My Life Online: A Story of Today’s Communication
By Elizabeth.Hawksworth on December 17, 2013
I was recently paging through an old journal of mine when I noticed that it abruptly stopped on June 19, 2001. I had to keep the journal for my high school “Writer’s Craft” class, and I used it as a way to sort out my confusing feelings regarding my own sexuality, the withdrawal of one of my closest high school friends, and the issues I was having figuring out what happiness looked like for me. It stopped because class ended, but that never mattered to me – I journalled obsessively through my high school years, writing bad poetry and long sappy letters to crushes I had. What happened was the Internet. I stopped journalling because I got online.
I was online long before that, of course; we had a computer in my ninth grade year and I started to use ICQ, one of the first instant-messaging programs, at the end of eleventh grade. I would stay up late, chatting to friends, and checking my extremely basic Hotmail account. There was no Facebook then and there was no YouTube. I spent maybe two hours at most online per day, mostly chatting to friends that I would later call on the phone or go out to see. When I say I got online, I mean I started to spend a lot of my time online. And that’s been my life since.
I was reading an article on a friend’s status today that mentioned the rise of technology in our lives. We think about technology almost all of the time. Most of us carry smartphones and check them a million times in a day. I know that I can literally walk around for hours, holding onto my iPhone. I don’t even have to be using it – I just hold it. And that’s definitely a disturbing trend that I’d like to stop for myself. But how did I get so addicted to being online? After all, online content is extremely consumable, and takes less than five minutes to check and read, in many cases.
Thirteen years ago, I joined a site called LiveJournal. It’s a journalling site that was one of the first blogging sites out there. I joined because when I put down my paper journal on June 19, 2001, I missed having the outlet to vent. With LiveJournal, I could vent and journal, and people would actually read my entries, comment, and give feedback. As a budding writer, that was invaluable to me. And as a lonely, depressed early-20-something, it made my first year of university, where I knew only a few people, a lot better. The people online, from all over the world, became my friends. They became friends that listened without judgement. They were people who gave advice and shared parts of their own hearts, too. And I stayed on LiveJournal for over thirteen years, faithfully journalling my struggles and successes, dealing with online drama (of which there could be a lot!) and fostering online friendships.
So, my addiction was born out of always having people at my fingertips, ready to listen to anything I had to say. As my online life spilled over into social networking, I made more friends and reconnected with old ones. And a large part of my day is reconnecting with people online. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I am realizing that reconnecting, thinking how to package myself and my experiences in a palatable way, and “making memories” is getting in the way of actually living them.
Despite my misgivings with my current use of online social networking, I don’t vilify people who Instagram food or take selfies. I don’t Instagram my food, but that’s because food isn’t a big part of my life. I don’t cook and I’m not interested. I do Instagram things that are important to me and things that I find beautiful. I do find myself thinking about how something will look Instagrammed. I take selfies firstly because I want to see my body type normalized and I want to feel beautiful. But I also take them because I want to remember moments in time that aren’t just holidays or special occasions. Like when I felt beautiful that day in the sunshine. Like that day that I spent cuddling my sick cat. No one else is here to take pictures of me, so I do it. Many people might even think that those moments are stupid to document, but they don’t live my life and they won’t be leaving behind my legacy. I will be. And I do it for me.
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