
Furthermore, is the information we receive about all our friends (real or virtual) actually edifying or helpful or even useful? What pictures do we post on facebook? The really bad awful ones? No, the really really good ones. The ones where we're doing laundry and washing the dishes? No, the ones where we're FRONT ROW CENTER at a U2 concert or drinking wine at a vineyard overlooking Napa (if any of you who are my friends actually have done so, I am by no means criticizing, nor did I intend to make reference to you. I apologize if I did so unintentionally- I would take post pictures with Bono on a vineyard too). So as I'm looking through Ashley and Johnny and Bill's photos and posts, am I really getting a glimpse into their lives, or am I getting a sugar-coated Photoshopped version of the highlights? Am I bearing their burdens and walking alongside them daily, or just take 5 seconds to write "encouragement" on their wall? Do I get really excited for all the cool things everyone seems to be doing every waking moment or just feel bad about myself because my life seems "boring" and "dull" in comparison? Maybe you're very different than me, but this is a pretty sticky issue in my life.
That brings me to my blog. I started it in the fall of 2006 when I had finished college and moved to NYC, thereby starting a brand-new life away from a) family b) high school friends and c) college friends. I wanted to share my life with the many people I loved who were far away. Plus I enjoyed writing. I discovered over time that I REALLY enjoyed writing, was reasonably good at it, and I had a lot of stories to tell from living in NYC. As ya do. And so it has continued.
But what really is this blog? All too often someone says to me, "You have such an exciting life, gosh I wish my life were an adventure like yours!!!" or "Sorry for not emailing in awhile- I feel like I know so much of what's going on in your life because I read your blog, and I just forget you don't actually know what's going on in my life!" Or something of the like. These are two different ideas, of course. However, both essentially connote that the person looks to my blog to find out how I'm doing and what my life is like. Furthermore that my blog is indicative of my life, my feelings, or "how I'm doing." And maybe that's reasonable, maybe that's what people use their blogs for, and maybe that's what people have come to view blogs/facebook/twitter as. So maybe it's unfair of me to think it should be otherwise. Maybe it's unrealistic of me to think that people should actually pick up a phone, make a lunch date, or call a friend on Skype. Maybe it's unreasonable of me to think people can make time (because very people actually "have" time) to find out how a friend or family member is actually, really truly doing. But I wouldn't be writing this post if I thought it were unfair, unrealistic, or unreasonable.
So I want to be clear. That is not the purpose of this blog. I am writer with an audience. Yes, a lot of the audience knows me personally and comes here to read about what's going on my life because they know and love me and are interested in finding out a little bit about what I do. Yes, there are tons of people who can actually know a little bit about what I do who wouldn't have been able to 5 or 10 years ago, especially now that I live in Romania. And that is a good thing. But I am saddened when I find out that people view this is a substitute for actually talking to me, asking me how I'm doing, and listening (though no one would ever say that, but it's certainly implied). But really, it's not about all "woe is me" and "no one actually takes time to know me," but rather a symptom of what I see as a larger cultural problem (dare I say epidemic?).
And frankly, I'm kind of shocked when people think that my life is just one big adventure after another, I am nothing but smiles, and there is never anything wrong in my life. Again, I don't know about other people, but I think it's completely ridiculous to use a blog or twitter or facebook feed to vent your deepest problems, anxieties, and struggles. There are real people in my life (and I do hope there are in yours!), not to mention a cool dude named Jesus, and they are the ones to whom I go to share my frustrations and joys, and everything in between. Yes I rant about the ridiculosities of life sometimes on here, but this blog is in no way a Thermometer of Spangles. Yes I write about my crazy adventures, but I'm a W.R.I.T.E.R. and at some level I want to make things fun and interesting to read. I don't lie, and I don't make up anything about which I write, but of course I seek to write well, tell a good story. This begs the question, how much of your impression of "The Life of Spangles" (or insert Random Friend X) is from actual content of her life and how much of it is because she can make things like cleaning a bathroom drain or naps entertaining, is occasionally witty, and makes up fun words like ridiculosities?
Something to think about as your read this blog and others, browse facebook pages, and read tweets. Maybe it's time to disconnect, call a friend you haven't seen in awhile (rather than writing "How ya doin?" on their wall), and go have dinner with them. Catch up. Engage. Ask. Listen. I think you'll find that hour much more rewarding an enriching than any number of hours spent on blogs, tweets, and photo albums.