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?

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§ 15 Responses to Intentional Informing: my nearly nonexistent digital presence

  • I completely agree. 🙂 Informing with intention is a lost art and one that I agree we should return to. I like your assessment, as well, about whether we feel we might have something to offer, or we personally gain something from the public sharing. Well written post!

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Hehehe, thanks EC. I worry about the way my students share information, which is another part of the reason why I deleted my Facebook profile. If I tell them to watch what they say online, then surely I should practice what I preach, right? 🙂

  • Yes, Kathy thinks communication in the third person is totally bizzarre–and she loves this post! She’s also interested in A.Hab.’s trip to the ashram in the Bahamas. Did A.Hab. blog about that?
    Now Kathy’s off to do laundry——–

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Hahaha!! A.Hab. nearly choked on her water! She thinks Kathy’s really hilarious! A.Hab. has only briefly mentioned her time at the ashram (https://ahab1.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/what-ive-been-up-to-lately/) but has considered actually writing a post dedicated entirely to the experience. Maybe she will. 😉

      Okay, this is getting to be too difficult, lol. But, yes, I have considered writing a blog about the actual trip rather than just briefly mentioning it where I have. It was certainly a fascinating experience. I went with two of my girlfriends and fellow gym-yoga practitioners. This was absolutely different from yoga at the gym, but it was really exciting to experience an entirely different culture for a few days. If I were to go back, though, I wouldn’t go back in June, heh. Turns out that that’s monsoon/mosquito season in the Bahamas, and we all ended up so badly eaten by mosquitoes that we played, “Who can count more bites” on the plane ride back home. But we truly enjoyed our trip, especially getting to share that experience with each other. 🙂

  • Tonia says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of deleting my Facebook. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but I’m on it even more now that I work from home. I’m on the computer constantly. It can’t be healthy.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Oh man…I get that. For me, I was sort of spurred on by the fact that I was refreshing Facebook as well as my two e-mail accounts obsessively. To the point that I wasn’t doing any real work. If you don’t want to delete it permanently, I think there’s a way to deactivate it. I have to say, though, I feel a lot better having gotten rid of it.

  • This is a great post, Amanda. I like the idea of intentional informing and although I miss you on Facebook, I am so glad that you are active on your blog, so that we can stay in touch!

  • Robert says:

    I also killed my facebook account right around the time Amanda did, for a lot of the same reasons. While it is great that we have so many forms of communication and numerous outlets for writing (I blew my students’ minds when I told them that, yes, posting on the facebook is just as much of a writing activity as being in my composition class), it requires a lot of those who have access to those outlets to NOT use them. Shit, do a random google search of stupid facebook posts and millions of them show up. People make mistakes and put stupid things on their facebook…but just like someone who lets some adult, possibly compromising, pictures slip onto the Internet, it suddenly becomes semi-permanent. Lord knows I don’t want some facebook post that I made in anger towards someone getting used against me to show that I have anger or control issues (I swear I have neither!).

    What I tell my students is this: once you elect to publish something on the Internet, you lose all control over it. You have to understand and be able to handle the consequences of anything you post on the Internet possibly being used out of context or an unintended purpose–girls especially. I know all those 16 year old girls that think that new bathing suit is SOO cute and they look SOO good in it…but anybody–and I mean anybody–who sees it on the Internet can copy and republish those images anywhere else, or do anything that want to/with them.

    Wow, that comment took a weird (and vaguely sexual) turn. I left the facebook because I didn’t like the thought of my information becoming a commodity bought and sold by Internet companies (although Google is pretty much unavoidable at this point). Here’s to trying to stay somewhat off the grid.

    Now I’m going to go back to watching Netflix (which recommends movies based on my information) and continue perusing Gmail (where I can click on all the ads that they think I would like because they monitor my online activity)!

  • Robert says:

    Here’s a link to a story I found in the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, this seems to be the way the facebook (among other social media outlets) is going.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344281/Facebook-suicide-None-Simone-Backs-1-048-online-friends-helped-her.html

    I swear that the facebook is bad for us.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      That is terrible!! For those who haven’t had the chance to read the article yet (which you all should–it will chill you), Simone Back’s “friends” ignored her final status update that read “Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone.” In fact, some of them found it appropriate to taunt her! One particular response I found appalling was, “She ODs all the time and she lies.” To that particular “friend” and those who agreed with that friend, I say this: you should be ashamed. Whether or not she was lying, making a statement like that is obviously a cry for some form of attention. She needed a friend to be with her that night. She needed some comfort. It doesn’t matter if she is constantly in search of comfort–that’s all the more reason to give it to her.

      Simone Back died on Christmas Day, despite her friends’ awareness of her suicide attempt mere minutes after she posted. Apparently some of these friends were within walking distance of her apartment and could have easily made it to her in time for her to be taken to the hospital. But because she was an adult and should be fully responsible for her decisions (which is what one friend suggests), her suicide attempt warranted no attention from loved ones.

      I hope those who taunted her are feeling a great deal of shame; it’s the least form their punishment can take (and the only form it can take). Ugh. Absolutely disgusting.

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  • AMo says:

    Well, in fairness to this woman’s friends (many of whom clearly didn’t deserve that designation), when anyone cries wolf too many times, people stop believing you. Maybe she complained all the time and talked about suicide all the time to the point where her social network just became immune to her cries. So when things really got serious, the recipients were numb. I guarantee those people are thinking just what you talk about in your follow up post…maybe I should have called her, at least asked, why didn’t I just check? I’m not saying she deserved to actually die, but this case illustrates the importance of regulating what you say online. For instance, if I had suicidal thoughts, the first place I would turn is my closest friends via phone, but even if I chose to put something on facebook, I guarantee people in my network would call/text/email check on me. Because that would be a highly unusual post for me, and the only people in my fb network are people I first knew face to face in some capacity (even if a former student or just a colleague at another school)…see my point? 😉

    • Mrs. H. says:

      I absolutely see your point. But I’ve been friends with a suicidal person before, and being friends with someone like that requires an understanding that it’s never just crying wolf. Every time she talked about plotting her own death or about how worthless she was or how much she hated herself, those were times when she obviously needed help. I don’t understand people becoming desensitized to suicidal tendencies in loved ones. Because all it takes is that one successful attempt and then it really is all over. It’s obvious to me that this woman needed better help, better friends, and a better outlet.

  • […] I also think it might be a great way for you all to keep connected to the blog. I might not be on the Facebook any more, but that doesn’t mean that my readers aren’t. As some of you know, I’ve been […]

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