July 1, 2010

Let Go/Be Still: Breaking Up with the Internet

A funny thing happens when your internet bill goes unpaid.

They shut off your internet service.

And that's what happened to us for appromixately 27 hours this week. We lost our internet connection about an hour before Roy left for work yesterday morning. When he left without fixing the problem, I was like, "Hey, you can't leave me here at home alone with this kid without an internet connection!"

But then I realized he could - after all, he already had - and moreover, that we would be just fine.

I won't say I was more productive in those 27 hours I spent internet-less. (Our days have become so full of activities that it's hard to find the time to get other things done.) But honestly, even though I could not look up things right when I needed to and I wasn't sure if any of my friends were trying to contact me, life went on. It's true! Life went on - without Facebook, without Google Reader, without this blog, without any of the message boards that I frequent. It even went on without email.

I can't pinpoint the actual time it happened, but it was several months ago that I became extremely disillusioned with the internet. On Facebook I began to notice how people were using their status updates to say extremely negative and ignorant things about Obama, the healthcare bill, etc. I noticed how there was an actual group formed that called for Obama's death. I joined one that was in opposition to that group and was appalled at one of the first comments I read: that Sarah Palin and her daughter needed to be anally raped. Needless to say, I was disgusted.

One of my Facebook friends, an old friend of mine from Texas, would post every single day about the evil, fascist, Communist dictator that is Obama and his "entitlement programs", and finally one day I spoke up and told him that his status updates were offensive. His defense? Free speech!

Of course. Like I didn't see that one coming. It's only the most played-out excuse for saying whatever you please online (and anywhere else).

Here's the thing. Just because you can say anything you want doesn't mean you should. Just because you can post a passive-aggressive status update on Facebook doesn't mean that you should. Just because you can post a blog entry about how much someone sucks doesn't mean that you should. (Having been on the receiving end of both, I can tell you that it really sucks when people talk about you in a negative way, all the while knowing that you are reading it.)

I think that the internet has made us forget that there are real people sitting behind those screens. There are real feelings at stake. Anytime someone says something hateful or unsupportive regarding various aspects of motherhood (or something else that I'm invested in), it makes my heart hurt. When I see people tearing each other to shreds over something that is ultimately pointless, I can recall, with absolute clarity, some of the old internet drama I used to participate in.

I used to spend long hours trapped behind a desk, and I absolutely hated it. To pass the time (and probably because I was really unhappy with my job), I got way too involved in what other people were saying and doing online, and it resulted in some bad behavior on my part. I always got caught up in stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with me. There were times when I said some really mean and regrettable things, and I always felt like shit immediately after I would hit "post." I always offered my apologies afterward, but sometimes an apology will only do so much.

Fast forward to now, and I just don't have the time or energy to care. If someone tries to bait me, I ignore it. I just can't be bothered with all this nonsensical online bullshit. I have a kid to worry about - and it's important to me that I be the best person I possibly can be, even if no one's watching.

I got into an e-argument earlier this week. I ordered a book through PaperBackSwap, and it came in with water damage (a big no-no). I cheerfully wrote to the person who sent it to me and told her about the water damage. Then I asked her if she'd refund my credit since it's against guidelines to swap water-damaged books. I figured it was a done deal.

But no. She fought me on it, insisted that there was no water damage when it left her hands. We had several back and forth conversations, and basically she refused to refund my credit because there was no way she could guarantee the condition of the book once she'd sent it out. (She also refused to pay shipping if I returned the book to her.) Honestly, at that point, I was pissed. There have been a couple of occasions when another person has asked for a credit refund, and I've always graciously granted it. I couldn't understand why she wasn't doing the same thing - moreover, I didn't get why she never even offered me an apology.

