My beef with social media, aka the power and the pain of the written word, emoticons, and the thumbs-up symbol

Anyone know who William Faulkner was? If so, this blog post is for you. He was my favorite writer in high school and I wanted so much to be able to master stream of consciousness writing.

First, I must call bullshit on that saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me (exact words may vary). While I understand that I can choose to ignore words, I am human after all, and a (budding) writer, and words, especially the written word, stick with me. Words are powerful. That’s why we read and write, yes? I remember what I see and read, because I am very visual. I was one of those kids who read by dim light late into the night, until my mom would come in and tell me I was going to go blind if I kept doing it. (I did end up having to wear glasses starting at age 12). If I were to rewrite this saying, it would say, Sticks and stones may break my bones. Those will heal. However, words break my heart and my heart doesn’t forget.

Which leads me to social media. Yes, I know the beauty of it: connecting and reconnecting with people, businesses, interests, etc. That’s it in a nutshell for me. That being said, most of the communication via social media is by writing, whether it be status updates, comments on a status, tweets, emoticons, etc., and since social media is public, we tend to put out an image of ourselves that isn’t accurate. We often write (aka say) things to each other that we probably would not if we were standing face to face or talking on the phone, because there is this shield of distance implied in a virtual conversation or interaction.

This bugs the hell out of me. I’m so damn open that I just lay my life and feelings out there like a freaking store display, but I rarely have a reciprocal experience. Yet, I continue to put myself out there being Miss Nice, Miss Survivor, Miss Wine, Miss Travel anyway. Then I get to be judged by and compared to a jury of my peers (aka “friends”) with a thumbs-up, not a thumbs-up (What, don’t you like what I wrote?), a retweet (or not), a favorite (or not), and a slew of replies and/or comments that range from relevant, empathetic, sympathetic, kind, cool, to totally irrelevant, rude, mean, WTF, etc. Seriously, don’t the spiritual and inspirational people of today tell us that we should only focus on ourselves, not compete with each other, and not compare ourselves with each other? But there we are out there passing some sort of judgment every, single day by our words, thumbs-up, emoticons, and even silence and inaction.

This is what I’ve been struggling with for a while now. I miss interacting with people in real life and on the phone, where often a facial expression or a voice inflection will prevent a misunderstanding that is often missed in the written, virtual world. Sometimes I just want to say, Pick up the damn phone and call me! I want to connect with a human heart through the spoken word. I want to hear words and feel meaning and emotion while looking at someone’s face and into their eyes.

Words matter. Choose carefully. There are no do-overs.

Love,
Beth

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Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Tribute in Light: September 11, 2011 (Shankbone)

Tribute in Light: September 11, 2011 (Shankbone)

A few years ago, I wrote a post about this topic for another blog, but the blog has since been discontinued, which is sad, because it’s like losing part of my writing history.

On September 11, 2001, my life was so different. I was a college professor in Virginia. I was dating a guy who lived and worked in the New York City area, so the events of that day hit close to home. I remember I was teaching a class via interactive television when the technician ran into my classroom and switched the channels as we saw the replay of a plane hitting the twin towers. It was and still is so surreal. When the first plane, American Airlines 11, hit, we thought it was an accident. When the second plane, United Airlines 175, hit, we knew. I dismissed class and the college closed, but my students remained glued to the classroom televisions. I made my way to my office and kept trying to call my boyfriend from my cell phone, but my calls would not go through. Finally he called me to tell me he was OK, as was his brother, who worked for Citibank. I was relieved for them, but heartbroken for those who lost their lives and who lost family members and friends. Silly me kept hoping for more miracles than actually happened. To this day, I still cannot believe the magnitude of loss of life.

During the course of that morning and day, we heard about American Airlines flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, then United Airlines 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to gain control of the aircraft after it was hijacked. It was as if the destruction and death would never end. I will never forget this day or its moment in history. I still grieve for those who lost loved ones.

I still remember what it was like to fly after 9/11, how quiet it was when I landed at Dulles instead of National for a required doctoral class at George Mason. I remember seeing the smoldering twin towers from my weekly flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport for what seemed like a very long time after the events of that day.

I also remember the kindness that we shared with strangers after this tragedy. For a while after 9/11, people seemed to care more about each other. I saw more public displays of politeness and affection and less frustration and anger. It still breaks my heart that it took a tragedy like this to make us treat each other with more love and mutual respect than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.

If there is one thing I could wish for this anniversary of 9/11, it would be for us to return to love, in spite of our differences, and in honor of all the lives that were lost that day.

Love,
Beth

Photo Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/