Let me tell you a little story about Quantum Link, and 1988. There was something “new” out. It was a disk, and you could put it into your computer, and it would make that wonky internet sound, and you would automatically be connected to people all over the country. I went to some of the first AA meetings online, and it was like a kid in a candy shop. You could sit at your computer and be automatically connected to someone.
I met someone who lived in New York. Eventually, we talked online. He was in a band, an old band. I, of course, did not believe him…so, I sauntered on down to the corner “Used Records” store, and I looked it up. There he was, in his 70’s ensemble. I think his name was “Sproket” or “Stellar” or something. We all had made up names back then. There were no “real” names used. I finally met some of the AA people in person…and I really understood that who you are online is sometimes WORLDS apart from how I perceive you in person.
Fast forward to today, 20+ years later. The internet has taken these random connections and has sped up relationships. I have a few friends who have met their spouses online. Every summer, 6 of us get together…we met on the Weight Watcher’s Message boards in 2003. We have our own blog, and we all check in daily. It’s taken us a lot of time to trust, and tell the truth, but these are secure relationships.
Last season, I blogged on the Dodgers’ Blue Notes live blog. My boss blogged during the games. It would be very easy for him to find Ms. V on many websites, because that’s normally how I post. This is the reason that you will never find me bashing him on my blog. He may read it. He may not. But, I need to know that whatever I write is saved in cyberspace forever…and if I blog on my site at school, then I know that the Superintendent can read it also. I know this, because it’s happened to others. My only saving grace is that on my evaluations, my boss commended me for blogging with other teachers, and for teaching kids how to make their own blogs and do the same.
I am, however, a really crappy internet communicator. Time and time again, I have pissed people off. One group completely split up because of something one of us said, then we all chimed in, and by the time women from California to New Hampshire, and all in between had given their opinions, a group of 13 was chopped into two. It wasn’t in real time: it happened over a period of days. It’s just the way we operate now.
I come across poorly on message boards. I really have a way of saying something inflamatory, and then little by little people speak their opinions, and by the end of it, I feel ridiculous…because perhaps I typed something quick as I go out the door, or I’m feeling crappy, or I say something insensitive…and by the time you sit down to your computer to read it, it is something completely different, or you’re in a funky mood. By that time, maybe I feel differently. Maybe I forgot. But I always, always feel bad if I say something random and it didn’t come across the way I intended it.
I don’t BCC anymore. I forward. You can BCC something, and if that person doesn’t know you’re BCCing, they can reply “all”, and suddenly you are in trouble. That has not happened to me personally, but I have been on the receiving end of someone gossiping about me, and I accidentally got the email. Relationships have ended.
Someone recently asked runners to send in questions to be answered in a column or something. I asked a question…not realizing it would be on a podcast…and not really caring…until I was alerted that it WAS on there, and the folks were making fun of it. It’s okay. Apologies all around, and yet the snark continued about kittens and rainbows, and a conversation that you might have with your buddy about “that asshole”, suddenly becomes public. People were blocked, Relationships were ended.
When I speak of relationships, I’m not talking about flesh and blood…unless of course, you take next step to take the time to share pictures, make phone calls, plan a face to face meeting… The relationships are all online, but they are relationships nonetheless. A place where I could anonymously post a thought, becomes a target or a joke. That’s the thing I don’t get: I can say whatever I want…I just need to remember that I have to be open to however people respond.
I recently ran the River City Half Marathon. Because of Athlinks, I knew of another runner who was running it. I greatly admire him. I saw him at the race. Pre-race, I see him, and I go up to him, and shake his hand, and tell him I read his blog. He looks shocked. He says, “Um, this is my wife.” I say hello, and good luck, and read his race report with pleasure, because I was there too. The girls I am running with laugh and laugh, because we imagine he thinks I’ve been stalking him. I haven’t. I just read the blog.
Twitter is my new fascination. I love that I can automatic updates on the things I follow: The Dodgers, Pete Carroll and the NFL Draft, The Modesto Bee, etc. I learned of the TNT training from right here online. I like the relative anonymity as I follow Eddie Izzard, Lance Armstrong, John Mayer. However, if, on your blog, you have a widget that says, “Follow Me on Twitter”, you are essentially letting the internet community know that you are tweeting, and that your 140 characters are out there for everyone to see, and that you are essentially INVITING people to connect.
Somehow due to a tweet connection, perhaps you can share too much information, or suddenly, you are more connected with someone than you want to be. This happened to me when I went on Facebook. It was too much. The person I left in third grade, I really WANT to leave in third grade. Facebook didn’t work for me, because it was way too intimate.
I think this is always interesting. I have a blog that some people in my small hometown read. I am always aware of this when I write. Perhaps someone will send a piece of it to an ex-relative, or to a friend of a friend, and by the time it gets to Michigan, 5 people have commented on it. My ex husband will have information that has been filtered to him by other people. And, I’m aware of this when I write.
Am I that important? No. No I’m not. But the perception you may have of me or my internet skills would be taken only from what I type, edit and re-edit on my blog. I’m not an internet stalker (what is that?), but when you go on my blog, and my sitereader says someone from Ames, Iowa was on it for 8 minutes, then I wonder…where is Ames, Iowa…and I may go to Google, and look at your town, the makeup, etc. If you are getting the link from Iowa State University, it will tell me that either a student, teacher or staff member was reading my blog…and it’s all very curious to me. The funny thing is, I always am reading someone’s blog as I go to lunch, and while you think I’ve been perusing for 38 minutes, I actually just forgot to click the big red X…so site counters don’t always tell the picture either.
I love the internet. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am CONNECTED (capitals intended). But, it’s not who I am. Not completely. It’s who I am as a writer, my inner thoughts disseminated, chewed up and spit out for your consumption. Or not.
I don’t write this blog to be connected; it’s a byproduct of writing. I have learned so much from people who blog….particularly teachers and runners. I would not be running today were it not for the kind advice and help from the runners who blog. However, I never confuse my blogging with my flesh and blood folks.
It’s not 1988, after all.