Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reaching out, shutting down

There are so many ways we can reach out to each other these days, and a lot of it is on-line. I use twitter, flickr, and facebook regularly, and I've dabbled in loads of other places: google+, pinterest, blip, instagram, and no doubt a few others I've forgotten. There's also email, phone calls, and text messages to reach out. I've also been known to write a real letter that has to be delivered to a mailbox.

I do all this to try to connect to the people in my life. Some people use facebook, others use twitter. I even know some people who prefer an actual phone call. There are so many options these days that we all get to pick our favorites. Which, at first, sounds wonderful, but there's some definite drawbacks.

One issue is a sort of snobbery about what kind of communication is the best. "You twitter? Isn't that for kids?" "I don't understand why you'd ever think sending a text is better than leaving a voicemail." "Can't you just email those pictures instead of posting them on facebook?" Personally, I try to not make judgments, although I can see differences. Twitter (at least the people I follow) seems to be more about the witty quips whereas facebook is more about actual life events. I might know a bit more about my facebook friends' kids and families, but my twitter friends actually make me laugh out loud. There are days I'd rather get a well thought-out email rather than a chatty phone call. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and I am always happy to see what my friends on flickr are posting.

But it is overwhelming. When something is new in my life, where and how do I share it? If I put it everywhere, am I boring people? But how do I know who knows what's happening in my life? In the other direction, how do I keep up with all of it? It takes me a while to catch up every morning, and there's something tiring to feeling like you have to connect so much, even though I am always glad to hear from people.

I've noticed that some friends are dropping out of certain places, and, while I hate to see them go, I understand. Maybe we all need to get a bit selfish about our communication. Maybe it might force more community if we're not all scattered to our different places. In theory, I like that idea, but I am afraid of missing certain people. I think about the people I know who have left certain places: a friend (temporarily, thank goodness) left twitter and I missed her so much. Another person I follow on twitter left flickr, which is a huge shame because his photos are amazing. I feel it when people leave, and I don't like it. I am also grateful for the people I have connected (or reconnected) with via these different outlets.

I know I need filters, but, even as I write this, it sounds snobby or dismissive. "You're not interesting enough/funny enough/whatever enough to make my cut." Which is, of course, not what I would mean at all. Maybe it comes from my own fear of not being interesting or funny. Where do you make the choice between hurting someone's feelings and giving yourself a break? I am still struggling with that. I hope to get a balance, but, for now, I am leaning towards being overwhelmed.

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