Friday, November 28, 2014

If Your Reality is Mostly Virtual: You Are Doing it Wrong

For those of you who have followed my blogs over the years, or any of you that know me in person, you know that navigating social media has been something I've struggled with for a long time.  Social media makes me anxious (well, I have anxiety, so a lot things make me anxious, but social media tends to really make it flare up).  It brings out a judgmental side that I hate knowing resides within me ("How could they post something like that?").  There has been so many birds chirping lately, I feel like my brain is overrun with all of these words and little action.  My brain is melting into my keyboard, into my phone.  My brain is of utmost importance, I must save my brain.

So, now, how to navigate this virtual world without it interfering with my reality?  That right there folks, is the million dollar question.

I don't want to be glued to my smartphone.  I don't want to be gazing into the abyss tweeting my life away while my actual life is unfolding outside that glass screen.  I don't want to gawk at someone I know over-sharing and have a resounding, What the actual fuck, playing on repeat in my head.  I don't want to judge online personas and think, You are NOTHING like that in real life.

I keep deactivating & activating my Twitter & Facebook because I'm so torn on how to actually navigate this virtual world.  There is a large part of me that wants to run from it like the wind, but I also recognize the role it plays in today's modern world.  But, I'm just not a fan of this virtual reality. Maybe this is just me?  But, really, I have to say: If your reality is mostly virtual: you are doing it WRONG.

If you feel yourself getting defensive at that statement, you may have an addiction to the internet. I get it, it's a hard pill to swallow, but I assure you, if you have a thought and you do not tweet it, it is still an actual thought-- sharing it on Facebook doesn't make it at all more "real."  If anything, if you need someone to "like" a statement of yours in order to feel less alone, you are making yourself much more lonely in the process.

I believe I've shared this in the past, but it seems incredibly relevant:

You guys, we were created to socialize with other human beings.  Emailing and Facebook chatting does not substitute real life, actual face to face contact.  There is always a person to meet, a friend to make, no matter where you live or how "busy" you are- but you have to actually put your phone in your pocket, or turn off your laptop and get out into your community to meet these people.  Even the most introverted person needs to have "real life" friends that they socialize with on a regular basis.

I'm not saying that you can't have connections with people online.  There are a few people on the interweb that I've never met in my real life that seem pretty awesome.  But you know what?  If something life shattering were to happen right now, God forbid, a death of a loved one, a fire, you name it, these "virtual" friends will not be there to help glue me back together.  Chatting can only go so far, presenting each thought articulated to perfection via your keyboard will not bond you the way face to fave contact can.  What if something happened and the grid came to a startling hault and none of us could "log on?"  Where would you be?

Again, I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but your internet friends cannot and should not be your only friends.  If you are not meeting someone for coffee, or drinks, or readings, or gym time or something at least once a week: you are not living your life.

Heck, you may be doing some great things online; as a writer, myself and other writers included, one of our greatest strengths resides in our ability to convey the written word-- but that should not be the only way we are changing the world.  We should be changing the world with our actions as well.  We should be knee deep in our community, we should be living our lives.

I know this sounds preachy and I'm sorry for that, but this just seems like such a necessary message.

Social Media, the internet, it can be psychologically dangerous.  I am going on year three (maybe it's year four?) of being cyber-stalked/cyber-harassed by an individual I met in my college years-- I know they check my various social media profiles because they will accidentally repin something from Pinterest & quickly delete it, or they will follow a friend of mine on Twitter that they have absolutely no connection to, or even follow and unfollow me (that is before I blocked them), and a few months ago I received an anonymous message via this blog, advising me to keep my various profiles private because this person checks everything I do almost compulsively.

Um, yeah, that stresses me out.  I've wasted more energy than I'm proud to admit, more tears to my husband than I ever should have to spare on something so ridiculous, because social media platforms have opened up up this Pandora's box of infinite access.  I can't count how many times I've felt like I need to shut down all of my accounts because of that person; knowing that there is someone out there who does not like me, judging everything that I do.  It isn't a good feeling.

But, it brings me back to what I spoke about before, how many times have I rolled my eyes at what people have posted to Facebook, people I actually like?  So, really, as long as we have the internet, there will be an enhanced sin of judgement.

As long as we have the internet, we will run the chance of becoming too engrossed in our virtual realities, missing the real life happening outside of the screen.

As long as we have the internet, we will have a platform that allows us to present a version of ourselves that is highly edited.

In this digital age, we have to be aware of how much we are tuning out our world in order to tune into our screens.  In this digital age we have to understand that true authentic relationships cannot exist solely in a chat-box.  In this digital age we have to practice restraint in our curiosity. In this digital age we have to be aware of our intentions.

Intentionality is crucial to balancing social media, how you use it and to what ends it has control over your life.

What are your intentions when navigating social media?  How much of your life is spent online?  I think as the first generation to be navigating this virtual reality, it is crucial that we ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly.

“We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phone, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are.” -Jefferson Bethke


  1. Absolutely love. I have also struggled with the cyber stalker and contemplated shutting everything down. Especially now as a role model to kids!!

  2. I use my phone quite often but mainly for texting. I live halfway across the country from my family and most of my friends, so it is nice to keep in touch. I don't go out once a week but that's because I see my friends at work and none of us can afford to do anything, even little things, most of the time. But I enjoy interacting with people. My job is in sales and I get to chat with people all day long and tell stories or make them laugh. It's wonderful.


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