New Communication: In Defense of the Internet & Social Networking

I’ve heard all the talk about how Social Networking is the ruin of the world, just as, in the past, I heard all the fire-and-brimstone, end of the world talk about the internet and e-mail.

I’d just like to say that the Internet, and Social Networking, are a blessing to me, and I’m sure there are others who feel the same.

Why?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but while everyone is lamenting how the Internet and Social Media have destroyed the concept of a “real” relationship and made everything superficial, without emotional investment, I have to say that they have done exactly the opposite for me, allowing me to better open up and express myself, to form real and lasting bonds and strengthen friendships and family ties that were falling apart all around me, before.

Seems odd, you say?  Not so much.  You see, while I’m not exactly a terrible conversationalist, and I can speak with some passion about subjects that inspire me, I can’t say I’m a great personal orator.  I have early experiences that block me, in face-to-face conversation and relationships, from opening up and really letting the person to whom I’m speaking inside my head and heart.  It’s not that I don’t feel things – it’s that I have difficulty trusting that other people won’t react badly to what I have to say.  I’ve become far too familiar with the verbal (and emotional) slap, and like a wounded animal, I tend to shy away from putting myself into that kind of position again.  I’d rather slink off and hide in the corner, sunk in misery, than to look someone in the eye and tell them what I feel – often, whether that feeling is good or bad doesn’t matter.  I have almost as much difficulty with the words “I love you” as I do with “you hurt me” or “I don’t like this.”  It’s not that I don’t feel love – it’s that verbally expressing said feelings is neigh unto impossible for me.  Instead, I give myself ulcers.

However, as I’m sure you’ve noted, by now, I am quite emotionally expressive and a verbose communicator in written language.  This predates the Internet, by the way.

You see, I learned very young that the only outlet I had for getting out my feelings – whether those of pain and fear, or those of love – was to write it out.  I was an avid journal keeper as a child (however, I destroyed many of the pages I wrote practically as soon as I wrote them, just to make sure no one else found them), and I’ve always poured my heart into the written word.  It’s the one place I felt I could freely express what I thought and how I felt, because it didn’t matter if the person reading accepted it or not.  I didn’t have to deal with their ridicule or rejection – whether real or imagined.

However, in the days prior to the Internet, though I wrote literally hundreds of letters, I never really mailed any of them.  I would second-guess myself, talk myself out of it, and I didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why I needed a stamp.

The advent of the Internet provided me with not only the push I needed to get published as a fiction author, but also the means to start expressing myself.  It was a slow process, because I was technologically handicapped by an initial inability to navigate myself around, and also by a general sense of impatience that wasn’t up to the task of very old dial-up speeds (sitting around watching e-mail download or pages upload wasn’t my cup of tea, even when that was considered “fast.”)

By the time I discovered Social Media, I was already starting to come out of my shell.  The Internet had sufficient speed to allow me to communicate more effectively, and I could hold meaningful conversations, reveal bits of my inner feelings, so much more smoothly than ever before.

 

Social Media allows me the chance to not only stay in contact with my family and close friends, but it also allows me to express myself – my thoughts and feelings – in ways I’m just incapable of over the phone or in person.

Many people who have known or know me in person likely see me as one of two things – either a bitter, angry person who does nothing but complain, or a silly goof who takes nothing seriously and annoys people through her jokes and silliness.

Neither of these two facets are even close to the real me.  They’re shields – devices that I use to keep people from seeing inside me, from knowing how fragile I can really be, how vulnerable I make myself to other people, on the inside.  They keep people from guessing how much I care, and how deeply a careless or hurtful word really cuts.  Those over-the-top personalities are a curtain dropped between me and the rest of the world.  A curtain I pull especially tight against those I love – against my family and friends.

Why?  Because the people I love most have the most power to hurt me.  The people I care about the deepest have the ability to destroy a part of me with their rejections, coldness, or anger at me.  I don’t state this as anything more than simple fact.  Yes, I know I give away that power myself – but it’s something that I have little control over.  No one realizes how very much I care about those I love.

I can say it here.  I can tell the entire world that, for someone I love, someone I care about, I can and will literally lay down my life, if that’s the choice left me.  I would much rather die than ever have to face life without someone I love.  I know.  I’ve been there, and a part of me is still reeling, today, from the pain of not being able to stop the terrible whim of Fate, that day.

I can say it here.  I can tell you all that a single word of revilement, disgust, or rejection from someone I care about slices clear to my heart, and I bleed inwardly over it for decades – perhaps even a lifetime – to come.

But what I can’t do is tell anyone, face-to-face, how much I care.  I can’t tell them when I’m hurting or why.  I can’t reveal my most secret pains and fears to them.  Not if it requires me opening my mouth and having to let actual words come out.  In those situations, my brain freezes, my lips go numb, and my mind starts whirling with the beginnings of the “gonna hate me for this” or “gonna feel sorry for me” or “they don’t care how I feel,” etc, etc, etc.

So, while you may curse the destruction the Internet and Social Media have cast over the concept of meaningful communication and “real” relationships, I’ll be rejoicing in the freedom I’ve found.  The freedom to tell people “I love you,” or to let them know exactly how I feel.

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