The other night I woke up at 2am. I lay staring at the ceiling. I felt a tight knot in my stomach, thoughts crammed my head. I was troubled and to be honest a little anxious and distressed. I felt crowded.
I got out of bed. My husband’s snores pierced the quiet of the night. My children slept soundly. I decided to take advantage of my alone time. We’ve been so busy and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, but there was something bugging me. There was something which had been worrying me and if I didn’t sort it out I knew I would get increasingly agitated.
I turned on my computer.
I turn it off each night in the hope my mind will switch off too. Quite often it doesn’t and I dream in hashtags and 140 characters. The computer has become an extension of me. I am constantly online, whether it be updating our diary, working, communicating with friends through Facebook and Twitter, shopping, researching and blogging. To be frank, I am on the computer too much and need to start imposing “computer free” time, much like “wine free” days. Except I’ve never been good at that, it never lasts for long. I just swap to gin or vodka slushies. And when I switch the computer off, I invariably find myself checking my phone for Twitter updates.
But I know it’s time to get serious about computer usage because lately, I’ve felt my online life and my real life were starting to get a little blurry. Not that I am a different person online. I am exactly the same. Ok, perhaps I am a little wittier online and my avatar is photoshopped. In real life, my hair is messy and I haven’t washed the mascara off from the night before. I also smell of coffee and baby poo. It’s the privacy lines which have become blurred.
You see, on Facebook I have a list of friends and family who I have worked with, grown up with, lived with, danced with and shared many personal moments with. I have my privacy settings set so that only my “friends” can access my photos and personal details. I post pictures of my children. Unlike when I blog, my husband and children’s names are used freely. I share my life in the knowledge I will not be judged, my flaws are known and accepted. There’s no trolls or discussion. It’s just me, being me. It’s a safe place.
On Twitter, I network and I share with strangers and friends alike. I am open to judgement or comment. I feel more inclined to be increasingly candid about politics and issues which annoy or worry me. I can be a bit more bolshy. I love the freedom, the immediacy, the banter and the sense of community. I like to be challenged or questioned. The ability to reveal the essence of me with no boundaries.
When I blog, I write about what is in my heart, what I need to get out. It’s a form of therapy. It’s a place to challenge myself as a writer. I choose what I am going to reveal. I choose what to keep private. It’s my space, but it’s also a public platform. The only privacy controls I have in place are what I impose on myself.
I am not exactly sure when it began, but slowly my real and online lives started heading for a collision. I started strengthening friendships with other bloggers. I even met a lot of people in real life and they were as gorgeous as I had expected them to be. I started uploading photos of my children to Twitter. I knew there’d be friends who’d love to see them, just as I love seeing pictures of their children. I didn’t think about all the strangers, all the unknown elements. As I became more comfortable, I started putting photos of my children on my blog. The blogging community is kind and loving, right? Everyone else does it, why not me? The line in the sand had disappeared. Rules I set myself, about sharing private details about myself and my family, were being broken by me.
Twitter contacts and other bloggers became Facebook friends. My newsfeed started transforming into a blog post reader. My non-blogger friends’ news was being swallowed up by posts I already had seen in my Goggle Reader and my Twitter stream. For some people, Facebook is only another avenue for blog promotion and that is it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great way to promote blogs. I use it too, but I also rely on it to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world; it’s a special place for sharing. I felt lost in my personal space. I started not wanting to put photos of my children up on Facebook and I questioned if I should put their real names. I was feeling nervous about not accepting friend requests. I started feeling rude, dismissive and uncomfortable. It weighed on me. I retreated from Twitter. I retreated from Facebook. I had a social media melt down.
So, the other night when my sanctuary, my bedroom, felt like a cell, like the walls were closing in and I tossed and turned. And when the awful din of my thoughts buzzing in my head kept me awake, my eyes staring into the darkness, I knew I had to do something. I turned on my computer and I regained control. I drew the line back in the sand. I “rearranged” my Facebook list, getting back to my core family and friends (and some new ones I’d made recently). I then opened my blog page and I took down all the photos of my children and my husband. I took back control of my privacy.
I knew the people who cared about me, people who are learning bit-by-bit about me through my blog and on Twitter, people who I am slowly building new friendships, these people, they would understand. They would identify with my dilemma, they would recognise that I needed to take a step back and take back the reigns. I knew I was doing the right thing.
And when I was done, I felt the tight feeling from my chest disappear. I felt the pressure subside. I could breathe again. I retreated to my sanctuary.
Then I slept.