Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vicarious Pleasures

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?

23 comments:

Mrs Mom said...

Amen, Amen, Amen and AMEN! I've been struggling a bit with this also Laura. The driving force behind my taking a long hard look at computer time though is watching what is happening with my father in law. He is young- and his time is running out. It has driven home the point that LIFE is too short, and it is there to be LIVED. When I get older? I don't want to be sitting there, unable to do anything any longer for myself, wishing.. wishing that I had spent my time better, wiser, and with more fun and laughter.

New saying around here? We're going to get busy LIVING, or get busy dying. No in between.

Smooch Sunny horse and Henry from me ;)

Laura Crum said...

Mrs Mom--The hard part for me is that there is a good side, too. Like I feel that I know you and many others and have learned a lot from you. Despite the "issues" I have had with some, I think I have also made some real friends. And I know you feel this, too. Its a complex subject, with no simple answer.

As for Sunny and Henry, the poor guys are chomping their hay in their sheds as yet another storm pours down. We haven't been able to ride in quite awhile. But I do get them out and rub on them and let them graze--in between downpours.

Kate said...

I'm very conflicted about the blogging thing too. (And I don't have a TV either - haven't for years.) It's extremely addictive - like unscripted reality horsie TV, I guess. I've met a lot of interesting virtual horsepeople (like you) and learned some things.

Blogging has given me a creative/writing outlet, and sometimes I think because I have to write things down, I think them through better. I also find it keeps me honest in my horse work - if I have to tell people about it I need to do it the best way I know how and report my successes and failures (otherwise it would be scripted "reality" TV). Sometimes having the blog gets me out there to ride and gets me to persist when I'm having a problem with a horse - sort of an odd sense of responsibility to my readers.

And reading about all the horses is a form of horse porn, I guess - it's like having hundreds of virtual horses to enjoy (and that I don't have to pay expenses for or take care of!).

I like hearing about how others do things, even if they're somewhat different from how I might go about things - it's good to have one's preconceptions and belief systems challenged and to have to change or be able to explain yourself, or both. I like being able to offer a helpful word (where wanted) and to offer a word of comfort to those with troubles. My horse life is pretty solitary and it's nice to know there are others out there who form a horse community.

But it takes way too much time - I'm obsessive about writing posts - and lots of them take a lot of time to write. I'm obsessive about reading and commenting. And sometimes I don't like being "out there" - because I talk a lot doesn't mean I know much and sometimes the attention makes me uncomfortable.

I need to do a better job of scheduling my blog time and also my blog writing time - I am retired, but there are lots of other things and people in my life I should be spending more time on. Have to think more about this.

Linda said...

During the spring/summer/fall, my blogposts are few and far between. I do try to check in occasionally, but I let everyone know--this is riding season. Plus, I figure they need a break from my winter obsessions. Hell, I need a break from my winter obsessions!

Laura Crum said...

Kate--Yes, I have a lot of the same thoughts. Being part of a writing "team" lets me off the hook on posting so often (except when others are sick or unable to post--as now), but I still find myself reading blogs. For awhile I made myself a rule that I wouldn't comment (thus saving some time), but I couldn't keep it. It realy is a confusing subject for me, as I said.

Linda--Your approach makes sense. Since its pouring now, I don't mind being on the computer so much, but I should be working on the book. However, as I've said before, I enjoy writing posts and responding to comments much more.

Susan said...

I limit the amount of time I spend blogging for the same reasons. I enjoy visiting, but there are too many other things to do. And I guess I'm not a true computer junkie because after a bit I need a break.

I'm also like you in that until less than three years ago I didn't even have the internet, much less email,etc. In 2008 I thought writers still printed out manuscripts for submission (I realize a few probably still do).

I'm finally becoming a little bit competent on the computer, but am easily frustrated. I guess my mind hasn't been fully re-wired for computer use.

Mikey said...

