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Powering Down

You know how I asked if social media had the potential to do more damage than goodYesterday’s comments were literally the catalyst that set life back on track for myself and the ChickieNob.  There were both the smart words that you handed to me that I could pass along to her in order to help her make sense of the idea of broken promises (and whether to keep hers), but there was also this… intangible wave of support… I’m having difficulty putting this into words.  I guess it’s like this: you know how when you do a trust fall, you have that moment when your body touches down against all the hands and you’re cushioned?  That’s how I felt receiving your comments and guidance.  And once that happened, I was able to take a deep breath, clear my mind, get the next idea for the ChickieNob, and move forward.  I wish I could write more concretely about it, but it involves other people and therefore doesn’t feel quite like my story to tell.  But suffice to say that like Pippin, we’re on the right path.  Because of all of you.

You’ve probably noticed that I’m thinking a lot about external validation lately.  Sort of hard to hide it when you write three posts (1, 2, and 3) about it over a month, not to mention the Ashley Judd post.  It is hard to grapple with the idea of this thing — the Internet — which brings such joy and such tsuris.  That the very same thing can unite us and divide us — sometimes on the very same day.  You can write a post, get ten comments that validate your feelings and make you feel connected to something and additionally get ten comments that negate your feelings and make you feel alienated from humanity.  Or not get any comments or page views at all and feel equally isolated.

It is very easy to feel alone — to feel lonely — amongst the billions of people on the Internet.  It is as if all of us are traveling the same road, the same tubes of the Internet, yet some feel as if they are in a car and some feel as if they are in a bus.  And some of the bus people might wish for the solitude of the car and some of the car people might wish for the camaraderie of the bus (I’m picturing the camp bus more than the public transport here in town), though many are fine with how they’re traveling this road just as long as they are free of blown tires and other obstacles.

On a good day, I feel like the blogosphere is humming.  It hums, at least, for me.  I like dropping in on all the various blogs along this road.  I like my phone buzzing to tell me that people are communicating with me.  It’s all good.  On a bad day, it sounds like out-of-tune guitar strings.  I feel stretched too thin.  I feel lonely amongst everyone else.  But mostly, it feels out of my control — it always IS out of my control, but on bad days it also feels out of my control.  There is nothing I can do to make it right, to make it hum again.  It ebbs and flows even as my actions remain the same.

I realized the finger trap nature to the Internet long ago — the harder I tug, the more stuck I get.  It doesn’t help to tug at the collective Internet.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is step away, or deep breathe and continue to do the same actions knowing that the waning will once again wax.  Or vice versa.

I’ve been turning off my phone for two hours every day while I do yoga or go running.  It started with yoga; the studio just felt like the sort of place where I should shut out all external distractions — even good distractions.  And then one day, I realized that the time I had the phone off had become a sanctuary instead of a stress.  It had a starting point and an end point.  It wasn’t long enough for lots of things to pile up that would need my attention.  It was just this little bite of time where I had no access to this thing that brings me happiness and stress and where the Internet also had no access to me.

I have never had a desire for a long digital sabbatical.  If someone wants to unplug, I think they should unplug.  If someone doesn’t really want to unplug, I don’t see a reason for them to unplug just because there are posts on the Internet saying how great it is.  I don’t think it’s the only way to reach a place of balance where you can allow the Internet to wax and wane without dragging you with it. (Though I think even if you’re cognizant of the movements of the Internet — or friendships or relationships or fill in the blank with anything that has the tendency to change over time — you can’t help but be emotionally affected if you become emotionally affected.  It’s hard to talk yourself out of your feelings.)

It is two years on from when I wrote about the way the Internet can affect my mood.  I am no closer to being in a place where the Internet doesn’t affect my mood.  It feels a bit like the position “crow” in yoga — some days I can get it and some days I can’t, and I don’t really know why that is nor do I have the strongest desire to be master over this position.  Even when I have it, I can’t hold it very long.  And that is how I feel about the Internet and the validation I take from my writing or interactions with others.  I sometimes get it and I sometimes don’t, and I have no idea why.  It sometimes affects me and it sometimes doesn’t, and I have no idea why.  I have been trying to let it go and move with it rather than trying to make it move with me.  Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not.

