Insta-mom is today's guest poster. Which makes me so happy. I am really loving these guest posters. I mean I loved them all before, but I'm loving this semi-break. I am feeling the urge to start writing again, so there will be more posts from me in the next few weeks, mingled with the last few guest posts.
Insta-mom managed to put into words what I have been wanting to say for awhile. Which really, makes it so much easier for me. Because hi, she's a teacher and has a way of getting to a point when she writes, which I tend to not be able to do. I tend to be in the, see if you can find the point of this post because I surely can't, camp.
A lot of you have your Internet life and your real life mingle. You do play dates, you go to every conference imaginable, your family and friends know about your blog. Maybe a few of your friends in real life, blog too. Mine don't, no one knows except for Logan and my BFF Kate and I'd like to keep it that way. They're not telling anyone. Most days, they pretend they don't know. It really has nothing to do with any of you. It's not that I feel any different about you than I do my real life friends. For me this is just the way it is. But I, like Insta-mom am seeing the lines being blurred. In some respects it scares me. In others, it seems like it's not a big deal at all. Like it's the natural thing. I care too much about all of you to worry about it anymore. I fought it so hard with my last blog and in the end I had to stop blogging because of it. This time, I'm just not willing to do that. Do my children and husband remain separate from my online friends, yes. They do, that is Logan's number one issue and I am okay with it. (To him you are all the invisible people in the computer.) But too me? No, it's just not that black and white anymore. I do this for me. To have something that is all mine. When you are friends with the same people your entire life, you each have a role to play. A role you know, a role that I am entirely comfortable with. Our lives our so intermingled that every story I tell has them in it in some way. Our kids are all the same age and it doesn't look like it will be any different for them. I love this about my life. However, blogging is just for me and I love that too. It's my thing that no one else does, that no one else is interested in. It's my deal.
Anyway, I am honored to have Insta-mom share in my space today. (See at first I had no idea what to say, then the rambling happened.)
At my mom’s house on Mother’s Day, my sister-in-law was looking through the World’s Most Influential People issue of Time Magazine. When she got to the page about the founders of Twitter, she declared, “I still don’t even understand what Twitter is.”
I didn’t offer anything by way of explanation as I sat there on the couch next to her, my Blackberry intentionally left at home so I wouldn’t sneak to the bathroom too often to read my Twitter feed.
Those of you reading this who do Twitter probably totally understood why I did that; those of you who don’t quite possibly think I’m a hopeless loser.
And that’s my point. So many people don’t “get” the relationships those of us who have Internet lives develop with one another. I’ve heard people talk about blogs and social networking sites with that air of contempt in their voice. Those things are for social outcasts, recluses, people whose skin is oddly colored because most of the light they get in a day come from the glow of their LCD screen.
I only told two people I know “in real life” about my blog. Another found out quite by accident. But that is the extent that my two worlds overlap. I like it that way. You see, in real life, I am a bit of a recluse. I tend to resist social situations that might involve large groups of people. I try to branch out, but I don’t do well overcoming my fears—the fear of rejection, ridicule, exclusion. In real life, I am self-conscious and insecure.
There is safety in the Internet. People don’t have to read your blog or follow you on Twitter. If they don’t want to know you, they won’t. They don’t laugh at the worn out pair of shoes you wore because they were the only ones you could find. They don’t judge that you haven’t washed your hair because you just can’t bring yourself to exert that much effort. And if they tell you they don’t like you, the sting can wear off more quickly because in many ways, they are not “real” to you.
So I have created for myself these neatly separated worlds: the “real” one, where I am what I know I am; and the Internet one, where I am who I wish I could be. I am open and confident and social. But these worlds stay separated. I am happy when life is neatly compartmentalized. For so long, I’ve needed them separated.
But several times recently, those two worlds collided. And they collided in ways that I can’t ignore. So the lines have to bleed and become fuzzy. I have had to come to terms with the idea that these bloggers I read, these people I tweet with, are not just ephemeral beings elsewhere in the universe who know me in a way that even people I am related to do not. They are actual flesh-and-blood friendships. Friendships grown in a different part of my self than the “real” friendships I already have. They are people who know me in a more honest way than anyone who actually “knows” me.
The power of those relationships has come crashing down on me in the last several months. You don’t realize how invested you become in someone’s story until that story includes pain—pain that you feel as acutely as anyone not experiencing it in the first person can. You are forced to accept these relationships into your life, the real one, not just the invisible one. All the strings of the two worlds become tangled, knotted, inseparable.
But offering friendship and consolation to people you have grown to know over the Internet is much more complicated. You can’t stop by with a basket of muffins and a box of tissues when you are in California and your friend is 1000 miles away. And even when geography doesn’t impede your outstretched heart, how do you offer your love and concern to someone who, in spite of being part of your every day life, you’ve never actually met?
Maybe I have trouble giving people the benefit of the doubt, but because these Internet relationships are so much different, I don’t trust that people who don’t have them will always understand the depth of the friendships. I can’t rely on them understand how you can hurt for someone you’ve never seen.
And I won’t ask them to understand how these invisible relationships can actually make you a better person, a better friend, in real life, too. Because when you can’t stop for a cup of coffee or offer a hug you are forced to find other ways to show that you care.
You begin to understand that just a simple “I’m thinking of you” can carry a well of emotion with it. You find other ways to be generous. Those acts are enough because they are all you can give. And they help you realize that the best you can give, even if it’s just a few words to ease a burden, will always be enough.