by Laura Crum
Warning—there is a rant ahead. If you don’t want to hear me whine and pose some difficult questions about horse blog land, please click on the x.
We’ve been riding on the beach. The photo shows my son on Henry and Wally on Twister and the tip of Sunny’s ear in the lower left corner. Riding on the beach is a good thing My old horse, Gunner, is home and doing well. That’s a good thing. My kid and I are having lots of fun with our horses. That’s a good thing, too. The horses themselves have been rockstars of steady reliability. Sunny even walked calmly down a very LONG, narrow, funky wooden bridge through the sand dunes. And the one thing Sunny doesn’t care for is funky, narrow, wooden bridges. That was a very good thing. Things are going very well in general. However, I recently had a really sad and negative thing happen in blog world. Someone who was once my friend and who turned against me years ago, refusing my every effort to heal the breach (and I did everything I could do), has finally forced me to realize that she simply is not the kind, compassionate person I always hoped and believed she truly was at heart. It has really given me a negative feeling about what kind of friendship/knowing is possible over the internet. I obviously never knew this woman…because I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that she would never treat anyone in the cold, unkind way she has behaved toward me. And now I’m wondering whether reading horse blogs is such a good thing. Maybe you all can help me sort it out.
First off, I’m not a person who has chosen to be sitting in front of a screen much. I don’t own a TV and haven’t ever owned one. I don’t do facebook or Twitter. I’ve never sent a text in my life. My cell phone resides in my car and is used strictly for problems—I probably make ten calls on it a year. You get the picture. But…
As a writer, I’ve learned to type my manuscripts on the computer. Yes, I used to write them longhand, but have finally caved in to the obvious reality that it makes more sense and is far more efficient to type that first draft into the computer. Then, for years now, many/most people prefer email to phone, so I’ve learned the routine of checking email a couple of times a day and communicating with many folks through this medium. Finally, roughly fours years ago I was invited to join the newly formed equestrian ink blog and learned (slowly) about the connected community of horse bloggers. And this has proved to be a two-edged sword.
I really like reading horse blogs. I like it in a way I never liked TV. Yes, I’m still sitting in front of a screen, but in many ways it’s the opposite of TV. TV is big business trying to program us, blogging is the little individual able to bring his/her personal voice/opinions to the world. It really tickles me to hear the thoughts of folks from different places and different disciplines.
And horses are the common ground with horse bloggers. We all love horses. Most of us own horses. But those who don’t, still love horses and are endlessly interested in them. As one blogger said to me, you meet a better class of woman when you hang around with horsewomen. I find that’s true, both in real life and on the internet.
There are some blogs that almost always make me smile, and others where I feel such sympathy for what the blogger is going through. There are bloggers who seem to lead wonderful horse lives or live in wonderfully exotic places (to me) and I am mildly envious, but also very much enjoying their tales. There are training blogs that make my hair stand right up as I feel they are advising absolutely the wrong thing, and training blogs that are (in my view) very insightful and helpful. There are blogs that are entertaining and well written, though I may not agree with the point of view. I like reading them all. In fact, I’m addicted to reading them.
I’ve learned a lot from reading horse blogs, and quiet moments in my day have often been filled with some interest because of them. I’ve corresponded with several bloggers and found them to be really delightful. I also had the bad experience that I referenced earlier of a long correspondence (hundreds of emails over more than a year) that blew up in my face, with the blogger, who I believed was my friend, refusing to “speak” to me again, despite my efforts to somehow mend the breach. This left me sad and also sort of bitter. I felt for awhile that perhaps everyone I “met” in the blogosphere might prove as dramatically different from the person they appeared to be on their blog as this one blogger had proven herself to be. Because call me simple, but I thought she WAS the wise, compassionate persona she presented on her blog, despite much evidence in her emails that this wasn’t the case. The whole experience left me very disillusioned, and I felt that perhaps horse blog world was not the pleasant place it had once appeared to be. However, I kept on reading horse blogs, because… well, I don’t know why exactly.
Because I’m addicted to this form of entertainment, maybe? Because I was/am sincerely interested in the different horse bloggers out there and their horses and adventures? Because I have connected with some neat people and have had some wonderful and rewarding correspondences that have restored my faith in folks I might meet through the blogosphere? Because I appreciate good writing? Because I’ve learned a lot? Because I love horses? Because I love talking about horses with fellow horse people? Because I hope some horse bloggers might try my books?