You write such good stuff! Thought provoking for sure.
Google Reader helped me cut down on the time I spend reading blogs. That was helpful. But yes, there are others out there feeling the same way you do. When did this happen? How did I get so connected?
I don't do Facebook either, however I twitter now because it's so easy from my phone, and usually it's when I'm sitting in the car waiting on someone and having deep or funny thoughts.
I do consider the Net a powerful source of information. We forget how long it would have taken us to go to the library to read about a subject (or take classes somewhere), when now we get it instantly at home. Same with news (I'm a CNN.com junkie). Yesterday I was learning how to knit a scarf online. I like knowing what's going on and I like educating myself. I have to say, I've learned A LOT online, and yes, made mistakes too, but I'm always learning!!
I think it's about balance in life. I try not to ignore the rest of the world, set daily and monthly goals and achieve those, most of which involve being offline and outside. As long as you find the balance, it's all good.
That said, I love that you write here. Your stuff is fantastic and I find myself compelled to comment. That's what it's all about.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you, Mikey--I'm glad you like my little blog pieces. Your blog is one of the ones I'm addicted to--I love your writing style. Did you just put music on it? I was kind of startled last time I went there.

And Susan--I am very not--techie. I can't even post photos on the blog without my husband's help. And I, too, am easily frustrated and just close the screen when I get stuck.

redhorse said...

I've found that there are a lot of people out there on the web who want nothing more than to start a conflict. You see it all the time on message boards and in the comments of some blogs. I've learned to just leave.

But other than that, I do enjoy reading about the experiences of other horsepeople (and cooks and gardeners). I have more time than I'd like right now to be on the internet, first it was the mud, now it's snow and ice. By next month (I hope) you won't be hearing from me.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--That's a good thought. Right now, as yet more rain pours down, I have a hard time believing it will ever be pleasant outside again. And yeah, the folks who like to conflict for the fun of it are no fun, as far as I'm concerned. Its one of the reasons I completely quit commenting on certain blogs.

Shanster said...

YES! I almost feel addicted to my e-mail at times. When I just don't have time to check it I find myself sneaking over to have a peek to see who wrote to me... it's horrible.

I think the internet is cool in that it allows you to "meet" people you would never have met and share experiences and that can be very healing/affirming - whatever.

But yeah... it is a big time suck... I don't do Facebook and don't think I ever will. Afraid of getting sucked in even more...

Laura Crum said...

Shanster--That is me, too. Afraid of Facebook. Just how addicted to "social networking" on the internet can I stand to be? And yet I really do value some of the folks I've "met" through blogging, as you know. I've had one very negative experience and lots of positive ones. I find it very hard to separate the good from the bad here. Even now, as I try to write another book and the rain pours down, I find my attraction to email and blogs both comforting and distracting. Its a conundrum.

kel said...

I spend most of my day in front of a computer screen while at my "real job". I usually sit at my desk for 10 hours a day, even during lunch and breaks. Reading blogs posts transports me away to someplace other than work, it gives me that break that helps me maintain my sanity.
I started my blog for me. As a place to review my goals, acommplishments and failures, like a diary. But if anyone can learn or benefit from it - so be it. I have never been one that gets easily addicted to things like TV shows, video or computer games. I don't think that my attention span is long enough. I get bored and want to get on to something else. I want to be outside, having fun with family, friends and my horses.

My one little addition - if you will - I love, love, love my Iphone. I have my email and whatever at my finger tips. I hate time spent idle waiting, like waiting in line at the grocery store, dr. office, or even waiting for the gas pump to take all my money. Or being a passenger in the car. What a colossal waste of time. I fill those little voids with checking email, facebook, etc. I NEVER have my Iphone on my person when I ride. That is my time and no electronic gadget is going to take that away from me. I won't answer my phone in a public place either.

I do think that video games are the down fall of the American family. But that is an entire other blog post!

Laura Crum said...

kel--The weirdest one--a very well known horse blogger once said she warmed her horse up while listening to her Ipod (hope I have the term right--don't own one). Can you imagine riding your horse while music drowned out the sounds around you? I sure can't relate to that at all.

joycemocha said...

If it wasn't for the Internet, and rec.equestrian on Usenet in particular, I'd not have Mocha today. I went to my trainer's place through an internet friend that I met on rec.equestrian.

Additionally, I do a lot of my writing marketing via the internet, as well as work research for the day job, etc, etc. Yeah, it eats up time, but it's also given me a lot in return.

Including Mocha.

Laura Crum said...

joycemocha--Yes, it does give a lot. That's the puzzle for me. I certainly don't see it as a negative--just a mixed bag. And more than that, something so new that I suspect we don't really understand the long term ramifications--for good or bad,

kel said...

