It’s a small world now….

Thanks to the ever changing world of technology and social media, it’s become clear that there is no such thing as “six degrees of separation.” Frankly, I think it’s one-two degrees of separation at best. This point was brought home to me a few days ago when I learned that a local follower of mine on twitter had attended the same college as the Man Unit. Granted, the Man Unit’s alma mater is very well known for its journalism program but it is in the Midwest and we are in New England. In a case of how small the world really is, it turns out that this woman had not only attended the same program as my husband but they actually had in the same graduating class and once I told her who my husband was, she knew who he was. Talk about a holy smokes the world is small moment.

Lately I have found myself thinking about how small the world is as readership of this space grows.  I am still amazed when someone in my local offline life tells me that they have read some of my work. Offline I actually don’t talk about my writing life. Until recently, I kept my career as a non-profit administrator separate from my blogging and writing hobby (possible second career), but in recent months that has proven harder to do as local papers here in the state of Maine have spoken with me on various issues. Some months back, a well-known Maine journalist tracked me down for some of my insights and a day after his piece ran, I found myself in a yoga class with a several people who had read not only my thoughts from the other writer’s piece but who had looked up my writings.

Last night, I came across a piece from a writer I admire on twitter, who had a friendly rant about how there is no separation between our online lives and our offline lives. The internet is here to stay and gone are the days when you can hide behind a fake photo and name and say whatever you want without it eventually being connected to you. I agree.

It’s one of the reasons that despite many well-meaning people suggesting, I tamp down my online hijinks or at the very least use locked accounts, I refuse to. For starters, I live in a small rural state and being online allows me better networking opportunities than I have available to me offline at the moment. Then there is that pesky fact that as a transplant who is over 30, meeting people is just hard. A decade here and while I know of a lot of people, I really have few people locally that I consider friends and the slightly sad fact is I met most of those people through online ventures, namely a now defunct local parenting discussion board. Lastly, I enjoy being online, it doesn’t interfere with my offline life. The day job gets done, the family is tended to, everyone’s needs are met, so why not?

I admit it is slightly unsettling to know that local people are reading read my work, but it actually means they are getting a chance to know me. Too often, we only see people in one dimensional ways often based on what they do for a living. Here, I strive for honesty at all times and if it offends, that’s okay too.

The world is an increasingly small place and no matter how some of us feel about that, no longer are our lives neatly compartmentalized. You don’t get be one person online and another offline and as uncomfortable as that feels it is reality. It means we all have to be a lot more intentional about who we are especially online since in this brave new world, even seemingly unrelated things such as jobs have been lost because of the disconnect in our lives. As crazy as it is, I am not sure that is a bad thing. In the past I have been told I over share, at least online, trust me there is nothing that I say in any space that I wouldn’t admit or share publicly.

It’s a small world now and it’s getting smaller yet it’s a great chance to define or redefine ourselves and be intentional and authentic in that process. So if you do nothing else in 2013, my two cents of advice is to be intentional in all that you do.

Do we really know each other?

Until recently my refusal to see online life as part of “real” life was quite annoying to one of my dearest friends, she would often ask why I separate out the two. Like many I often thought well how can you really know “these” people? I mean can you really know someone that you have never sat down and broke bread with, or shared a hug of comfort with? Of course life being life, whenever I make such statements life generally comes back to bite me in the ass

Fast forward to this past year or so and I thought I knew people I called friends, friends meaning we know each other in the flesh, have known each other for years. Yet it took losing a so-called friend of 30 years to realize we don’t always know each other. Oh we may know details of each other’s lives, we may have shared experiences, a past and a present but in many cases we only know what we choose to share with one another. In other words there is plenty of gray area. In ending my friendship with my childhood friend, a woman I considered my sister who had logged so many hours with my family as a child, teen and young adult that to this day my father still considers her a daughter. I realized we didn’t know each other at all, turns out there was plenty she had hidden away, choosing to never share, things so fundamental that not sharing bordered on insanity. Add in losing a few people to suicide in the past decade, people know one ever in a million years would have imagined taking their lives, I realized that at least for me maybe I needed to reconsider how I define knowing people

It turns out that for me opening myself up on my blog and to lesser extent in other online venues like twitter has opened the door to new relationships taking form. Oh, some of these connections are fleeting and transient and others are like a young tree forming roots in that only time will tell if they stand the test of time and endure. The thing is in reflecting on connections that I once thought solid and even the work I have been doing this year in my own marriage, the question constantly comes up for me around do we really know anyone? Shit, my process of growth this year has had me mining the depths of my own being and realizing that at this stage of my life there are truths about my own self, that only now as I start the dance to middle aged, am I comfortable taking out and putting on the table

Truths that frankly have been a lot easier to share with people I don’t know very well or at all in real life. Last night while flitting away time on twitter (my virtual water cooler of sorts) I posed the question of how do other twitter users view the people they interact with on twitter. For some it was strictly as strangers or acquaintances but for others it seemed a seemingly nameless space actually served as the forming ground for actual relationships and friendships. Two people I know in real life have formed very real romantic connections thanks to twitter, I am taking people who have been to my house, broke bread with and vice versa now being in serious live in relationships with others they met through twitter.

An online buddy I have known over a decade and I were talking back and forth about twitter connections and she posed some great food for thought, that maybe venues like Twitter allow us to approach relationships and connecting from a backwards perspective. After all we can share tidbits about ourselves, some deep, some not before we have done the other lengthier pieces of connecting. As I went drifted towards sleep last night I found myself wondering is it so bad to approach things from a backwards perspective? Often in the dating advice world, women are often instructed to abstain from sexual relations with a potential partner until you know that the potential partner is willing to connect and commit on a deeper level. Well I will just say that I never followed that advice and 16 years later the man and I are still here. I most certainly didn’t think he was a cheap trick for giving up the goods very early in the dating process! Hell, there are times at least in the dating world, knowing what ya working with sexually early on is a good thing, versus some arcane rules of dating that say no sex until some arbitrary date. I think again this is where social media allows us to make targeted connections.

The older you get it’s pretty well known that it is harder to make friends, when we moved to Maine years ago we were already at the age where most folks are not trying to expand their pool of friends. The two people in Maine closest to me, I met thanks to a now defunct parenting board, both these connections are precious to me. Yet in my day to day life here while I know many people, very few of those connections are deep. Oh we may go to the same church, have kids at the same school, even take the same yoga class, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me. We know of each other. Yet I have spent times tweeting and talking with people online who probably have a better idea of who I really am then people who see me daily. Granted even then there are limits to what they know because I only choose to share so much of myself, which goes back to the question, do we really know anyone? How can we? Does time logged in over a certain amount of time really equate knowing someone? If so how? Just random questions floating around in my mind as I type this and try to delay working.