I Was Sick of the Internet...But Then I Made Changes

I've gotten pretty sick of things on the Internet lately. Actually, I've gotten pretty sick of my own spaces on the Internet. I've been doing a lot of soul searching about the things I share here on my blog and elsewhere on my social media channels, because it just hasn't been feeling too great lately.

In the last month here, it's been all lists and links and reviews here. It hasn't been real writing, not the kind that actually requires soul searching and truth sharing and honesty. There's been some on The Rising, but even there, I struggle each week to pull a post together.

I know why, but I haven't talked about it here. My online friend Cassie wrote a fantastic piece about why blogging hasn't really been her thing lately, and it prompted me to share my own thoughts about it to add to the greater conversation.

It's two-fold, really.

On one hand, I've been wondering lately what the point of all of this is.

This is the ugly underside of my heart. It's the part that asks questions like what's the point? Who actually cares what you have to say? Who even reads your blog anyway? Who are you to act like you know anything about that topic? Why don't you just write it in your journal and keep it to yourself? 

And on the other hand, I'm wrestling with what to say, when to say it, and how often to say it.

I know writing is what I was made to do, and I know I love capturing moments and crafting sentences, so cutting it out and quitting altogether isn't an option or even a thought in my mind, but I still need to examine my motives and my actions. 

Often, I think there's a tendency to hit "publish" on a post before we've really wrestled with it well offline and with God. I think sometimes striving to be real with people online looks like sharing too much, too soon. Sometimes, I think we force blog posts to happen when they aren't meant to, just for the sake of having something new go live. Also, I think there are times when we just don't have anything to say, and that should be okay, too. 

I've been thinking a lot about how we hashtag our babies' names and our book reviews and the art we create and all the other things in our lives, just to give them carved out corners in the massive cloud, but why? Isn't the life with the baby and the act of reading the book and the process of making the art enough on its own? Why are we feeling the need to present it all to the world with a pretty filter and a witty caption?

I love this quote from Cassie's post:

I don’t hate blogging or bloggers, but I think this community is lost. We call ourselves “lifestyle bloggers” or “food bloggers” but often get so caught up in having pinnable images or branded social media presences that we forget to be real people. We forget that other women read our blogs and instead of leaving encouraged, leave feeling less than because their house isn’t all white and their husbands don’t make them breakfast in bed on a tray with fresh flowers and they don’t have 15,000 followers on instagram. I don’t think any of those things themselves are necessarily bad, but it has left me craving authenticity.
— Cassie Lee, sagetheblog.com

When did living life turn into sharing every moment of our lives online?

How can we find a balance between writing because we love to write, sharing our lives because the moments are worth celebrating, connecting with old and new friends on social media, and also living full, rich, engaged, meaningful lives in the real, offline world?

I don't like the pressure to share-- not too much, but not too little, make it JUST RIGHT. Sometimes, I don't have a single thing to say, and I don't want to put crap sentences together just to stay on a posting schedule. Sometimes, I have tons of things to share and I don't want to bombard my followers with too much and annoy them either.

I don't like the ugly feelings of inadequacy that rise up within me when I see things I want but don't have, whether it's perfectly styled homes or adorable couples or cute, giggling babies or incredible vacations. 

I don't like the comparison game. I don't like the numbers game. I don't like the judging and the attacking and the clickbait and the false information. It feels like it's all just gotten so far out of hand, and so far off target. I feel a little lost, like Cassie said.

Enough, Rachel. Enough with being frustrated at the Internet while simultaneously being addicted to it. Enough, enough, enough.

I'm making changes.

Here's what I've found (so far) to be helpful, healthy practices online:

  • Unfollow people I do not know, have not somehow connected with, or have never once communicated with. Yes, social media is a great place to meet new people with similar interests, but I follow far too many people that I do not have any sort of connection to, and doing so adds no value to my life. It's nothing against those people, but I only have so many hours in the day, and I want to spend them intentionally.
  • Unfollow any person or business or brand that makes me feel like I want to (or have to) buy something new. I need to practice contentment, and this is a huge step forward in that.
  • Unfollow any person who is discouraging to me (for whatever reason) or brings up any icky feeling when spotted on my feeds. If I feel jealous of them, if I only follow them to make myself feel better, if I mock or judge or criticize what they share, or if I have nothing nice to say to them, I shouldn't be following them.
  • Don't tag my posts with locations and don't post while still at the location I'm sharing an image of. Last summer, I had a scary case of a girl stealing my Instagram photos and acting like me online, and I instantly removed all geotags from my images. The fact that people could easily find me based on that information I so naively shared was terrifying. For my safety, I no longer share location details until I've left the area, or at all in most cases!
  • Take time away. It's easy to scroll through social media any and every time I have a spare second, but spending time away from social media is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Even just leaving my phone at my desk for my lunch hour and getting outside to read a book with no distractions makes a huge difference in my day.
  • Make an effort to intentionally engage. I'm still working on getting better at this one. If I want Instagram and Twitter and Facebook to be healthy places for me, then I want them to be places of actual community, which means reaching out with comments, affirmation, compliments, and feedback to the people I'm following. (Launching #confetticommunity has been a great place for that!
  • Follow people who challenge me, encourage me, or push me to be a better person or creator. This looks different now than it did six months ago. I used to follow tons of artists before I realized I was much harder on my own art as a result. It wasn't encouraging me to be a better creator, but instead encouraging a judgmental and critical attitude in myself of my own work. No bueno! Now, for example, I've realized I enjoy following vegan/gluten-free cooks who share recipe ideas that encourage me to cook, and a few select artists who host challenges that encourage my dedication and commitment to trying new creative things.
  • Unsubscribe from emails. This one is ongoing, but it's been essential. Having an inbox full of newsletters and updates and sales at the mall just adds to my stress every day. I'm sure some friends take it personally when I unsubscribe from their weekly newsletters, but it's not because I don't love the friends, it's just that I don't love a crowded in box, and that's okay.

And the big one?

Stop feeling guilty for doing what I need to do. 

This is what it all boils down to. If I need to take a week off of writing for my column on The Rising, I'm not going to beat myself up about it. If I need to only share some lists on the blog because I don't have real words to write right now, I'm going to share some lists and not feel like an inadequate blogger because of it. If I need to unfollow friends on Instagram, I'm going to do it. If I need to unsubscribe or mute or delete or block or disconnect, I'm going to give myself the grace to do so readily.

And also? If I want to post Instagrams five times in one day, I'm going to give myself the freedom to do that too, because I want my little corners of the cloud to be places I can be unashamedly me without shame or guilt or any kind of pressure. I'm shaking it all off. (And channeling my inner T. Swift dance moves, of course.)

I want my offline life to be richer than my online life. I want to be better at living the people right in front of me. I want to prioritize my time better. I want to put Christ first in all things, especially in how I act and treat people and spend my time online. I want to listen to the voices in my head and my soul when they tell me things aren't feeling right, and I want to make the necessary changes. What a hard but freeing thing that is!

There are no rules to this Internet thing (the best and the worst thing about it) but creating some guidelines for myself and how I use it has been extremely helpful. It's all a process, but it feels good to be making progress.

Internet, you're a wacky place, and while sometimes I hate you, I really do like you and think you can be pretty great. Here's to a better relationship between us moving forward!

Now you tell me-- how are YOU feeling about your Internet life lately? Do any of these things resonate with you? How have you found ways to connect intentionally online and interact with people in healthy ways? Share your wisdom!