April 10, 2008

My Thoughts on Social Media or You Can't Stop the Rain

I am, as always, so very fascinated with the differences between introverts and extroverts and all the gradations between them as I myself am an oh-so quirky blend of both. I am very introverted in the sense that being around people and being "on" exhausts me, and then I feel the need to hermit and hide to recharge. I am not afraid of people or social interactions. You could drop me into any party anywhere with any different kind of people, and I could shift gears and entertain them all no problem if I wanted to...and that really is the kicker. IF I wanted to, and mostly I don't. I hate the cell phone; I hate idle chit chat on it. I answer the phone with what do you want or what's your story or hit me or digame when I am feeling my NM roots. Sometimes I just answer the phone WHAT? If you call me and don't leave a message, I will never call you back. Heck, if you leave me a voicemail message I may not listen to it for a week and sit there resenting its very presence in the icons on my phone as if it was a guilt bomb just waiting to go off. I am weird. I know this. I was not a loner in high school or college. In high school I was in every sport, every single extracurricular activity we had. I was the lead in many of my high school plays, and for fuck's sake I was the stinking prom queen as one would rightly expect of a Princess. I am also the girl that everyone wants to tell their story to. That homeless guy on the street? The cashier at CVS? The chick at the bar? Yes. Yes. Yes. And not just their stories, but their secrets, things they would never tell anyone else ever. These are the things that scarred them emotionally; things they've done or were done to them. These are stories that transfer some of that scar to the listener if you are human and have a heart at all.

I am the girl people feel so comfortable around they think they can take liberties with; thus, I don't go out much. It's not that I don't want to hear your stories or absolve you of your sins or send you down the path to healing...it's just that it takes so much of me to do that, and I need to husband my strength for the people I truly love, or I cannot perform the same services for them. I am not the Jesus, not even fucking close. I can't reach out my hand to everyone and retain myself. That's just not how it works for me, and I've spent my whole life figuring out how it does work for me and learning how to set my boundaries accordingly. I walked to the convenience store the other day and talked to Sapo the homeless granpa for an hour; he told me he was smiling so hard his face hurt and that we'd been talking so long his knees were getting stiff. He had a lot to say and not everyone gives him the chance to say it. I touched Little Big Indian, aka known as Isaac and also homeless, on the hand the other day and promised to mail a letter and a card he had drawn for some girl, and I had never spoken to him before in my life. I won't turn it off if I meet you, but I will try to restrict the moments that it can happen within. It is a taking whether you mean to or not, and I only have so much to give. What I have to give I will, when and where I can, and do it gladly with no reservations in my heart. It takes a toll though because I listen. I really listen. I look you in the face. I hear you. Don't waste this precious time with mindless blather or ask me how I am doing to be polite if you really don't care because you are wasting time and energy and air and such things are precious.

People invariably either love me, or they hate me. They think either that I hung the moon or
that I am an utter bitch and a lot of that is how you approach me or trespass upon me. Sometimes I am in no mood, and I broadcast on a wideband emotionally. I can walk into a room pissed off as hell and not say a word or betray my emotions with body language, and people will still feel it. Sometimes I can't keep it in. The times that I strip all emotions out of my voice and talk calmly and evenly with no emotional inflection are the times when people freeze like a mouse before a snake. Those are the times that people burst into tears and become terrified. I still haven't figured that one out quite yet. I guess the absence of all emotions is more terrifying than someone yelling at you? Is that the serial killer calmness? Does it trigger the primal fight or flight response? Does it hypnotize you to draw you in for the kill? Does the mammal brain remember what it feels like to be prey and reacts instinctively?

All these words, words, WORDS to say that I really value all the digital social networking. It really works for me. It is remote intimacy on my time that I can turn on and off at will. I can get to know you, sift the trivia of your life through my fingers, absorb the data in the details, but only if I want to. We are building communities in new ways out here on the edges of cyberspace, and it definitely overlaps with real life. Facetime is precious in this increasingly busy world; facetime is a commodity not a given or a right. In my book (and I know my book is weird), facetime should be earned. Thus, I use the twitter and the tumblr and the myspace and the blogs and such. I satisfy my extroverted needs for attention by casting my thoughts out into cyberspace; I choose which people I want to interact with; I build cyber relationships that may indeed carry over into real life. I've been reading articles and blogs about people who consider themselves introverts and how they feel about things like twitter and AIM or Facebook (which is wholly evil imho) or Myspace. It's been interesting. Not everyone agrees. Some introverts think it levels the playing field for them with the extroverts, some introverts find it all too obtrusive. I fall somewhere in the middle. I pick and choose what I need because communication, though it is something you do with other people, is still a very individual and specific thing. What I consider obtrusive you may feel is necessary and vice versa. I did my graduate work in Communications. I am fascinated with people's styles and needs and methods of communication, but I never understand why people poo-poo someone else's style because it is different than their's. I guess people, even the most seemingly liberal, are always resistant to change and paradigm shift. We're headed for a big one too. In a hundred years we went from the light bulb to computers, and technology is increasing exponentially. We are all finding our way in this digital world; we are pioneers of new social structures and community clusters. ADD is evolution's way of speeding us up enough to be able to handle a stream of constant communication bombardment and multi-tasking. I can stand here and see and taste the future. I feel sad sometimes for the generations and people that won't adapt. My father refuses to turn on a computer. He can't read my thoughts and feelings, and I think he would love to. I could print them out for him I suppose, but I won't. If he wants it bad enough, he'll adapt. I've offered to help him. There's nothing wrong with being a face-to-face, concrete and rooted in the real world of social interactions person. It's just that you're missing so much. The future is coming. Go read some Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow or Neuromancer by William Gibson. I am ready; plug me in. My father reads a ton of scifi and cyberpunk (as do I), but he chooses not to interact digitally as is his right. He also feels increasingly lost in this modern world, so I or Moo or someone else interfaces for him with the digital and orders the things he wants from Amazon. What a world of resources at his fingertips that he has closed himself off to. I love him; I will never abandon him, ever. Things are changing though and closing your eyes and denying the rain won't make you any less wet.

digital kisses blown on a pixilated wind--

Social networking tools give introverts opportunities to connect, lift careers

Instant Messaging for Introverts

Social Media: Where Introverts Can Shine


Ro-Beast Rollie said...

Does the future taste like McDonalds?

teh Beauty said...

Yes, it does. It tastes like McDonalds and Sven's tears.

Robin said...

She gives Robin little... yet he truly appreciates what little she gives, because she gives it freely :)

And she knows my deepest MySpace secret... I guess she is right about people confiding in her.

kcw said...

I want the old McNuggets back...

Kirk said...

ADD is so '90s. It's ADHD now.

teh Beauty said...

Hah Kirk. Look at me dating myself with my old-fangled terminology.

Julie Gomoll said...

The part of this post that jumped out at me the most was the part about people's reactions to your "absence of all emtions."

There's no such thing, imo. I'd guess your "absence of emotions" might, in fact, be the most powerful vibes you put out.

I say that, because I do (or try to do) it too. Many years ago, I was discussing this very issue with a dear friend... I wanted to abstain from an entire conversation. I thought I was projecting "no response."

"Jules," she said, "you can ice down a room in a matter of seconds."

If you have a big personality - a big presence, there's just no way to be neutral.

Not sure how we ended up going dowin this path, but it's damn interesting :)