At this point, I’m not entirely sure what to do with my online presence. There is something both deceptive and addictive about social media, including blogging. To be honest, outside of very close relationships, extended family, a couple of themed social groups, and work, my primary social interactions are online.
I know this is double-edged: it’s possible to find people who support you across the world, but at the same time, that information you put out is available to anyone and everyone with a reasonably functional internet connection. Unfortunately, that leaves one open to judgment, drama, harassment, and exploitation, also from anyone around the world…not to mention gaining a high from being friended by a computer program.
I spoke with family today about this. The issue I can see is that meeting online gives people too much information, too early; before they’ve proven themselves a worthy recipient of that information, or more to the point, without requiring they do so.
Also, dealing with making things — In Real Life — and dealing with digital surrogates of reality, often unnecessary digital surrogates…it contributes to an awareness of a sense of artificiality. There is the question of why a person would play a cross-stitch game when they could actually cross-stitch, and have something at the end of it, for example. In this particular instance, I would see the game as clearly inferior, unless there are issues of accessibility remedied by the game (for example, enlarged graphs which eliminate the need for magnifying gear).
I was also talking with someone about the difference between using a digital tablet to make art, and actually doing so without the computer as an intermediary. It’s evident to me that if one is not making professional illustrations, it may not be desirable — in my case, isn’t desirable — to go completely digital. However, I wouldn’t know this without having had the experience of both making art IRL, and making digital compositions.
Also, having studied online, and having primarily aimed for a Technical Services position, the underlying digital architecture of the systems I use has become clearer to me, even if I’ve only seen just the beginning of it. There are restrictions in a digital environment (the exceptions to which are called affordances), which do not necessarily exist, off of the computer.
So the question is one of digital/IRL: how do we retain the benefits of the reach a digital presence allows, and the sophistication of information provision it affords; at the same time as we balance our life so that the necessary restrictions of a digital environment do not dominate and restrict our creativity, and so we are still able to live a life of the quality that existed prior to ARPANET?
It’s a question I’ve been dealing with, recently. As I’ve begun to get some distance from my studies, I find myself experimenting with — and using — tools to practice arts and crafts, which I have not prior had the free time to use. It’s nice, I mean, to be able to do things and not be tracked or observed while doing them. It’s like an extension of the realization that I don’t have to worry if a paper book is watching me back, as I read it.
Over the years, I’ve put a lot of information about myself online, not all of it reliable. 😉 The truth of the matter seems to be, though, that people only know as much information about me as I allow them to know. However: for me, the main issue is being known as versus being unknown.
I went through the first part of my life believing — perhaps falsely — that I was unknown. If no one knows anything about you, that is, it’s much harder for them to accurately and specifically target you. (Of course, though, then; as humans are wont to do, they tend to make up information about why they [and others] should hate you so that they can feel justified in doing so.) The major problem with checking out of the game this way, though, is that your impact on the world, as regards your thoughts and perspective, is minimized. You stop being a participant, that is.
Is it possible to make things better while not engaging with problems? The answer I immediately jump to is, “no,” but I’m not sure that’s accurate. If I am being a good person and quietly living my best life given the circumstances, am I making the world better, just by existing? By setting an example? I (truly) don’t know.
For about the last decade, I’ve been out in the world more than I had been at any time prior. I’ve gotten to the point of actually being able to feel like I have a voice and place in society, and that it doesn’t have to be what other people say — or think — it should be. This is primarily because I have a private life and a public one, and people from the latter (IRL) often do not (and should not) make it into the sphere of the former.
With social media, and even with Web search, the public and private spheres tend to collapse. At least that is so, with me. (Or should online be considered a hybrid environment?) At some point, I become irritated that I can’t say what I actually want to say; I question why it is that I am stopping myself from saying it; and sometimes, I just go ahead and break that barrier. Anonymity, although illusory, lowers the threshold of that barrier.
The problem is that once something is said (or done), it tends to stick around for a while, and can follow one for a while — even if it is obvious that saying or doing it was a mistake. I’m going to be gracious here and say that I don’t think anyone really would want to make mistakes (and then be held responsible for those mistakes, at least; there often is the lure of doing something “wrong”, at the time).
The problem is that there are still people who are shocked that other people are different or fallible. If we all expected that there are going to be things we don’t like on virtually any person we select — that no one is 100% morally guarded, ideal, and superior at all times — we wouldn’t be surprised when evidence to the contrary comes up, and maybe we would be able to stop living in fear of it coming up.
That is in no way to condone shaming, but that is to say that everyone makes mistakes; in the Digital Age, however, those mistakes tend to be recorded and replayable.
But do we check out because of the possibility that we may one day be seen by others as imperfect?
Right now I am taking a needed break from pushing myself to write, here. But you see, something still got written. When I was training to be a writer, the mantra was basically to write every day, even if I didn’t think I had anything to write about.
I think I can stop doing that, now — at least, in public. There’s more to life than reading and writing, that is…