Lately my husband and I have been having a great deal of conversation on the importance and learning curve of finding one’s balance with regards to the many options for using our time in today’s world. Many of our friends are venturing into online activities for the first time and they’re in the spiral of recognizing for themselves the need to establish balance. We’ve been involved for so long that we’ve almost forgot what it was like when everything was new and how easy it is to become unbalanced. And we’re not perfect at it, we’ve just had a lot of practice. *wink*
One thing I keep hearing in conversations and discussions is the extreme view that recent technologies are either evil or good. It’s a silly case because as with all things they’re both because the potential lies with the user and their agency. Some will use it for good, others for evil. In my humble opinion, I think it’s supremely important to remain an active force for good. Which is why I smile inside knowing how many of my younger friends on Facebook may be thinking twice before they post or share something just knowing that I may see it. *giggle*
My first learning curve came in 1999. I was the mother of a beautiful little toddler and an active advocate for adoption. Online activities were starting a real upswing then and I became involved in many boards and forum discussions on the topic of adoption. I entered my first chat room on an adoption website and met a wonderful group of friends, some of whom I remain in contact with today. We were exposed to extreme anti-adoption personalities on the site that would come to stir up a great storm of mud and ugly. I didn’t like it at all, and sometimes it made me sick to my stomach – made me want to run away and hide from it all. But then that rebellious spirit kicked in and I knew I wanted to fight back for good. I started posting more actively on some of the discussions, especially those that were trying to undermine the potential positives of adoption. It was here that I began to cultivate a necessary and wonderful skill of really thinking through what I shared, of being extremely careful of my wording and my shares so they could not be misconstrued. This is doubly important because with text communication there is no body language, facial expression or voice inflection to get your point across or clarify your intent. It was also during this time that I recognized the dangers of being involved in something so interactive. While a TV can keep you entertained for a while, a chat room could get you addicted with a need and desire to come back often and to put off other things because it was interactive; in this relationship you were getting something back for your time making it far too easy to spend too much of it online. I believe it was the day my toddler buttered our Yorkie pup that I realized other duties might be slipping for my time spend visiting online with other adoptive and hopeful adoptive moms. (I fully expect a comment on this from Pookie’s mom!) But it was the day I caught myself telling her “Just one more Elmo” for the 3rd time in a row that I recognized I needed to fix something. I had to step back and begin to limit my time spent interacting with all these wonderful people who shared interests from adoption to religious beliefs and more so I could balance my time spent in the “real” world with my family, neighbors and friends. It was a fantastic and eye-opening learning curve for me and a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
So when blogging hit the scene, I found it much easier to enjoy it without letting it take over my time. I’d already had the learning curve on website forums and chat rooms as well as e-mail groups to help prepare me. Although, it still took some adjusting as it was too easy to spend hours reading other people’s blogs and getting caught up in how many would come read my own. For a while in the beginning it was delightful to see a Technorati rating run up and blogging awards find their way to you. It was easy to lose focus on both my purpose and my time spent there. Again, I met many wonderful friends, many of whom I remain in contact with on a regular basis. My learning curve expanded. So when Facebook exploded I had the advantage of all this learning behind me. It wasn’t a temptation to get involved in quizzes and games that seems to suck away the sands of time from my daily hourglass. I’d already done that with all the blogging memes when they first surfaced. It was a fun way to reconnect with people I grew up with and I dearly love that ability. While some people complain about not caring about what someone is doing, I find it an easy and fast way to interact with them. People who I would not normally run up to and have a conversation because of geographic or time gaps get a simple thumbs up from me or a comment that I hope they’re feeling better if they shared they’ve got a headache – both things that I was unable to do a few years ago. It doesn’t take as much time as e-mail or reading a blog and I like that ability. It is also a great way to develop and extend new friendships with others. Just this past weekend I was able to easily strike up a conversation with someone I’ve never spoken to face to face before simply because I’ve commented and interacted with her on some status updates on Facebook. It melted that first and awkward barrier and the result was wonderful.
All this said, I know many who are currently struggling with their own learning curves. For many of my friends tools like Facebook are their first venture into the online world. It has all the elements of everything I’ve experienced slowly to this point in one place. It is chatting, gaming, socializing and sharing and consequently I hear many friends express shame or worry over how much time they spend there. Each time I tell them the same thing. I tell them of my own experience and how natural it is to have to find your own balance with these modern technologies, but if they are diligent it will come. The first and most important step is simply realizing you’re out of balance because a problem to be fixed must first be seen.
I do worry for our youth who are growing up with all these tools and digital technologies as part of every day life. Their adjustments will be different because there’s no “new” element for them, it’s just life as they know it. I worry that they will sacrifice the blessings that come from personal interaction and service because it’s more comfortable to sit and text or visit online. I worry that they seem to be missing important lessons such as not sharing or posting information that doesn’t belong to you be it news or photos. I worry that they won’t be able to see the long term impact of sharing something silly when they’re mad or just feeling silly. I worry that they don’t understand what it means to “share” in today’s world; that they are providing proof for anyone to use for or against them. And I worry most because I see their parents struggling to learn these same lessons. My husband keeps telling me it’s time to expand my charm school training into an e-etiquette course! Maybe he’s right. *smirk*
So for all the positive, there is equal negative. It was ever thus. I just feel a need to share that it is what we make it. A private family blog can be the most wonderful and easy way to retain valuable communication and record family histories. It’s the best of both worlds because journaling and scrapbooking can be combined. Now you can even click on an option to have your entire blog published into a beautiful hardback book. These tools can make important things easier and within the reach of everyone. That same blog can also be a source of hurt and exclusion if what is shared is not done with care.
Although there are times when many of us would love nothing more than to be separated from this crazy world we live in, we are not here to be excluded. We are here to learn how to live in this world and grow, how to develop self control and positive traits, in short to learn how to become better people. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Balance can be found if it is sought after. Life is rich when it is obtained. Our ancestors have all experienced it. I’m sure the radio was an addiction in its day the same as TV and every other enhancement and advancement that’s come along. In so many ways striking balance is at the heart of our feeling successful and satisfied. As long as we don’t lose sight of that every tool that comes down the pike will be an advantage for us.