For a few months now I’ve been in a very weird place. Usually I’m a pretty social person and I think some switch flipped when we started going to our new church over a year ago. I realized something about relationships: they develop over something shared. Be it space, a job, a church, a class, etc. Typically it’s a physical place.
With the craze of social networks, new kinds of relationships started to form. Those people I call “friends” despite the fact that I’ve never met them face to face, or even have spoken to them audibly. The weird happened when I realized that the scales had tipped and I had more online friends (in people I’d never met) than I did friends in real life. Now when I use the word friend, it’s with this definition in mind: acquaintance someone we know very little. Although, I will say with everyone sharing so much about themselves on fb these days, it is possible to feel that someone is a good friend (someone we know quite well.) When I had this realization, without really thinking it through, I started pulling back from all things social network related. I stopped blogging. I would read fb updates to keep up on family happenings and such, but didn’t really post many updates myself. And twitter…I pretty much stopped that all together.
It wasn’t so much a stand I was taking, or even something I felt I needed to share with others via those sites. It’s just what I needed to do. What I found was a profound silence. It stresses me out at times to know about all the happenings. I feel guilty when I forget to pray for or can’t help with all the causes and stories that you hear. 20 years ago, you knew what you knew about needs and crisis and world happenings via the news or simply word of mouth from friends, and it was manageable. With today’s internet and information overload I just couldn’t handle it. I feel for everyone who’s lost a loved one and every diagnosis of cancer and every orphan in Africa, but the fact is I can do very little to help those situations. I can send up a quick “arrow” prayer (one of those , “Lord…intervene in this situation…amen.”) or I can send a little money their way, but the reality is my brain can only hold so much information and I don’t have tons of extra money. My heart can only hold so much hurt for others. And I was overloaded.
Thus my self-imposed sabbatical from blogging. All the posts I mentally wrote during that time were either complete downers or laced with sarcasm and much venting about stuff. Not what I want the Sunny Side to be about. Not what I want ME to be about!
What I heard God speaking to me about in the vacuum that was created from all that silence was that the areas I CAN do something about are the ones He’s placed right in front of me. In my world that translates to my family, my job (the students and families I am around), my church family, my neighbors, you know…the people I see. The people I can look in the eyes. The friends I’ve made online are important to me, and I think about them often. There’s Evan in Florida. I really hope to take the family to Disney again someday and be able to meet this awesome, young man and his family in person. There’s Shellie in California who I count as a dear friend who I’ve also never met in person, but I have spoken to on the phone a few times. There’s Sarah in Hawaii, and Kelly and Mike in Utah who I did get to meet on the Music Boat, but first met as online friends with a music connection. There’s Robbie, who sent the first Christmas card I received two years in a row (way to be on it, Robbie!) who I’ve also never met. These are people I count among the “good friend” category, and my time away from the internet has left me missing them greatly.
This past week I felt that familiar tug to write again. To get my words out here (and I have many!) Again, it was like someone flipped a switch and I just knew the silence was over. I’ve learned what I needed to learn from this time. I need to move ahead and try to find a balance between my online world and my real world friendships. I need both! Chances are I will be tipping the scales one way or another every day, but I’m pretty sure that’s just life.
I’m curious…how do you balance things? It’s something I’ve always struggled with, how to balance life.