Which is why I start this same conversation over and over again with you.  I keep returning to the same ideas and broaching the same topic with new analogies or new entrances with the hope that one day it will all make sense.  And until then, we can talk about it; acknowledge it.  Allow each other to know that we mostly grapple with the same thoughts just with different specifics colouring them.


1 Esperanza { 05.17.12 at 12:27 pm }

I left my original blog, at least for a time, because I could tell I was getting too attached. When I had a post up I’d check my inbox obsessively for comments and when they didn’t come I’d feel lonely and depressed and just generally shitty. I have so much in my life making me feel bad I don’t want my blog to add to the negativity. And I realize that actually it’s all the other bad stuff that makes me so dependent on validation from my blog. When I’m not hearing back from publishers or about job interviews or from my realtor, I REALLY want to hear back from my blog readers and when I don’t, or at least don’t in the way I was hoping for, it hurts even more than it would normally. So I have pulled away to protect myself. Because I’m not strong enough to be understanding and keep things in perspective. And I try to delve into other projects, projects that I have no expectations of, projects that I don’t expect anything from, at least not yet.

It’s hard to blog sometimes. It’s hard not to compare. The idea that you would ever feel lonely on the Internet is so crazy for me because you seem to have sooooo much support and you inspire such thoughtfulness and poise in others and I would be thrilled to have what you have but of course if I did, I’d probably feel similarly to how you feel, because that is human nature, to want something more, or at least different, to compare but not objectively, to quantify and qualify but again with great bias, bias we don’t necessarily realize colors our persecutions. It’s hard not to seek outside validation, especially when you are putting yourself out there, when you are projecting your energy into the ether. It’s depleting to send it out and get little back. It’s tough. And when you’re doing that in other parts of your life it can be hard to keep it up here.

I’m glad you felt the support to help you through the hard times this week. And I hope Chickienob feels that support too.

2 Kathy { 05.17.12 at 1:50 pm }


I don’t have a lot to say about this post, but appreciate where you are coming from, the reflections you have shared and am nodding my head in agreement.

I think we return to some of these same discussions and truths for us over and over again, because we need to remind ourselves everyday of what it is important in our lives.

I heard recently that when we choose to forgive someone, we don’t just forgive them once, we need to try to keep forgiving them again and again. Everyday we make that choice to forgive. Anyway, I think it is the same when it comes to what makes us feel good about ourselves and what doesn’t. We need to be reminded regularly that we are loved and appreciated and to tell ourselves and our loved ones the same things often.

I guess I had more to say than I thought. Funny how that works. I missed your post yesterday, but am glad that you got the feedback you were looking for to help Chickienob. I look forward to going back and reading what you wrote and the comments that moved you.

3 a { 05.17.12 at 2:11 pm }


4 It Is What It Is { 05.17.12 at 3:29 pm }

Yeah, I liken the sometimes isolating and lonely feeling of the blogosphere to diffused responsibility. You know, there are 20 adults all standing around a children’s swim party and a child drowns or goes missing because no one notices since everyone thinks everyone else has an eye out.

I think that sometimes those who lurk or read without commenting figure they have nothing to add to the conversation or that someone else has it covered. But, even if I read a bunch of comments to someone’s entry and even if what I have to say is essentially echoing what others have said, I at least say that because I do think there is something powerful in collective support.

I don’t think much about unplugging as I don’t feel stressed to be plugged in. If I’m having a particularly down day (like today, for instance), I find myself looking for on-line support or distraction much more than on any other given day, but mostly being plugged in is part of the ebb and flow of my daily life.

So glad that the comments buoyed you.

5 Stinky { 05.17.12 at 5:40 pm }

Never got to commenting yesterday, but I didn’t feel I had anything to add, I just wanted to acknowledge the thought-provoking subject matter re the ChickieNob, and all the fab considered comments you got on this, I felt privy to a source of wisdom and sharing and it felt really nice!

