I have had a facebook account for over three years, but in the last three weeks, I actually started to invite friends there and post information. I have fully committed myself to proposing my book to publishers, and it is apparent that I need an online following before any publisher will even give my proposal a sniff. I went to twitter first, in May, curious about the mysterious activity promoted on every news station as an invitation to “follow us on twitter.” It was out of pure curiosity that I followed and received followers in the strange land called “twitter”. It has its own language and cultural expectations, and I am most definitely still a foreigner there. It became a fun distraction during the weeks that my husband was working in Colorado while my kids were back in Minnesota with me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to at night, except for the short phone calls, and nothing makes time completely disappear like navigating online, and most especially tooling around on twitter. So I want followers, and I am intrigued by all those other people who want them too…is it really a bad thing?
I am not the only one who is fascinated by this social phenomenon. It seems only natural that people are flocking to these bright light websites like moths to flame. Everyone wants to be followed. They want to know that they matter to someone, that there is a person in the world who wonders what they are doing or who they have become. It is a different addiction to seek out names from the past and connect with people than other more destructive addictions, but I see potential for disaster there too. Stay-at-home moms are seeking treatment for their computer addictions, and I have found myself shuttling my kids off to an inane activity so I can blog, or tweet or FB (all verbs that were not in existence 10 years ago). My husband and I can be found most nights these days plugged into our own outlets glancing up at the tv behind the laptop screens, occasionally commenting on the story that flits across the screen. Maybe if he were on facebook or twitter, he and I could actually connect again, but he is working and I am sidling up to my distraction. He is living in his own cyber world and I in mine.
I have found that very few people I know, in the “real” world, have visited or choose to visit twitter regularly, and some still do not have facebook accounts. Several people I respect highly have no deep-seeded need to be followed or friended, and I cannot find those intriguing people on either facebook or twitter, so they must know something that I do not know. What is wrong with me? I tried for a really long time not to get sucked in, but it seems to be the new community, the new connection, and if you are not tweeting or FBing then you are not connected in today’s day and age.
I want to be able to pull the plug and connect better with the people immediately around me, but I think that is precisely why I am finally sucked into the cyber-community. Our family has not stayed in one place long enough to have established the connections that every person needs and deserves. I have friends from all the places we’ve been and the life we have lived, but it is not in one physical place. The nature of our lives is not conducive to unplugging the connection that really can only happen for me online. The one place that a large majority of my friends and family can actually be found is that silly screen that stares back at me into the wee hours of the morning. I would miss out on a lot of life that is happening and being recorded on those sites. If I unplug, it is the end of a fledgling writing career, and then how can I telecommute for my actual paying job?
This is my new distraction. The reason I can feel connected to something when the someone I hope to be connected to is plugged in somewhere else. Is there really anything wrong with that? We all want to feel connected and isn’t it okay to be connected to family and friends who are actually interested in how things are going? It is not that my husband is not interested. He and I have both been consistently committed to doing what we need to do to stay connected, but this time of year, it is hard for him, and actually unfair of me to expect from him, to be all the connection that I need. I need the witty comments of my crazy friends, and the satisfaction of curiosity about what others are doing. I need a nudge of hello and a cyber-smile when I have screaming kids in the background.
I vow to stay connected. I want to plug in to what people are doing and saying, but I vow too, that I will not do it at the expense of the living breathing people here in this house. I want to be able to say how amazing our day was and how witty and fun and entertaining our kids were. I want to close up the laptop and flick off the television and laugh late into the night with the man who has always been and who will remain my best friend. He may not be on facebook or on twitter, but I know he is following me, and I him. I’m lucky I don’t need the email updates to remind me of that.