Recently I participated in a two-week study on all things digital--my tools and devices and social networks--that I use on a daily basis. Participating in this research made me much more mindful of the way that digital communication dominates my life. Things like Facebook and Instagram and blogging and texting connect me to people in ways that feed my sense of belonging and help me be part of others' lives that isn't possible any other way. For a long time I have justified my addiction to such things, but I am starting to re-examine my behavior.
Another thing that has been on my mind is my need for validation from my peers. When I have a little experience or thought, whether frustrating or funny or strange or happy, my immediate impulse is to share it on Facebook, through my blog, or via text to a friend. When I don't get a response, or don't get one that I am expecting or needing, I feel frustrated or hurt or even embarrassed for being vulnerable in such a way. Why is that? Why do I feel such a need for feedback from friends and acquaintances through social media? What does that say about my confidence and self-worth?
And then there are the big experiences. Sometimes I share too much and feel the sting of regret (my Oct. 31 post is the perfect example). People just don't need to know about my mental status or when I lose my temper. Some of the dark corners of my life are better left in the dark. I can be honest without over-sharing. I need to work on that.
I think this behavior and attitude extend into my non-digital life. There have been many times in the last couple of years when I really wished someone would reach out to me on a bad day instead of me soliciting some form of help. I have never understood why that hasn't happened in my hour of need. Yesterday a friend who knows about those feelings told me that there is danger in such an expectation. I tend to agree. Perhaps there are times to be alone instead of surrounded. Perhaps there are times to be still and private instead of expressive and public.
At the moment I don't have answers to any of my questions, but I do think I will be stepping back at least a bit from my digital life. I will continue with my blog, as I enjoy the family history it creates. I feel a connection to my posterity, those who might learn something from my experience or at least get to know their ancestors--my little family--in a somewhat meaningful way. But that exercise will be just for me. If you want to join my journey, I'll enjoy your company. You just might have to tell me in person that you're coming along for the ride.