I guess you could say that all these things are true. It’s the addiction aspect that bugs me, though. If I have a moment, I’ll wander over to the computer and see if one of my favorite bloggers has posted something new. Or if something interesting has been said in the comments. Oh, the comments. Don’t even get me started. I love responding to comments, but, of course, it takes time. I enjoy commenting on others’ blogs, but, of course, that takes time, too. I get confused. I’m spending a lot of time at this. Should I be doing this at all? Wouldn’t I be better off outside?
Yes, I ride several times a week, I homeschool my kid, I volunteer at his homeschool program, I am teaching a class at the local community college, my 12th mystery novel will be released this coming spring. Its not like I’m just sitting at the computer reading horse blogs. But still…I probably spend an hour a day feeding my “addiction.” Is this a good thing?
I know, I know, it isn’t black or white. There are aspects of positive and negative here, and I recognize that. I’m just not sure how to sort it all out. I feel very conflicted, which is telling me that there is something I need to work on. Because I’m not conflicted in other parts of my life. I feel clear about what I want to do (with my horses, for instance) and am able to get it done and am satisfied with it. Not so with the blogging world.
I enjoy writing posts and responding to comments and if I just stuck to that, I’d probably be fine. But I am sincerely interested in others and so I read their blogs and often am moved to comment and all of a sudden I’ve been at the computer an hour and the dishes aren’t done. And the inescapable thought arises—I would have been better off to do those dishes.
The worst of it is when I feel frustrated because I’ve tried to interact in horseblog world and it hasn’t worked out as I hoped. Maybe I’ve pissed someone off by being too direct (my big failing), though I only meant well, or maybe someone has (probably unintentionally) hurt my feelings by their response or lack of response to something I “said”. And then I began to wish I wasn’t involved with this at all.
Of course, far more frequently I have those moments of connection with fellow horse people all over the world and I think that this is just a wonderful community and I’m tickled to be a part of it. And then I sit at the computer another half hour typing comments and replying to emails. When I finally do get up and go do something else, I wonder if the positive emotional content outweighs the negativity (in my mind) of all that time spent facing a screen. I just don’t know (can you hear me wailing here?).
Because though I know that all of you are just as real as I am, and I really do take pleasure in your joy and mourn your sorrows and feel connected to you and your horses, time spent “with” you equals time spent facing that impersonal screen. And I’m still not sure if this is a good thing.
Does anybody else go through this? Do you have suggestions, insights, a path that works for you? Because I am truly confused.
I do realize that this is a very minor problem in the big scheme of things. My life is good and peaceful, I love my family, my critters, my home, the things I do every day. I am a very lucky woman and I realize this. I am truly grateful for my life. A little confusion and angst over how to relate to the blogosphere is not a big deal. But I also know that whenever this feeling of discomfort nags at me it is trying to tell me to look at something. I felt it when I was ready to give up competing on my horses; I felt it at many other times when I needed to make a change. And I’m feeling it now. But what is the change to be?
I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have had very many pleasant and enlightening moments because of horse blogs and horse bloggers. I feel connected to many of you, not least the authors who write for equestrianink. But I am still conflicted about my “addiction”. In many ways I feel conflicted about the whole concept of social networking via the internet. Life seems to be changing so fast. I actively dislike facebook. And yet, I feel as if I know many of my fellow horse bloggers that I’ve never met in person and I’ve learned so much and found so much support.
And then there has been this one woman who I was once so fond of who has treated me in a way that I wouldn’t treat anyone. She’s a very charming, plausible, much loved blogger who is an extremely talented writer. She advocates many things that I agree with on her blog. I first became friends with her because I admired her so much. In many ways I still do. I certainly admire her writing skills and think she sticks up for some good things. And yet I have had one of the most negative encounters of my entire life with her…despite the dozens of emails I have in my files where she thanked me profusely for my friendship and support. Not to mention all the emails confiding her darker feelings and stories. I’ve kept all these things secret for a very long time, because I only meant her good. Since the end of our friendship I have tried very patiently to let her know that even if we were unsuited for close friendship (which we were), there is no reason not to be kind, polite and supportive toward one another, and I am totally willing to do my part. The only response I ever got was one of the coldest, nastiest pieces of work I’ve ever seen. And yes, I snapped at her the other day when she bragged about her kindness toward all. I guess I’ve just had enough of the hypocrisy. And no, a clean, if sarcastic, comment representing a disagreement with what this blogger said about herself does not make me a spammer. Just sayin.
