I Am Not My Digital Life

I’ve had a rough week.  There were a few moments last night where I began working on a scorched earth blog post about just how crappy it was,  but after a glass of wine the delete draft button was hit.  Yes, it really has been one of those weeks,  work issues, tech issues, those kind of things, and honestly I was a bit fed up by the time I was able to sit down and begin kicking over to weekend mode.

After beginning to catch up on a backlog of podcasts this morning I’m glad I hit that delete button.

TED Radio Hour has been a staple on the podcast list for quite a while, and their recent podcasts, Screen Time Part 1 and Part 2, should be on the mandatory listening list for all of us that participate in social networking.  Both go into detail about how screen time and social networking have forever changed how we interact with others around us.  For me it was a stark reminder that I have been a little dependent on my “digital life”, for social interaction.   That’s an odd thing to say from someone who recently began a public blog.

Several weeks ago, I logged out of several social networking sites indefinitely, and after what felt like withdrawal for a few days, I’m finally comfortable with that decision.  There have been a few studies, specifically related to Facebook, about how active use can negatively impact mood.  For me,  shortly before the Presidential Inauguration, I hit the peak of digital misery.  My personal political views are irrelevant,  it had nothing to do with who was being inaugurated but everything to do with the constant stream of negativity that was filling the news feed about the inauguration.

I’m all for free discussion of beliefs and ideals, as long as it can be done civilly.  Too many politically themed posts became ugly personal attacks in the comments section, and after seeing several close friends ripped apart for articulately and thoughtfully expressing their views and feelings, I began fighting the urge to step in and defend those being attacked despite their expression of views that may not have aligned with my own.  I decided to step away.  Nothing I could say would have changed the mind of anyone who immediately chose to go the route of insulting personal attacks, but I would have ended up emotionally invested.  I then noticed a trend that the posts of friends and family became more negative in general, it seemed nothing good was happening to anyone.  Were they feeling the pull towards darkness from their own feeds?

I don’t want my digital persona to give people the impression that my actual persona is negative and argumentative individual because I took the bait to comment on another’s post, or through a knee jerk reaction typed something onto a screen I would have taken more time to respond to in person.  I have my moments, we all do, but overall I’m pretty positive (at least I think so) and easy to get along with.  Ignoring the temptation to write a scorched earth, negative post could have planted those seeds of negativity here, and I don’t want that.  I promised myself that if I was going to take the time to write a blog again, it would not degrade to day-to-day diary style posts about the little things, good or bad.  I have an actual, honest to God, paper journal for that.  This is a space largely for my passions, and occasionally for moments like this post where I feel the need to express thoughts and feelings.

After opting out of some toxic networking, it feels like I’ve gotten part of my life back, after realizing how much time was being sucked into looking into a screen looking for the approval or sympathy of my peers on the whatever little bit of info I threw out there.  I also didn’t realize how much anxiety some social media platforms had created by waiting on responses from others, especially on posts/comments that could potentially cause debate.  I’m almost embarrassed that I have looked for the approval of others through social networking, but let’s be honest, seeking approval is human nature.  How many of the people on these sites actually know me though?  It’s a small percentage.  Even the people who knew me as a child, or teenager that I’ve reconnected with over the years probably know little about the events or interactions with others in my “real life”  that have formed me into the person I am now.  To some extent, we’re still strangers, despite actually knowing each other at a point in time.  With a simple click you add this person back into your digital life, but does anyone really take the time to catch up?  Or do we just stalk their past posts a bit, and just assume we know what’s up?  I think too many of us get caught up on what we thought of these people when we interacted with them in the past and let them have far too much power and influence in our lives now just because we have given them the option to comment on a dinky post.  We also let true strangers that we may have friended out of a common interest  or  shared friend have too much influence.  Why was I giving up emotional real estate to people I barely know? I think I’ve become conditioned through years of social media use to sell that real estate to strangers.

The podcasts I referenced earlier brought up a disturbing point, well at least for me anyway, about what happens to the thousands of bits of data we put out there when we die.  I don’t want to be remembered through silly memes, soap box stands, and two sentence glimpses into life.  Our digital lives are not true examples of ourselves, and the idea posed in the 2nd part of the Screen Time series that it may be possible in the future to build robots with the personalities of the deceased by analyzing  their social media presence is horrifying.  There’s a wake up call.   Let me make it clear now, that my digital life is NEVER to be turned into a robot for anyone, period, end of conversation.  Grieve over me the old-fashioned way, with a night of booze and story telling.

At the end of all my rambling, I’m pretty happy with where I am right now, in both lives, digital and actual.  I have a presence through this blog, which through format alone allows for constructed thoughts, instead of vague snapshots.  Am I looking for approval from my peers here?  Meh, maybe a bit, once again, human nature; but is blogging driven towards that goal?  Not really.  I mean, I would like it if people took the time to read what I write, but it isn’t the end of the world if no one interacted.  In all honesty, with the way WordPress is structured a lot of unsolicited negativity can be deleted and ignored before it even hits public viewing space. In real life, yeah, it was a shitty week. Everyone has those.  I’ll reboot a bit, and face the next week on Monday.

Until then, I’m going to go make another pot of coffee and pull out the knitting needles and make the best of the weekend.

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