Intentional Informing: my nearly nonexistent digital presence
January 5, 2011 § 15 Comments
On May 30, 2010, I permanently deleted my Facebook account. Of course, there were annoying hoops to jump through (such as waiting two weeks before attempting to log in again because that would cancel the process), but I finally managed to succeed. The two-week rule couldn’t have come at a better time for me: my sister’s bachelorette party was within the first week, her wedding was in the second week, and then my friends and I took a brief trip to an ashram in the Bahamas the week after that. It’s been six months since I freed myself from Facebook’s clutches, and I’m doing quite well.
Yes, yes, in the beginning I went through a form of withdrawal. I was the kind of person who was online All. The. Time. In a way, I was abusing Facebook. No, I didn’t get started on Farmville (because I absolutely refused to give myself one more form of “virtual reality” to distract me from real reality). But I was the person who constantly refreshed her News Feed in order to see if people were online or responding to something clever I said or a question I asked; I commented on statuses that divulged daily mundaneness like, “I changed my fabric softener today. We’ll see how I like it” or “I hate doing laundry” or “I don’t feel like grading today.” I was thinking in the third person: “A.Hab. wishes she were with Robert right now” or “A.Hab. really needs to focus on her work” or “A.Hab. is getting extremely worried about herself for thinking in third person.”
What occurred to me was that 1. I’m not so super interesting that my friends are waiting with bated breath about my thoughts every single second of every single day. 2. I’m not that important that I should feel compelled to bestow upon my friends every thought that crosses my mind. 3. Although I love them, I am not interested in those teensy little mundane thoughts that my friends shared with me (well…shared with all of us).
I decided that I wanted to get back to a more intimate form of communication. For instance, if my best friend wanted me, A.Hab., to know that she changed her fabric softener or that she didn’t feel like grading in that moment, then she could seek me out. Text me, call me, e-mail me. (By the way, I do realize it’s pretty hysterical that I’m considering e-mailing and texting a more intimate form of communication.) I wanted to reestablish intentional informing. If I specifically am supposed to know a detail about my friend’s life, then I will be intentionally informed. And the same goes for me–if I want a specific friend (or a specific group of friends) to know something about me, then I will intentionally inform them. They won’t just happen to find out because they logged on to some website that day.
And, I’ll tell you what: it’s working. In the beginning, I felt out of the loop because I didn’t know every single detail of my friends’ lives right that second. And, yes, I was asking a lot from my friends, too. Rather than conveniently convey a piece of information in one spot to all of their friends, they would have to make special arrangements for me. But those people who actually do want me to know something have had no problem informing me. I feel as though I have regained control over not only my privacy but also my reception and passing of information.
That brings me to the blog. But A.Hab., you might say, aren’t you being just a mite hypocritical since you have a blog and all?
Maybe. Maybe it’s hypocritical. But even if it is, I still feel completely in control over what I share, how much I share, and with whom I share that information. For instance, I tend to share publicly things that I have already discussed with the people I wanted to inform first. I also don’t use my blog as a dumping place for conversation-halting thoughts like, “I hate the rain.” If I want to blog about how much I hate the rain, maybe I’ll post a series of traumatizing memories about the times I’ve hydroplaned.
This is my point: whether you choose to have a nearly nonexistent digital presence or a fully existent one, inform with intention. Inform, fully aware of the consequences of that informing, with an intent to do something (to connect with other people, to seek support, to offer support, to educate, to humor). Don’t just share every little thing. Your thoughts, your experiences, your ideas are important enough to pass through a filter first. If you don’t feel that the general public has earned the right to be aware of your information, then don’t share it with the general public. If you believe that the general public stands to gain something from your ideas, then by all means share. If you believe that you stand to gain something by sharing your ideas with the general public, then of course share.
I think it’s time for us to take charge of this Information Superhighway. We don’t have to just inform because we have the ability to anymore.
So, what say ye, people of the Interwebs? Is there a place for intentional informing in this news-happy world, or is ol’ A.Hab. barking up the wrong tree?