Facebook and blogging

by Andrea Elizabeth

With some of my favorite bloggers talking about Facebook, and yesterday’s homily being on internet relationships, I guess I’ll throw in my two cents. Facebook is semi-private so you can see what people you know to varying degrees are up to. You can also tell them what you are up to. Some people spend too much time catching up and some people possibly don’t spend enough. My kids and I are all over the place on that one. It is really weird finding out things on the internet about people who are in the same room with you. How valuable is all this personal knowledge? I say you can live with it, and you can live without it. I choose to mainly use Facebook to know what my kids are up to. Other people’s news is gravy. Maybe I could do without so much gravy, but since I’m not a monastic, and believe in gray areas, not gray gravy, I occasionally indulge.

I’m more into blogging, which brings up the homily. Actually instead of talking about that, I’ll say something that George told me that he heard about the people besides Al Gore who invented the internet. They said they are disappointed by the amount of sleaze and trolling that goes on. I have a theory that there is a curve to new freedoms. First people are scared to try it, then they go crazy, then things settle down. This happened with the 60’s with S,D, and R&R. Not that people get tired of it, but when people have spent themselves and gotten over stuff, they begin to make more rational choices. The internet allows people to express their inner selves more easily. I tend to think that it is not the expression that is unhealthy, but what lies inside. Granted it is risky to let your inner self out, especially in public, but I think there is more of a safety barrier on the internet. You can click away from something that feels threatening easier than you can get out of an inappropriate conversation with a face to face person. We can be duped into fantasizing that certain online personalities have a real relationship with us on the internet, but we can do this in real life too. Expectations, experiences and desire color all our relationships, online or not. We are not even who we think we are to some extent. Internet relationships are probably more like relationships with our favorite newscaster or author, but are also more mutual, which is sort of strange. It’s a new kind of relationship.

About trolling, trolls are people too. So are sleaze bags. They have issues. How can we protect ourselves from people with issues? Of course we should have boundaries, and like I said enforcing them is easier on the internet. But we have issues too. These make us vulnerable to either become abused or abusers. Probably both. Dispassion is the goal, but it is at the end of a very long road. One that I think can include the internet. When one starts letting the hidden stuff out, within certain boundaries of course, it can get ugly. Ideally one does this within traditional ways like with friends, family, fellow parishioners, and one’s priest. But many do not feel that all they need to say is said with those people. What about people who like published words and want a way to interact with them in an informal published way? I think the main thing, and I’ve heard this before, is to be careful to properly prioritize face to face relationships with on-line activity. If one is neglecting the people mentioned above, or if things are becoming inappropriate, then it is not healthy.

About unhealthiness, there are different remedies for this, but I think unhealthy people need to be able to talk. However, the audience should be tailored to their ability to take it. I don’t think one can blanketly prescribe only one category of person unhealthy people should talk to. I tend to think everyone is unhealthy, but what do I know? The internet can provide more of a variety of listeners, but one cannot control their audience, so that is the downside. Furthermore, cures are not guaranteed, no matter what remedies are tried.

My opinion right now is that the internet is not more dangerous than public areas. One can feel violated seeing the swimsuits at the beach, or even some clothes at church, I’m not even talking about tv and movies. We violate people without realizing it. The goal though is not to find a completely sterile environment, though of course kids and more vulnerable people subject to temptation, like me, need to be protected as much as possible. There is however no such thing as a completely sterile environment. Building up immunity requires exposure, sometimes controlled, sometimes not. But hopefully not too much to be fatal or debilitating.

May the Holy Theotokos protect us all from each other and ourselves. And thanks for being part of my therapy. I hope it isn’t completely one-sided.