Do I sound bitter? I guess I am. At least a little. What I’m really doing is putting it out there because I’m tired of inwardly holding the hope that some day I could at least have a cordial relationship with this gal. I wanted to believe in her basic personal decency in the worst way. At one time, we seemed to have such a great connection. But she has a long history of writing folks off and never speaking to them again, so I suppose I should have known that it would inevitably happen with me. As a person who has never done this (there is absolutely no one, in the blogosphere or in my real day to day life that I have ever written off and not spoken to again, nor has anyone else—except this one woman—ever acted this way toward me), I simply don’t understand this behavior. I haven’t talked about it before on this blog because I had hoped that it would eventually mend, at least to the degree that we could be polite and cordial in some way. I had no illusions that we would ever be close correspondents again, nor would I want this. But keeping the whole thing to myself is just increasing the sadness I feel. What a sad, ridiculous business. And completely unnecessary. Will somebody please explain to me what could possibly be bad about my wanting us to be polite and kind to each other? Cause I really don’t get it.
(In the interest of fairness I would like to add that I made a HUGE mistake in this relationship. This woman was my very first internet friend and I went completely overboard. I thought she was wonderful. We had so much in common. I believed we could have this special, honest, intimate friendship that was solely founded on truth. Now, she “seemed” to be on the same page, confiding her life story, writing me many times a day, asking that I always keep writing to her…etc, and I’d still like to believe we were honestly very fond of each other at this point. The only thing I can be sure of is that I was sincere. But there were a lot of red flags in her emails, and I wouldn’t heed them. The worst problem was that we were very different people; I am completely open and I don’t mind disagreeing. I don’t mind being told that something I did didn’t work for someone else. I’ll do my best to work through it. This woman described herself as “not an open person”. In the end she found my desire for an open, direct sort of to and fro very threatening, or so I think. What I failed to understand was that internet friendships, in general, won’t hold up to such intensity, and that this person, in particular, couldn’t handle it. I wish I had understood this then and perhaps we’d still be sort of friends. But in fairness to myself, my mistake was in wanting us to be as fine a thing as we could be, which to me meant openness, honesty and trust. My motivation was entirely positive, but we both (in the end) found the other’s way of communicating very frustrating. Once she decided she didn’t want to be friends any more (and to be frank, I did not want that relationship any more as it was), the only thing I ever asked of her was that we be polite, kind and supportive of each other. As in, you know, the occasional brief email saying “I enjoyed your post; hope you’re doing well,” and “Thanks, you, too.” And her response to this request was extremely hostile.)
And finally, I would like to say that if this gal ever replies to this post on her own blog, which I doubt, I can faithfully predict that it will be in the form of the “high road putdown”, which is her specialty. “I’m the good guy, you’re the bad guy,” is the gist of it, very cold and quasi-polite, and she’s very clever at evading the actual issue and putting forth that agenda. As in those who disagree with her and don’t care for her attitude are mean girls and “malcontents”. She will imply that I am bashing her or some such thing. The truth is that if I could have just one wish of her it would be that she would write and say, “OK, let’s be kind.” And you know what? Despite everything, I’d be happy to write back, “Yes. Let’s be kind. I wish you the best.” I’d love to think she really does have kindness in her, just as she always claims.
As for me, I’m perfectly willing to forgive and forget and move on. In honor of the many, many happy afternoons we passed writing our thoughts to each other, if nothing else. And I still hope she has the success that her writing deserves. What I don’t understand is holding a grudge. How does this fit with kindness and sympathy toward all? How is this a good thing? Particularly when you’re talking about someone who only meant you well, and who isn’t asking anything of you but common politeness—the internet version of a civil handshake. The whole thing makes me feel sad, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve tried. I’ve tried very patiently for a long time. Now I’m letting go of it. And I’m letting go of keeping it buried inside me. I think the most important thing for me right now is to acknowledge the truth and move on, unfortunately carrying the knowledge that someone that I cared about feels very bitterly towards me. And this is a hard thing for me to do. I meant her only good and did many things to help her during our long correspondence, and I wanted us to be in a place where we could regard each other in a positive, if distanced way. But I don’t think its gonna happen. So I’m trying to accept that I can’t mend this. If I need to write more about it in order to heal up from it, I will.
This was a very difficult post for me to write, but I think it will help me to move forward. In the meantime, I’m not so sure any more what the best path is through this brave new internet world. Any ideas on a good course to follow? Has anyone else dealt with an extremely negative encounter through horse blog world? Any advice on this subject is welcome
PS—You can feel free to respond to this post with criticism or disagreement; I won’t push the spam button on you.
PPS—If I don’t respond to comments or email, its because my computer has been very problematic lately. I’m not ignoring you.