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The Unintended Consequences of Connecting Online

 

Origins In Solitude: The Struggle To Connect

I’ve never really been a social person online nor offline. I used the internet for research and research only and never really saw the potential for branching out socially until I moved to a new area and did not have the normal companionship of the animals who kept me company. Lonely and trying to figure out who I was I discovered chat rooms. I also discovered that I could socialize more easily online than I could do in person, and in many ways this new form of connection saved me from the isolation and disconnect I was growing. Gradually and slowly I ventured on board to things like Myspace. I was slow to accept Facebook because I didn’t like the idea of using my real name, nor did I like the idea of connecting with people I already knew personally. I wanted to meet the world and see new people. I wasn’t active on social media unless I was lonely in real life. If my days which were once filled with friendships and people to chat with were now filled with emptiness – I would use Facebook to fill the void.

The problem was that I often felt more alienated and lonely. Maybe it was that people didn’t like my comments enough, or some people would have hundreds of likes and I would be ignored, or maybe it was that people would talk to me online, but in person it would be like the conversation never happened. One particular case was all the people who said they were there for me when I was depressed, but in person stared awkwardly at me as I broke down and cried during a nervous breakdown. The disconnect was real. With unchecked bipolar disorder and social anxiety I began to feel paranoia. People don’t like me. They hate me. They don’t really care. I’m not normal. I have no friends. I started to feel worse and my condition became just as exaggerated as it did when I hung around people who were not the right people for me. People who did not support me nor value me or my inputs. People who for their own insecurities and devils pointed at me as weird and used me as an example of someone you don’t want to be.

I lacked social tact and social finesse, wore my heart on my sleeve and felt like I had to share all the thoughts that crossed my mind in order to connect. I thought that was how people connected and got to know each other, I thought that was what deep down people wanted. I jumped right in with the misunderstanding that if I shared my heart with enough people, then others would understand me, see my authenticity and gravitate towards it. The rejection, humiliation and criticism I faced was astounding.

The Birth of Thick Skin

It was this experience that truly helped define me. Up until that point I hadn’t really had a lot of social interactions with people. I didn’t realize how fickle people could be, and how easily my own emotions were simply reactions often overreactions and exaggerations of how others treated me. I learned a lot of strong lessons from this experience. Most importantly I realized that I had a strong need to feel loved and valued and accepted, for my unique thoughts and ideas, because at the root of my pain I felt unloveable, unlikeable. These interactions led me to realize that the problem was within me, not beyond me.

My goal was to love myself and take nothing personally, to be immune to criticism, to be at peace. To use a new term that I’ve learned this past month to describe my entire journey, to be: Unfuckwithable. Now I’m sure there will be times where my greatest Teachers (those who manage to aggravate and show me the insecurities I may still need to work through), but it’s been almost 4 months now and the external opinions of others nor my thoughts preoccupation with them move me. They’re just thoughts, soundbytes I can acknowledge and think them for their concern and move on, putting my attention elsewhere.

It turns out you can have an open heart, love others unconditionally, without letting them define, break, or hurt you. You can trust people to be people without any expectations on who or what they should or can be. And that was what I learned from that entire experience that at the time felt heartbreaking.

1 Year of Social Media Exploration

This year has been an amazing experience in terms of social media exploration. Whereas the previous 3-4 years I had been among negative people, this past year all the people who surrounded me were people who genuinely valued me as a person and to whom I value. Even when we disagreed with each other I felt like we still valued each other and the individual contributions we had for each other.

But the more I shared the more out of place I began to feel, especially when I would get few likes or many likes, which represented “social approval”. This would combined with the feeling that my views were too controversial to most people led to me feeling paranoid. People liked me when I agreed with their ideologies, but when I encouraged critical thinking, promoted freedom, and suggested that we look at others without judgment an open heart even the kindest of people would backlash against me by ignoring me. When I said what people liked they rewarded me with likes and praises on how wonderful and amazing I was. But if I disagreed with their ideology I was not so great and thrown into a trash bin, ignored. I think part of me started to feel like the more I shared my world even among people I liked, the more at odds I started to feel and out of place. The loop began again. Except this time, I didn’t care. I didn’t care that other people didn’t see the world the same as I did, I didn’t care that I was having amazing experiences when it comes to growing into awareness and seeing the world in new ways and others didn’t see the same thing in me. I didn’t care that people thought I was naïve, and I didn’t care if people didn’t agree with me. I didn’t care for participating in the mudslinging.

Talking about people has never really come naturally to me. I may have in the past done it to fit in or belong, but in my heart it just feels wrong, it doesn’t feel right. I look at people and I just see people. When I’m around people I often feel like in order to fit in I have to talk about other people, and when I talk about other people I start to feel like what I say is what I am and who I am as a person. Of course who I am is arguable much deeper than my thoughts and what I say, but when there is that disconnect between what I believe and what I think with what I say and have to say in order to belong – and when I am surrounded by that from even the most wonderful of people, I just can’t do it.

The greatest thing I cultivated this year was the ability to stand apart. To love and value myself independent of others doing the same. To walk towards my goals and to build support in a slow but durable way. In this way I have learned the skill that allows me to stand apart from the people I love and even the people who love and or value me, I can choose not to engage, I can minimize my interactions and reduce my interactions and still have love and respect for those people, and I can still love and respect myself. I don’t have to engage with others or receive the approval of outside forces to feel OK, and so having gained what it is that I sought from the world, I decided to take a step back from the world.

Return To Solitude

I am at peace with solitude. I am at peace with being a wandering soul that carries home within my heart. I am at peace with my everchanging worldviews and my mind.

I am not content with the pain and suffering that exists in the world, but I do understand my role however small in the world and that is the part I play. I want to make a difference and I won’t stop until I build something of value that makes the lives of others who are around me better.

Because my visions are so grand and because many people around me are limited in scope I spend more time in quietness and solitude than I do talking among people who choose to argue about partisan politics and who is a dummy and who isn’t. There is a grain of truth in everything people say and I seek to find that truth, that value and weave it into my work.

New Ways To Connect

Prior to this work was used as an excuse for why I couldn’t disconnect from the online world. But the more I tried to force myself to post on social media the unhappier I began to feel. I want to build economy and build support, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time online. I want to spend more time connecting with people and building up my products and value than I spend online.

Gathering that support could take months or it could take years. I truly believe the more products and value I create the more potential Heroes will wake up and come join our fold. But my plan really doesn’t start or even stop here.

Another problem I found was that the more I spent wasting my time trying to connect online the more I spent not working on my products.

So here are my new ways to connect with others without emphasizing social media:

  1. Emphasis on building local products and digital products
  2. Focusing on 1:1 conversations with people in messages and face to face discussions
  3. Less time on social media platforms like: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Youtube.
  4. More time working on projects and the things
  5. More time on focusing on building and making direct contacts and direct relationships with people
  6. Focus on attracting the right types of people who believe in our vision and our keys to helping us grow and expand
  7. Focus on helping people and implementing a system that does not depend upon technology but is expanded by it.
  8. Focus on developing solutions and handbooks and communicating that vision and nurturing the relationships of those who contact me 1:1 to learn more

Reclaiming My Time

Time is precious so after 1 year of social media exploration I really had to work hard to break out of the habits I had acquired of ‘checking’ my social media. These especially in November – December had accumulated into time sinks. I have a few projects for this year that expand on all that I’ve built so far this year, but that’s a story for another day.