Monday, May 9, 2011

Being "Deleted" and Surviving; Navigating The Chaos of Our Online World

I remember the time when people would communicate face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and even via *gasp* written letters.

While I know that many of our "younger" friends don't remember a time that did not contain spell-check, and figuring how to spell a word actually meant going to the bookshelf and grabbing an actual book of paper and flip through it. To feel the "breeze" and scent of the paper, and knowledge as you flip through the pages; to me, it was all part of the sensation of learning, the experience of learning, and fun of learning. To tangibly feel the texture of the paper, to hold such an amazing treasure in your hands and know that within contained knowledge. It is something that I still hold on to as I reach for my Oxford Pocket Dictionary that Mum bought me all those years ago in elementary school. And while some of the pages are coming loose, and the plastic reinforcement sticky film is fraying in areas, and my name written in bold across the held tight pages are fading, it is one of my greatest treasures. It has been with me for 30 years. Played an integral part in my life and my writing, and it is ever close-at-hand.

But today, with the internet and "Google", anything being found easily online, Kindle, iPad, iPod, iPhone, Spell-check, etc. I think we have lost a lot of our roots and in some instances, I think that it has taken a lot of the fun out of learning. Today, things seem so easy, its hard to think that much can be digested because it is so readily available. Why digest when one can simply Google?

I still remember asking my Mum how to spell certain words and her immediate reply "look it up". Then trying to sound out the word and the fun (and sometimes frustration) of trying to seek it out in my blue covered dictionary. And how many other words I'd learn while on the hunt for the word I was looking for. It became a fun past time and my vocabulary expanded without much effort.

It became even more fun when I discovered profanity and looking up (and finding) "Shit" and "Fuck" in my little pocket dictionary. I remember endlessly giggling, especially when I took it to school the next day and shared it with my friends. If those words were in there, the possibilities were endless to what I could find in that precious little book.

While the internet and all-access to everyone at anytime is convenient, it seems to be met with a lot of issues that I have never encountered before.

Facebook is the "new world community", and how many of us are suckered in to endless hours spent chatting, updating, commenting, surfing, playing games, etc? I have my hand held up high as I must confess that I definitely spend way too many hours on Facebook.

There used to be a time when one could come home at the end of the day, close the front door, and have privacy in the home. In talking with friends recently, I learned of things that happened within their home growing up, that I had no idea about. And there were things that happened in my home that people had no idea about. It was easy to wear the mask and hide the private stuff.

Today, I know more about some friends' bathroom and eating habits than I'd care to. Such intimate and private details being shared on updates via Facebook and Twitter (and other sites), and much sense of privacy has gone out the window.

I remember the time when people would meet face-to-face to develop friendships. Where we'd pick up the phone to chat. Where we'd drop a little card or letter in the mail to "connect". In my years on My Space and then Facebook and Twitter, I have made some very near and dear friends, some whom I still have to meet in person.

My co-host on Manifesting the Positive radio, GuruStu, is one of my closest friends. We spent a year and a half co-hosting an internationally successful radio show, and he was one of my regular contributors to Magnify You magazine (an online magazine I created). And while we have a great friendship, and we have worked together on some amazing projects, and we've spent long hours on the phone chatting; we still have never met face-to-face.

But this seems to be how our world is operating. Visions from the movie "Surrogates" flood my mind as I think that our online personas can become anything we choose to create them to be, and that we truly are living in a virtual world, simply "operating" the "I" we have created from behind a monitor screen.

A well-known friend of mine made a discovery a couple of years ago when they realised that their celebrity status was more of an online concept, and was quite shocked over it. As he raced through a busy airport trying to catch his plane, no one sought an autograph from him and he was actually (*huge gasp here*) stopped at security check points like a "regular" person. There was no VIP treatment, no fan-fare, no security protecting him from marauding fans; in the eyes of the "off-line" world, he was just another guy rushing through an airport.

This really struck him, as he realised that for all his popularity online and on Facebook, all the hundreds of thousands of "hits" to his website, and endless numbers on his mailing list; people in the real world, had no clue who he was. It was a real eye-opener for him.

It is important to see the balance of positive and negative with this new world we are living in. More people have access to us, people we have never met, and more than likely never will meet. While it this is a great medium for keeping in instant contact with loved ones and reconnecting with old friends, it can also pose a lot of problems.

Facebook is a world in unto itself. With the numbers of groups and pages, and individuals with big EGO's running small pieces of Facebook real estate, it can pose an issue.

