by Laura Crum
This post is on a topic that seems pretty paradoxical. Here I am, writing a blog post for a blogspot, and what I want to talk about is the fact that I don’t really like it that I’m staring at this screen rather than playing with my new puppy or watching the rain pour down (yes, its still raining). Much as I enjoy writing blog posts and hearing what others have to say, there is a little part of me that whispers that I need to readjust my priorities. I sometimes remind myself of folks who watch horses on TV and don’t ride their own horses any more.
OK—perhaps there is nothing wrong with watching horses on TV. I am a bit predjudiced on this subject, I guess. I don’t even own a TV—that’s how strongly I feel about watching TV. Certainly I do sometimes enjoy watching a unique sporting event on someone else’s TV, but overall I prefer to be free of that particular noose. They don’t call it “programming” for nothing.
But then there’s the computer. For many years I refused to use email, I wrote my books longhand and had them typed by others. I avoided the computer screen as I avoided the TV screen. However, eventually I caved.
My downfall was insidious. My husband taught me to use email when we were courting. Pretty quick I loved email. And not so long after that, email became the communication method of choice among most people I knew. No one used the phone any more. It was all email. So now I’m using email, too—sitting at the computer screen quite a bit, in fact.
Then, my books. It cost a lot to have them typed by others. For many years now, I can’t afford that luxury. I type them myself on the computer (using the hunt-and-peck method—I kid you not). Now I’m facing that screen a heck of a lot.
And finally came this blog. Despite using email and typing my books into the computer, I WAS, repeat WAS, relatively free of the computer as an entertainment device. I didn’t even know what a blog was three years ago. I don’t shop on EBAY (or any other computer oriented way). I don’t routinely “google” things or look them up on Wikipedia. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. As I say, I was still relatively free of the damn computer.
And then came this blog. When I received the invitation to join, I almost just deleted it. I don’t do blogs, was my thought. I don’t even know what a blog is. On a whim, I forwarded the invite to my editor. What do you think, I asked her.
Well, the editor wrote and begged me to do it. Great publicity for your books, she said. The publisher wrote and begged me to do it. They both thought it would sell books. Since I don’t tour and refuse to spend my own money promoting my books, I decided I should reconsider this blogging idea. After all, I could do it from home and its free. Why not?
So I started writing blog posts for Equestrian Ink. And in order to find out how to write such things, I read a few other horse blogs. And that was the beginning of my “addiction”. I liked reading horse blogs. I liked it a lot. It was very entertaining. I found I liked writing horse blogs and commenting on horse blogs. I liked getting to know horse bloggers all over the country and all over the world. I made some friends. And discovered, as well, that sometimes internet friendships are not what they appear (as those who have found internet “sweethearts’ can often attest). Anyway, I was hooked. I loved horse blog world. I spents lots and lots of time reading blogs, commenting, and emailing folks I “met” through the blogs. I was no longer so interested in promoting my books. I was involved in “social networking”.
It took me awhile to realize what had happened. Call me dumb, but it was a long time before I sat up and said, “My God, I’m devoting over an hour a day to this stuff.” And that wasn’t time spent working on my books. That was playing around reading horse blogs. I hate to think what would happen if I got involved with Facebook and Twitter, too.
The thing is, when all was said and done, I really didn’t have that hour to give. It gets taken from my family, my kid, my animals, my garden, keeping up the house, working on my books, and just being in the natural world…all things that mean far more to me than computer time. But guess what? I couldn’t give it up so easily. I was addicted. Or I was connected. I was something, anyway. Because I was interested in all the people that I had “met” through blogging. I couldn’t let go of hearing about them and their horses and their lives. I thought about them sometimes, when I was down at the barn with my own horses, or lying awake at night. They (you) were part of my life.
But now I was torn. Because though I know all of you are as real as me, and though I was now fond of you, I still didn’t want to spend this much time facing a screen. Real you might be, but you still equaled screentime instead of that same time spent at my barn or in my garden, or playing with my kid. And so now I’m in a quandry. And I haven’t figured any way out.
So today I would like to ask if any of you, like me, are puzzled and slightly alarmed by how much time you spend at the computer and find yourself ambivalent about how much emotional energy you invest interacting with people you’ve never actually met. Because I do think of you and your horses and worry about your problems and enjoy your triumphs. And I was hurt when my first internet “friend” turned against me. Is this connection/addiction a good thing overall? Looked at from one angle, I think, yes. From another angle, I wonder. I’m never entirely sure. Does anyone else ponder this question?