Laura,

I like to have music on in the arena while I ride - not real loud though. I thought that I would like to use an Ipod but I didn't - I don't like to wear the little ear pieces. It makes me feel disconnected.

I did have a weird thing happen to me the other day. I was riding one of the young horses and she was doing great. We were working on "whoa" and she really had it. She would get under herself and stop and start to take a step back. Then my friend comes into arena and turns the radio on. Kind of loud for my taste. I ask for the stop (sit deep and say whoa) and nothing. At first I thought what the hell? So I try again. Nothing. Now I am starting to get annoyed. I figure that she isn't paying attention since there is a new horse in the arena. I ask again and say it loud. She starts to stop and then keeps going. Then the light goes on. I ask to turn the radio off for a minute and guess what? She stops. Perfect. She is young and I think in time is going to be able to figure it out, but I have never had a horse that hasn't be able to discern between me and the radio.

Laura Crum said...

kel--I read your blog and laughed when I read the piece about always having music on. We are opposites there. I like quiet--like to hear what's going on around me. The only time I play music is when I sit down in the evening to relax with a cocktail, and even then I prefer non-verbal music. Funny how different people are about that. My husband is like you. He hates it that I don't like music on in the truck.

mommyrides said...

I agree with Mikey that it is all a matter of balance. Every morning I drive my kids to school grab a bagel and an extra large coffee for me. I do my computer time while I eat my bagel and when the coffee is gone the time for surfing is over too. And I don't like hot coffee gone cold so it doesn't get dragged out. I find that if I do this then I get a chance to check email and my favorite blogs and I'm done until late at night when the kids are in bed. I may log back in for a few minutes. I have to be very careful too because I love to peruse the horse classifieds and horse blogs, just because :D And I could sit there for a very very long time......

The upside of blogs is, like you Laura, I've been able to talk to some wonderful horse people that have shared helpful insights and parts of their world with the rest of us. It's like electronic pen pals!!! Seen when you mentioned that Mikeys' blog was one of your favorites and when I went to the site I realized with much glee that they are from Arizona!! Having lived there for 15 years and recently moved back to Canada I now know a blog that combines both horses and my absolute favorite place in the world!!! Thanks Laura for mentioning it and Mikey for writing so eloquently about my heart's true home!!!

So balance is the key word here, unless of course you are talking about chocolate.....oh honey don't get me started, ha!!!

Laura Crum said...

Lynn--I think you are right and balance is key. I'm probably more out of balance than usual right now, due to spending so much more time than usual indoors--due to all the rain. Nonetheless, there are moments when I really feel disconcerted by this new phenomena. I love it and I think its kind of spooky--all at once.

Glad you found Mikey's blog through me. That's fun.

HorseOfCourse said...

It is addictive, isn't it?

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to take part of thoughts and happenings from my blogging friends around the world. It is fantastic, to be able to share things and exchange thoughts instantly over such large distances. Internet is a marvellous thing.
Wiola from "A Riding Instructor's Diary" even came over from England to us in Norway to throw a weekend training! It was great fun, and we have planned a repeat end of May.

I do not watch TV much either, I use time in front of the PC instead - but how much varies with the weather outside!
I love gadgets, I love to read, and I travel often with my job.
On my Xperia (Android phone) I have access both to my Audible audiobooks and I can read books through the Kindle app.
It is very convenient as I do not have to carry books or an extra mp3-player anymore, and all waiting is suddenly not boring at all :-)

I am not letting the PC take time from my real horses though, I am more addicted to that, lol!

Laura Crum said...

Horse of Course--Its addictive all right, and also kind of miraculous. You are in Norway and I am in California and we are chatting away. Its still kind of amazing to me. And I do love hearing what you are doing with your horses in the snow. But I have not much to say about what I am doing with my horses in all this mud. Nothing but taking them for walks down the gravel driveway. Not very exciting stuff.

Jami Davenport said...

Laura, I, too, ponder this question as my life is so busy, and I rarely have time for everything I need to do. Yet I think anything in moderation is a good thing so it's a matter of picking a few blogs to follow and not getting bogged down in all of the information our there. I try to spend my time online at the same time I'd be watching TV.