who are you?

did you ever have a pen pal when you were a kid? i'm talking about an honest to goodness pen pal. i'm talking pencils and lined notebook paper. pre-erasable ball point pen even. you remember that time? we were all still reeling from the invention of velcro sneakers, and cool ranch doritos were just a happy, blurry figment of our imaginations. i had a pen pal. her name was carolina and she lived in bogotá. she was the daughter of my aunt's then boyfriend, and we were nearly the same age, so it followed that we should be pen pals. i remember filling pages and pages of hello kitty notepad paper with really important information to tell her. and then waiting. oh the waiting. so much agony. after i sent a letter, not a day would go by that i didn't think about carolina getting my letter. what she would think about all my important information, and better yet, what important information did she have to tell me?? then there was always that day. the one when i kicked my way down the driveway, walking home from school, slouched into the kitchen to find an envelope sitting there for me. bam! i'd grab it, and tear it open as i was racing up the stairs to my room, fling myself onto my bed, and read like a blind man given sight. what a feeling. but where am i going with all this? i'll tell you. recently i read a really interesting essay on social media detox that my friend shari pointed me to. even more interesting, and ironic is that we then entered into a discussion of the article on twitter. i guess my point is this. i don't know how to be anyone else than myself, especially online. don't get me wrong i have a need for privacy. this is no reality tv show over here at huffmania. i have my moments. i get cranky like everyone else, we have lots of stress like everyone else. and guess what? i even have lots of ugly pictures. shocking, right? it's true. the key is healthy boundaries. boundaries about what you do and do not share online. boundaries on how much time you spend in your online world and your real world. and if you are lucky, having the opportunity to mix those two worlds a bit. i've had the sincere and great pleasure of meeting many of my online friends in person. they are flesh and blood people. and they are themselves. to me it's like having a pen pal without all the space of waiting. yes. i know space is a good thing. and yes, i think letters are wonderful. but our life moves at a faster pace these days. pulling yourself out now and then is good. but i also think being able to move with the flow is good too. if i didn't, i would have missed out on having some really wonderful people in my life. i would have sat alone on easter sunday in some crummy hotel room. instead i spent the whole day with a wonderful family. sure, i'd never met tracy before. but we had already exchanged lots of really important information. and i knew her. better yet, i know myself. and what i am comfortable with. i'm not naive. i know there are lots and lots of strange people and things on the internet. and i know you can get thrown a curve ball. but for the most part, my online community, my social media has been so very positive that i couldn't give it up. i'm not all that interested in expanding it. it's at a good place, a good size and takes up an amount of time that i am ok with. it works for me. and i know me pretty well. of course now i'm wondering if i can find carolina on facebook...


Blogger wise craft said...

beautifully written (and photographed of course). I totally agree with you. My interactions with my friends known through online (and in real life, like you) have opened my very paranoid, trust no one husband. A huge step for him. But he realizes that its okay to let in a little, especially when there's so much to be gained. I keep thinking that next year our schools will change, and my circle of friends will change and grow larger, but my online connections are constant and there, no change. That is very comforting to me. xo

10:09 AM  
Anonymous rach | buttons magee said...

Exactly! I think the more "ourselves" we are online the easier it tends to be to combine our lives. You are totally You, Hannah. I'm glad to call you my friend. :) xo, rachea

10:19 AM  
OpenID bferry said...

i really enjoyed this. i feel the same way. the only articles i ever see along those lines ("social media detox") are about how awful and negative the online world can be.

i think that yes, it can be awful - but only if you let it. it's about boundaries, and control. and my life is richer for it - opportunities and people have come my way that wouldn't have otherwise, and i'm thankful. perhaps i should write an article about all the good things that have come out of my online world...

11:10 AM  
Blogger alice said...

How strange, I know someone called Carolina from Bogota! I am sure it is just a coincidence as it is such a common name there but it made me jump all the same seeing the name there :)

12:39 PM  
Blogger house on hill road said...

well put, hannah

1:45 PM  
Blogger liza said...

I feel the exact same way...one should never reveal too much about oneself over the internet...it's just not practical these days. By the way...good luck in finding Carolina.

2:04 PM  
Blogger claire said...

good stuff hannah. i once met this teeny girl from kansas who kept me up ALL NIGHT and it was the best fun.

i get very (very) overwhelmed by social media, and just the fact that there are so many different ways to communicate these days. i'm not on facebook, or twitter and i don't even have a cell phone. i'm quite happy for it to stay that way, but i sometimes realise i am missing out on a whole other world out there, and that even though the way i communicate is much the same, it has changed the way most of my friends communicate.
when i was in london, I had lunch with an old friend who started talking about his new baby. i almost choked on my sandwich. NEW BABY!!! i didn't even know they were expecting and now they have a 3 month old, because instead of sending out an email or letter to announce the birth, he put it on facebook. i hated the thought that i had completely missed out on something because i have opted out of something that most people seem to have no problem doing. but when i start to think about it (and get with it as my aunt tells me :) my head spins. i think flickr is as far as i can go with the social media, and i'm ok with that. it's been pretty good to me :)

2:33 PM  
Blogger jen said...

totally agree! i have met so many wonderful people, some in real life and some not. the good definitely outweighs the bad for me.

4:09 PM  
Blogger clairehelene7 said...

Excellent post. I met up with a flickr friend today. Not someone I knew super well, but I realized that I would be driving through her town and that she might be fun to grab coffee with. (She totally was and I got to see explore a bit with her. Awesome.)

You are so right on the money with knowing yourself, and how that part of the equation is the most important when it comes to online life and friends.

Look up your friend. Ten to one, she's on FB. I found my old pen pal on there.

4:50 PM  
Blogger UNIFORM Studio said...

yes, exactly.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Reading this post was such perfect timing for me today- I have been thinking a lot about these things lately.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

spot on. i have stopped referring to "blogging friends" as such - and just say "friend". you are. xo

8:49 AM  
Anonymous shanna murray said...

ditto. perfectly put!

7:46 AM  
Blogger debbie said...

it's kind of hard to imagine life without social media now. i feel like i'd miss out on the big moments in everyone's life if i didn't have my facebook, flickr, etc, since that's where everyone shares their special moments. meeting neat people doesn't hurt, either! :) great post, hannah.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

i love this post. it is a lot to think about. but you couldn't have said it better--that if your online world is a positive space, then it is just that: positive. thanks for sharing!

10:28 AM  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I read the article too. You have a great attitude on this subject. I'm working on cultivating the same. I'm close.

I hope you found Carolina on Facebook.

5:29 PM  

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