Cyber-bullying is now a pandemic. When I was in school, bullying ended the moment you got home and closed the door; today, kids can't seem to escape from it and we hear more and more stories of children attempting, or succeeding, at suicide as a result.

Recently, I was involved in a situation where an individual I met on Facebook invited me to be one of the  administrators of their group. I accepted without much "juggling" of my schedule. While I was interacting on the group, I had fun. It was a nice place to go and relax, meet others, and simply be.

Sadly, as things evolve and groups attract larger numbers, chaos can seem to reign and it is important for administrators to be communicating constantly and keeping up with their decisions; if one wants to keep order and peace within the group itself as well as between administrator's. Often, what tends to happen is that groups get large, administrator's lack communication, or miscommunicate, and tensions begin to rise. Sometimes, one administrator, decides to change rules and regulations without communicating to the other administrators, and can lead to even more misunderstanding and chaos. As what happened in the situation I was recently in.

In life, whether life is in a person-to-person/face-to-face/tangible basis, or a cyber one; communication in any regard is key. Break downs in communication is so easy, especially online where our main source of communicating is via text, which lacks emotion.

In our new online "world", it seems individuals become further sucked in to the game of EGO. It is very easy to 'delete' a friend on Facebook. I know that I have regularly done "clean-ups", where I remove individuals whom I realise I have little to nothing in common with, or we do not interact at all, and suddenly this person becomes nothing more than a "number" on my friends list.

I value people too much to simply reduce them to being a "number". For me, relationships need to be cultivated, interactions needs to happen, and commonality found. When these things are not being met within the relationship, the friendship suddenly becomes nothing more than a number.

In life, it is good to take stock of those around you; do an inventory. Are they individuals with whom you interact with? Do they improve your life or negate it? Are they a positive influence in your life, or do they suck the life out of you? Do they rise you up, or attempt to drown you?

There is nothing wrong with doing an inventory and then removing your Self from others. It's not about them, it's not about EGO which lends to emotion, it is about finding a healthy balance.

When I see that I am not contributing to another individuals life (in a healthy manner), or they are not returning the favor of friendship in kind, I see no point continuing on a pseudo relationship with them, when truly all that is being fed is ones EGO with the numbers section of the friends list.

While I have this point of view, it seems that others take offense to it. They often feel that they need to receive a long-drawn out explanation and prior-written warning and notice that they will be deleted from your friends list.

It has become a phenomena on Facebook, and many EGOs have been bruised, and anger turning into nastiness and back-biting and gossip ensues.

The fact is simple, when an individual is removed from a friends list, that relationship ends. There may be no answers to questions of "why" or "what did I do", but possibly looking at the interaction, or lack thereof, will provide the answers sought.

It is important to not allow emotion to get caught up in the sentiment of the situation. Realise that is simply is how it is, and leave it at that. In all honesty, how well did you know the person? How often did you hang out together away from the monitor? How close were you really? Often, what many of us fail to see, allowing ourselves to get caught up in EGO, is that we did not really know the person who deleted us. Theirs was a short interlude in this journey called "Life". Embrace the time you had together, but realise that it was time to move on.

We live in a fast-paced, high-tech world. People will come and go through our lives. Each moment that an individual has been a part of our lives, is an experience and a lesson in learning. When they retreat from our lives, when we have been easily "deleted" from their friends list with no cause, it is important to not feel as if it is a personal agenda at hurting. It is not an attack. It simply means that the relationship has run its course and it is an important part of our learning curve to realise this, embrace it, and flow with it.

As our world is fast-paced and high-tech, we can only expect it to get even faster. The faster we start moving, the more things will become a blur, the more we can easily get caught up and lost in that blur. It is important for us to take time to stop and remove the blur from our lives. The more we get caught up in it all, the more we open ourselves up to continual disappointment and hurt.

It is important to take time to evaluate how we are reacting to things. Look at the situation and ask, "why am I reacting to this? Is it really important? Will it change my life forever? What is the impact that it is having on my life?"

When we react to a situation, we must understand that it is something within our Selves that we are reacting to, and not necessarily the situation. When we react to something that is non-confrontational, not personal, and not directed to hurt; it is so important to analyse and identify our reactions and then try to understand why we are reacting the way that we are. Is it real? Or, is it perceived?

With as fast as things are moving today, as fast as we know things are progressing for our future, it's important that we stop. Take time to digest. Understand that someone hitting "delete" on your "friendship" is often not personal. Understand that the relationship has run its course and learn to release with love and peace, and look forward to developing new relationships and gaining new experiences.


©Leyla Hur
All Rights Reserved. Copying, altering, displaying or redistribution of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.

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