How much can you share online?
There are those who openly write about things I have never even considered as a topic of conversation with members of my family; there are those who keep it all to themselves and share only particular aspects of their work or hobbies online; and then there are those who, like myself, swim on the edge, not quite sure how deep to go or how close to the shore is safe enough.
When I started blogging, I decided to be very open about my experiences, feelings, thoughts, and ideas about the world and everything contained within it.
Screw social conventions! Push the boundaries! Set yourself (and by extension others) free!
These days I’m not so sure anymore.
When I started blogging, the whole thing wasn’t quite as big as it is these days. It makes me feel old even though I’m far from it… what’s perhaps a bit more accurate is that the times have changed incredibly fast. I remember being perceived as quite the freak by my relatives and close friends for divulging so much of my inner self to whomever might be surfing by. I never worried about the anonymous attention as I never thought anybody would care enough to actually read my blog – and even less so on a regular basis.
Incredibly enough, I met incredible people through my blogs and I’ve gained some good friends who are scattered all around this apparently ever shrinking planet we call home. Granted, I haven’t met most of them in person, but we have followed each other as the conventions of online social networking have changed and people have migrated from one blogging platform to another. Some of my earliest facebook friends were in fact friends I’d met through Livejournal, and others, earlier still, through ICQ.
Go to bed. It’s 2am. You have school in the morning.
I’ll never forget my father’s grumbles emanating from the adjacent bedroom.
I wonder if the owl in me was born thanks to my nightly ICQ chats.
I could never quite get over the fact that I was talking with people from around the world.
Through an painfully slow dial-up.
In my dad’s home office.
Each second was worth each minute otherwise spent sleeping.
In my tender teens, I fell in love with the internet and the endless opportunities it offered to connect with people on a much deeper level. I didn’t much care for the fools I sat in class with, day in and day out, and I didn’t have much of a social life outside of school as there was none to participate in where I lived and I would have been way too shy to join in on any of it anyway. My siblings are significantly older than I am, so they weren’t of much help either – well, until I was old enough to start drinking with them. So, before I hit 16, I didn’t really do much besides study and spend my evenings (nights) chatting and playing video games with people from around the world.
I’ve suffered from shyness during most of my life, but this wasn’t a problem online: no faces to read, no body language to be concerned with, no shifty looks, no words contradicting the intonation they are voiced with. Just words on a screen. Time to think about what you write; time to consider double entendres without feeling like a retard; and time to delete what you are writing when you realize you’ve misunderstood what the other was saying.
It felt natural to me to share my innermost thoughts and feelings online.
Here I write to someone who I trust simply because I don’t know them. I don’t know if they are male, female, or of any other gender; I don’t know how old they might be, what life experiences they have been through, what interests occupy their lives, and why they have chosen to read the words I have spilled onto a page lost amongst billions of others. I have always felt liberated as there are no social relations to consider, no worries about how one or another person in my life might take what I am trying to express, and any judgement that is made about me and the very insignificant things I write about will be kept behind a screen.
So, I allowed myself a lot of leeway when considering what to write about.
However… and this is where the liberated part of the online world I love so much ends. These days everyone is online. I know, not everyone, but most of the people I know and deal with are. In fact, I have kept in touch with more people than I ever thought I would from, say, my school years, simply thanks to their presence online. I have become familiar with their lives thanks to relentlessly updated facebook posts, endless streams of pictures, and a concoction of blogs, twitter accounts, tumblers, flickers, and whatever else, you name it.
So now the very real and unavoidable social relationships, the social conventions, the social rules, and all of that which I enjoyed living without online have crashed my party. Now I don’t know how I feel about sharing my innermost thoughts online anymore.
Even this blog, which I have purposefully left void of personally identifiable markers, is still attached to my person. I haven’t advertised it on my social networks and I’m far from interested in promoting it or otherwise gaining readers. It’s a bit of that lost paradise I am trying to keep alive.
These days, I find myself turning into an even more private person than when I was a teen. I am keeping sections of my life clearly separated from one another. Missing the freedom I’d found online, I’m living it out in very small doses in my other, real life… seeking friends where I’d never thought to look before.
And, surely, that can’t be a bad thing.