I finally just told her that I didn't think she was being ethical at all. And I was pretty snotty about it. And of course, I felt like shit about it afterwards. That voice in my head said, "WTF, Les? So you got a water-damaged book. Yeah, it's against the rules, but in the end it's not going to matter at all. Suck it up and deal. Don't make someone else feel badly because you're all righteously indignant." So I wrote to her again. I told her I was upset about getting a water-damaged book that would ultimately end up being unswappable/unsellable but that I could still read it - and I also told her that I had no business judging her and that I was sorry for doing so. I meant every word.

Minutes later, I got a notice through email that she had refunded my credit. We never exchanged another word, but I took that as her own apology and her acceptance of mine.

Lesson learned: Good things happen when you remember that the person you're conversing with online is an actual person with actual feelings.

My latest depression taught me that I need real things in life. I want real communication with real people. I want a life that has nothing to do with Facebook or Google Reader or Twitter. It's not that I view my online friends as less than real, because they are very real to me. But nothing can replace that face-to-face interaction. Nothing can beat the actual living of life. Sure, I could blog every day and show everyone about what I've been up to, but that would take away from the time I have to actually do it.

My blog entries have become more and more sporadic because I have turned away from the internet as my prime method of communicating with others (and myself). Again, it has nothing to do with my online friends, but it does have everything to do with the way I think. Using the internet has actually changed the way my brain functions. I honestly think sometimes that I have ADD. There have been days when I am shutting down for the night, and I find about 25 web windows that have been left open, their contents completely forgotten as I moved on to the next thing throughout the day. There have been nights that I've spent an hour or more just mindlessly making my way through the vast complex connections between blogs and web sites, etc. There's nothing wrong with reading blogs, nothing wrong with visiting web sites, but more times than not, I don't get much out of it. Just the passage of time and glassy eyes and a mind that won't stop.

Instead, I've turned back to journaling. It feels organic and fresh and just so right for where I am right now. It's something I do just for me, without worrying why I'm not getting as many blog comments as I used to, is it because I'm boring, do people hate what I'm talking about, should I change my blog to make it more interesting for others, should I be commenting more on others' blogs, but man that takes so much time and I'm strapped for that as it is. I'm so tired of trying to make everyone else happy that sometimes, very often actually, I think seriously about calling it quits with blogging. In many ways I love it; I love the connections I've made; I love reading about other people's lives; but I hate how it makes me feel just exhausted sometimes.

I don't think I'll be closing down the ol' blog anytime soon (nor do I ever plan on putting an end to reading blogs), but for necessity's sake, I have to push aside those thoughts about what I should be writing about and instead just write. That's what blogging is about, and that's what makes it so great. It gives even the smallest person a voice.

What I've really decided is that the internet and I, we had a 10+ year run where we couldn't live without each other, but now we need to see other people. My time with my family and friends (and even myself) is an absolute treasure, and every time I run off to check my email, I'm running away from an opportunity to just be. Life is meant to be lived, and a clever and interesting status update isn't going to make my existence more valid. I'm not dropping off the face of the earth entirely, but the best place to find me is beyond the code, beyond the links, somewhere far beyond the computer screen.

Maybe I'll see you there, too.


Eric's Mommy said...

Wonderful Leslie. I love this post and all your posts.

I need to break up with the internet too.

inflammatory writ said...

I've tried to break up with the internet, but at the end of the day, the internet has given me a lot of wonderful things in my life and opportunities I am very grateful for. It gives me a chance to express myself through writing EVERY DAY - and that's a gift that I can't break up with just yet.

I also have a desk job, and I can't get through it without the webz! hahaha.

Leslie said...

Thanks, Eric's Mommy!

Kari - I know exactly what you're saying. The internet has given me many gifts, too. I just think that moderation is key these days. It's too easy to get caught up in stuff that ultimately doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Great post Leslie! I actually haven't been on my blog in almost a year and just made a post today. I kind of touched on this a bit myself. Funny that we're kinda thinking the same thing. I wish you the best. Maybe I'll see you out and about in the city?


amber said...

Nothing wrong with prolonged internet breaks. I still enjoying seeing you here in the blogosphere, though, even if it is more sporadic. :)