Counterpoint: How I love the internet
February 26, 2016
Most people who know me offline-only don’t know that I’ve got health issues. I don’t advertise, and unless it’s relevant, it never gets discussed. But it’s a very real thing that impacts everything I do in every way possible.
PiC lives with me and still forgets how overwhelmingly present my pain and fatigue can be. The level of exhaustion I feel every single day is equivalent to having a bad head cold. Higher pain episodes are like being struck down with the flu and its friend, the 105 degree fever, losing control of your muscles and consciousness, an anvil on your chest forcing you to gasp for the lightest breath. For days. Days and nights, forever and ever amen.
From that perspective, even though I’m considered “functional”, lots of “regular” life pleasantries become a trial. A walk around the block takes planning: rest for 3 hours, walk for 20 minutes. Cooking a simple dinner? Spread it across 12 hours or pay the price. A phone call? It’d better be really important because I have to take time and attention away from what I’m doing to properly entertain the call and use energy for talking aloud. A couple phone calls can wipe me out for the rest of the day.
You’d better believe I sorely miss the days when none of that was true. When I could work all day, play late into the night, and only be a bit worse for wear the next morning. How I miss the energy and invulnerability of youth and good health! In lieu of that, I’ll instead be deeply grateful for how much life I still have thanks to today’s connectivity.
My high degree of introversion requires at least a 15:1 ratio of solitary to social time. In the pre-Internet days, it was 30:1 because social time demanded that I be presentable. None of this rat’s nest hair, unkemptness and pajamas deal. That stopped being ok after high school, apparently. Who voted for that anyway? Nowadays, my life revolves around the internet.
While Vicky has a point that it can be all-consuming in a negative way, and I can feel to my marrow the longing to enjoy the air and saddle up my horse for an early morning ride instead of groggily waking up to work email, the fact is, with my health reality? There would be no riding for me. There would be no refreshing bracing air, there would be no breakfast on the propane stove. I would be an even crankier, isolated, friendless, shut-in. And who likes an angry shut-in except their cats? And I suspect that’s only because the cats are playing the long game. *shiver*
Why I love the internet
It’s far easier to set boundaries on the time you spend on any given thing when it’s entirely on the internet. If I’m chatting with someone on Twitter, it’s easy to just stop when I need to. The nature of the tool is that, barring the horrible trolls, you can very easily engage and disengage at will. You’re not required to engage with anyone.
Contrast that to when you run into someone you know on the street and don’t dodge around a corner fast enough. Then you get roped into a conversation you never wanted with someone who ignores your every “well, gotta go!” with a fresh topic until you just want the earth to open up and swallow you both. Preferably in separate chasms. PLEASE.
Naturally, I LOVE email. I can talk to someone at length, at my discretion and leisure, and they can do the same. No pressure!
Social me up
As much as my first thoughts about interacting with people dart toward “make it stop!” I do need the occasional friend.
But when I do want friends, this is the sad truth: my offline-only friends have scattered like dandelion fluff to all corners of the country and are busy with their own lives. You can find them on Facebook now, not just a phone call and ten minute car ride away. We keep in touch and see each other when we can but 98% of the year, I’m on my own. Or I would be, if I didn’t have the friends I’ve since made who are happily accessible in the space in which I can safely dwell without losing days thereafter gasping for air.
I’m not saying that my friends don’t care. But beyond our time and geographic constraints, the friends who are physically capable of doing in their 30s what they could do in their 20s are not the friends who necessarily understand or can accommodate the person that you became: someone in their 30s who functions like someone in their 80s. They didn’t spend the last two decades in waiting rooms alongside a geriatric population. They didn’t have to see a specialist whose youngest patient was 68 years old as their regular physician. You don’t see movies about the bucket lists of 30 year olds who are anticipating the possibility of spending their last 40 years crippled. That’s not a fun story and it’s not a fun life.
On the internet, not only can I have that social interaction and not be lonely during a string of isolation-days, I can find friends who understand what I mean when I say “I hurt.” And only on the internet could I message someone at 2 am saying “so I’m in labor” and not feel weird about it. Or message a friend at 4 am (you know who you are, Patti!) to ask “is this normal??” for the 50th time about a recalcitrant child that simply would NOT sleep.
Social vetting: the proof is in the mutual friends
After 5 years of determined experimentation, the data shows that you cannot make friends if you only leave the house, on average, 1 day out of 7 and avoid talking to people. (Why would I avoid talking to people? They’re draining.) It takes time and energy and that stuff is precious when it can’t be bought for love, money, or food bribery.
But making new friends is a thing you have to do if your old ones are all on the opposite. Pre-internet, this was a commitment of massive proportions: get cleaned up, drive/ride/walk to a place, wait for someone to show up that may or may not have common interests, find that they’re a delightful (yay!) or horrifying (oh no!) individual. In the latter case, wait for them to finally stop talking and lose interest so that you can hightail it out of there, taking three alternate routes and turnings so you can be sure that *if* they were also creepy they couldn’t track you home. [Only dudes have ever tried this with me. Dudes, if you’ve followed someone after a meet up? Don’t. That is super creepy.]
Over years of writing this blog, I’ve been incredibly lucky to find friends in a handful of fellow bloggers. Our friendships have deepened to the point where I refer to some as Gateway Friends. If they have deemed someone suitable to be friends with, I trust their judgment such that “your friend is my friend.” And that became possible because I witnessed their interactions on a regular basis and could judge for myself whether this is a person I’d like in my circle.
Heck, Vicky herself is someone I’d call a friend over our many shared years of blogging! We’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but we’ve helped each other out in a pinch, we’ve chatted over email, and where do you draw the line at friendship? You don’t need to know if my laugh mimics the Roadrunner and I don’t need to know if your hair is a particular shade to be valued, do we?
My friends, who are actual living, thinking, caring and hugely supportive human beings whether or not we’re in the same room, are friends only because the internet made it possible.
A life without work has little meaning
It’s hard to recall a time in my life when I wasn’t working. Whether it was for my parents, for volunteer hours, or for a living, you’d have to go back to the early childhood years to find a period when I wasn’t doing some kind of labor. And I loved it. Heaven help me but it’s so satisfying to do something well and meaningful.
If I weren’t working for a living, I’d be working for a cause, or something I believed in. That’s why I want to retire, even, so I can do what I want: help! But since I do have to work for a living, well, I have fifteen years of working in retail and another ten in my industry besides to be as grateful as Seamus with a brand new chew toy for the ability to telecommute to my current job.
Because most of my job can be done online, my time and energy can be focused on getting the job done, no wasting time on social niceties, I can also afford to live. Blimey but that’s a relief.
Fun is not just for the young
Pre-debilitation, I never walked anywhere that I could run, and never ran anywhere I could sprint. You can imagine how quickly all of that screeched to a halt when the whole disease thing set in. What did that leave me? Every activity I loved was my imaginary Olympic tryout, and then I couldn’t move. And if I did in defiance of nature? Bed, three weeks.
The internet can be a wonderful or awful place and I choose the wondrous. The internet gives me access to free books, chit chat with friends, and email with other friends. It gives me this blog! It gives me resources on food, raising the young, it gives me clothing that fits, DELIVERED! The number of stores I don’t have to search in person and on foot, for that, I give thanks. Heck, the internet makes it possible for PiC to try to replace our car without having to deal with the smarmy weasel-y salesmen we can’t stand. (I’ve met exactly one car salesman in 20 years who wasn’t gross. The odds are not in our favor.)
I can’t be the only person who loves what the internet lets us do. What about you?