A few weeks ago I was at a bar with one of my friends after a long work day and the guy next to us asked how we knew each other.
I kind of laughed to myself because I met Melissa “on the internet.” (She’s the second best thing to a book blogger; she writes about Disney!) But saying that out loud to a stranger? You never know if they are going to get it. But luckily for us, the guy was kind of drunk (but sweet) and thought it was nice we met because we both “love Mickey Mouse”.
Even though I’m so wrapped up in happenings “online” (and it seems like more and more people are these days), there’s still this stigma attached to “the internet” for some — whether it’s about dating, making friends, or being nerdy enough to work a ton for no monetary gain on Disney or books blogs. Real life and the internet mesh so much for me that I don’t even blink at these things. In fact, I encourage them.
Being present on the internet has helped me to smooth out transitions in my personal life, make real-life friends who get me and my hobbies, and teach me everything from Disney history to the publishing industry to steaming my own cauliflower.
One of my favorite bloggers posted this “state of the blogosphere” piece recently, and I started to feel so nostalgic for some reason. It made me think about why I got into blogging in the first place.
Did you know I was a writing major in college? After two years of an intensive writing program that led up to my graduation, I was so drained. I didn’t think I wanted to pick up a mechanical pencil again. Or think about fiction. Or even write about my own experiences. (I took a fantastic and pretty much life-changing memoir writing class my senior year.) So I didn’t. I wasn’t even reading books, which wasn’t like me either. I dove into a long-distance relationship with my now-husband (which required a lot of traveling) and I started making greeting cards and watching baseball again.
It wasn’t until one of my dearest friends asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding that I started getting into blogs. I read about how to create a personal and amazing bridal shower until I was “something blue” in the face. Weddingbee will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. It was full of brides concocting some of the most beautiful wedding events I had ever seen or thought about. I had my heart set on being a Bee contributor when I got engaged. So I started writing a blog about wedding planning, and I applied.
I didn’t get it.
I can’t even tell you how crushed I was. I cried a lot. I felt like it was such a lost opportunity because I knew I was a good writer, and I knew our wedding would be amazing and our process could help others. But I think a lot of my problem was voice. Finding my own. Being myself but also saying something that sparked something in others. Maybe my voice sounded too much like the others on the blog. Even though I wasn’t an official Bee writer somehow I became associated with the blog anyway, and this was how I fell into Twitter.
Oh, Twitter, love of my life. You have brought such wonderful (and difficult) things into my world.
This is the thing about the internet. There is always a new bandwagon to jump on. Staying afloat in this crazy rabbit hole is about doing what works for you. (Even though it’s hard not to get swayed by shiny things.) And I do think it works best when you are yourself. When it’s not always about perfection and beautiful pictures and graphics. Are you a person or are you a brand? I can easily write about how wonderful I think something Disney related is, and then turn around the next day and talk about something else within the company that doesn’t work for me. This is real life. Honest opinions. Changing judgments. Connecting to other people who may or may not feel the same way too.
But there’s a danger in connection too. How can you tell the difference between people who build themselves up like a product and the real ones who want to actually know you? I have fallen into this trap before, and it hurts a lot. To think you are building this relationship with someone only to realize they have been creating this persona and it’s really more about them than you. I’ve been too trusting, too honest, too willing to give a true piece of myself to some people that I have been tricked by the “friendliness” of social media and the blogosphere. And it’s so easy for that to happen to anyone. Said person wants to show their best self and it is not always their true self.
Even though these internet connections start on a screen, that next step, bridging that (cyber) space between blog friend and real life friend, requires the same faith and trust you hold on to when making a new friend in any other environment. There’s still the same chance it might not work out. For whatever reason: you don’t click, the expectation is too built up, or you just don’t have enough in common to keep it going. (It’s kind of the same way we pick and choose what blogs we dedicate our time too, isn’t it?)
With blogging, friendship, or even being a dedicated reader of someone’s internet space, there can be a lot of disappointment. It can be competitive when it doesn’t even have to be. But that is just the nature of human existence, I guess. That just means there’s that flip side too. Even if you never speak directly, you might draw inspiration from one person and see your life reflected in someone else’s. Ironic or not, this internet world really does make us feel less alone.
For me, “the state of the blogosphere” and the sense of community go hand-in-hand. My tastes are always swayed by those who seem sincere and honest. And that’s another thing that doesn’t just apply to the internet. I feel like sincerity and truth are two things I expect (and deserve) in my daily life too. So the more I talk about, or the longer this post gets (ha), I realize that line between real life and the internet isn’t really tangible vs. imaginary. It blurs even when we aren’t thinking about it.