I like the validation stuff that keeps popping up in your posts. Its not a matter I think one can write a post on and be done with – its one of those subjects that keeps morphing as I process my feelings around blogging and how it is, or isn’t received. I see it as obviously I like feedback, otherwise I would just continue journaling privately. I don’t feel a need to unplug as I don’t need to disconnect any further – although sometimes I have likened it to screaming into a void, I know this is just reflecting whats going on in my head that needs looking at and breaking down rather than trying to change the external

6 Mic { 05.17.12 at 8:08 pm }

Very thoughtfully composed post. I can relate on so many levels and experience this disconnect myself. Love your description of the internet humming.

7 Mali { 05.18.12 at 1:43 am }

Yes, the internet affects my moods (comments, no comments, what the comments say, other posts, or simply whether it’s going fast or slow!), but so does National Radio (NZ’s public radio station), the editor of the local newspaper and her sports editor’s fascination with photos of women’s boobs and crotches, other drivers on the road, the weather, and hormones (list far from exclusive). When I was going through pregnancy loss, I panicked if I lost my internet connection, or the dreadful few days when my computer died! These days, however, I’m more zen. Or I force myself to try to be more zen, and just to accept it’s presence, or lack of presence. I will say however that a week on safari in South Africa, when we were out of cellphone range and internet service was unreliable (not worth bothering with), I detoxed completely. I think a break from anything we do for a lot of time (whether it’s work, internet, reading, etc) is good for all of us, even if it is simply to reassess, reaffirm, and refresh our lives.

8 loribeth { 05.18.12 at 9:03 am }

I think that bringing up the same issues over & over helps us to work through them & process them. I often find myself writing about something on my blog, & then reading old posts, only to find I’d written about the exact same subject, sometimes using the exact same words & phrases. Oh well!

Facilitating our pg loss support group, we encouraged everyone to tell their story, or at least some version or aspect of it, at the start of every meeting, even if everyone in the room knew each other well & could probably tell the story for you. The theory presented to us was that each time you tell your story, you process and integrate another part of it into your overall life and experience. I seem to remember a story about brain scans of trauma patients, & how they had to tell their stories at least 50 times before significant changes could be detected. I found that fascinating. And even when I thought I knew everyone’s story well, every now & then, some new little detail would emerge that I’d never heard before.

I don’t think I could ever take a complete digital sabbatical, at least, not for too long. ; ) That week I pulled my blog offline recently seemed like eons to me. ; ) There have been a couple of times that our phone & Internet service was disrupted for a day or two, & I was a little shocked at just how antsy I felt about it.

I do try to limit myself in some ways, though. I am on Facebook & Pinterest, but not Twitter, & on FB I don’t chat or play games. I don’t have a smartphone. (Yet?) I don’t even text. The cellphone I do have is rarely on & very few people have the number. I see people who are just glued to their cellphones & I find it a little scary. I also get annoyed when other people subject me to their lengthy, inane conversations in a store or on the train, like they’re sitting in their living room at home. I don’t want to be one of those people.

I haven’t been able to spend much time online the last week or so, for pleasure, anyway. I am WAY behind on my blog reading & commenting. But sometimes, life just takes over…!

9 HAT { 05.18.12 at 9:34 am }

As someone who is just starting out blogging again, i can understand that. For me , right now at least, my blog is just me venting. Mind you I now have 3 followers and feel quite excited about this. Since I have only just started following blogs as well I understand their excitement when i post and they get an email. Why no one comments who knows, I almost dont want comments, I just like knowing someone might read it and nod or shake their head. Its all good. I also love discovering new blogs in this circle of barren women moving on with life. (i use barren because it describes my situation, child-free or child less even with the not by choice, still feels like a choice was made and i just dont feel i was the one that made it, i just have to live with it)

10 Keiko { 05.18.12 at 12:28 pm }

Mel, are you familiar with the Shabbos Manifesto? They’re also a big proponent of the National Day of Unplugging. More details: http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/. First heard about this at High Holiday services last year.

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.18.12 at 3:47 pm }

You have a wise section of the Internet over here, for sure.

More and more I have been feeling like I want pockets of time where the Internet also had no access to me, too. I unplug for longer chunks on weekends — sometimes all weekend.

I love the way you talk about the sounds — the hum and the out-of-tune twang. That resonates for me.

Looking forward to Crow with you. And side crow and cloud.

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