Friday, July 13, 2012

To Share or Not to Share?

I was a sophmore in college the first time I heard the word "Blog." And I wasn't quite sure what it even meant. An acquaintance of mine, who was also a computer science major, mentioned that he had started a sort of on-line journal where he wrote about things. "But what kinds of things?" I asked. "Everything. About my life, and about things I think," he said. And I think I said something like "cool," while in my head I was thinking, "so completely not cool." It all seemed a little weird to me. Like something only computer science majors did.

I was a senior in college when Facebook made its sparkling debut. And I signed up mainly because everyone else did. Because we were all equally curious and perplexed about this creature that had invaded our campus. The new site that everyone was talking about. Practically overnight, our daily language changed. "Are you on Facebook?" "Facebook me." "I'm putting these pictures on Facebook." "How many "friends" do you have?" Private lives became public, and no one was immune. Instant messenger was so completely last year. Facebook was now.

And that's where I sort of got left behind. I came to understand Facebook. I use it all the time. But then other social networking sites started to happen. In my first year of law school it was My Space. Then LinkedIn. Then Friendster. Then Twitter. Then Instagram, Pintrest, and all those other social networks whose names are escaping me at the moment, but whose message appear on my Facebook feed with increasing regularity.

I really liked seeing pictures of weddings, vacations, babies and more posted on Facebook, and I posted lots of my own. But the other things? At the risk of sounding primitive, I just didn't get it. It was too much over-sharing. Why do I need to know where my cousin's-friend's-husband's-uncle ate dinner last night anyway? So while nearly everyone I know started sharing tweets by the thousands, and everything from current locations to virtual bulletin boards, I stuck to the familiar white and blue of the Facebook page.

But then I started this blog.

I have always loved to write, and I have always loved stories - hearing them and telling them. Some of my best pieces of writing have been personal statements for various college and graduate school applications. The ones where I was not so much answering a question but telling a story. I like the ebb and flow of a narrative - the twists and turns of a story, and the unexpected place that the characters take me, even if the story is true and the main character is me. It was - and has been - eye opening for me realize how much better I can understand places and faces and events when I process and remember them by writing words.

And it turns out that there is something else buried in this vast well of creativity that I have only recently begun to tap. Hidden deep within me, in a place I barely even knew existed, is a deep desire not just to write, but to share. To put my words out there, beyond my circle of family and friends, so that other people - strangers even - can read them, and think about them, and comment on them. It is extraordinarily satisfying to be read. To receive comments. For people to say "I understand what you mean," or "what you wrote resonated with me."

So I started exploring the blogging world. Turns out there are many, many fascinating people doing what I am doing. I started reading other people's words, and commenting on those words. Leaving little pieces of myself on their pages. Telling them that I am there, that I am reading, that what they wrote touched me, made me laugh, made me think. And slowly, they are beginning to read my words as well. A few weeks ago a blogger I particularly admire left a comment on a post that I wrote, a post of which I am very proud. And it was thrilling.

And all of these other bloggers - the ones I read daily and admire greatly? They social network like pros. They like, check-in, tweet, and pin with the best of them. They post their blogs, and their thoughts. And truthfully? They make it look like lots of fun. So, after watching and thinking for quite some time, and after an interesting conversation with my social media guru of a husband, I decided to do it. Earlier this week I joined Twitter (Follow Me!). I am still getting the hang of it, but already I'm not quite sure why I resisted for so long. 

It has been an interesting lesson for this life long introvert, to feel such satisfaction in sharing myself with the vast online universe. And it is both hugely surprising and strangely comforting that, after nearly thirty years of living, there are pieces of myself that I am still discovering. I am learning as I write that we really are all just works in progress. Beautifully imperfect and exquisitely incomplete. And right now? That is just fine with me. 

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