Category Archives: the interwebs

True, Necessary, Kind, and the Internet

I had most of this post on my desktop for a couple of weeks. I guess I couldn’t decide whether it was necessary.

I sometimes lament that an outsider to our family—or a child in our family—would surmise that the character traits we value most are being smart and being funny. You know, as opposed to being nice, helpful, considerate, generous—all the qualities you’d want smart, funny people to have down solid, lest they become unbearable know-it-all jackasses.

Smart, funny people need to know when to can it, to leave the one-liner that is freakin’ brilliant unsaid, to let a meaningless—if glaring‐error go uncorrected.

In our house one way we sum this up is the phrase “True, necessary, kind.” This phrase has been credited to Socrates, though I am most familiar with it from Buddhist readings. Discerning “right speech,” in the Buddhist sense, requires asking three questions about the things you say: “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”

When my very smart near-teenager makes a joke that might be funny among friends, but is hurtful to a little sister, possibly none of these criteria are met. When she corrects that little sister, likely in a condescending way, she knows that just being right is not enough to make her words OK. “Hey,” I can ask her, “was that true, necessary, and kind?” She’ll know exactly what I mean.

So much activity online violates this precept, or at least stretches the definition of all three words. Was it necessary for me to post a photo of a Captain Crunch box on my Facebook wall today? Is linking to a blog post that expresses an idea you agree with, albeit with harsh words for people who don’t agree, kind? At what point does the online persona we each have cross the line from “selective sharing” to simply self-aggrandizing or otherwise misleading?

As both the holidays and the election season start gearing up, I’m questioning whether the various types of online media many of us engage with—Facebook, Google+, blogs, e-mail lists— are supporting “right speech” or making us as tone deaf as too-smart-for-their-own-good adolescents.

I can’t tell yet. Sure, Facebook is a time-waster, but it’s also become an important medium of connection between friends and family who wouldn’t be sharing the basic stuff of life otherwise. Isn’t that necessary? And kind? Isn’t networking necessary? Aren’t blogs a way that some people get to share what’s true?

The conventional wisdom of social media is that frequent posts that keep you in the eye of your readers are necessary—but necessary for what?

This December I’m aiming for a few more Silent Nights. Most things worth saying will keep.

Knock Knock

As you can tell, we are dealing with multiple tragedies this week, but still keeping on. If you are one of the few women on the internet who has not yet seen this and contemplated doing the same, then click immediately and get in the loop. Knock knock . . .

Why 40 Questions?

The idea of starting this blog came about in the shower, like many ideas do. It was another morning waking up tired, thinking about the full day ahead, worrying about lots of big and little issues that I have been meaning to do something about for a very long time, but still haven’t. “I can’t keep going like this,” I thought. “Something has to change.” I’m not one to be coy about my age, but really, at 41 you have to realize that if there are things you are hoping to do in life—learn the cello, organize your office, write a book, do a headstand—the time ain’t gettin any riper.

The idea that came to me between lather and rinse (don’t repeat, it’s a waste of product) was to start writing about it. A blog. Something that would call my attention back to those things I want to do more than I want to click through internet links all afternoon.

The trouble with personal blogs written by neurotic cerebral types is that we’re very good at unspooling ideas and theories at great length. When there are two of you, it gets better—or worse, depending on your point of view. My husband and I can turn an argument about a coffeemaker into a two-hour discussion about family of origin issues and how we carry on in the face of the ultimate meaninglessness of life. And then the coffee’s cold.

The idea of blogging with friends seemed like the perfect solution. In real life, we bring each other gripes, rants, and sticky wickets, and usually in the end it moves our thinking forward. Supportive “you go girl!” friends are great, but sometimes a great friend prods you a bit and says, “Hmm, I see it a little differently.” What I like best is when a friend asks that good pointed question that picks up the problem and sets it in a new light. Suddenly there’s an open window in what felt like a closed room. Good questions are amazing things.

Plus we can try to pick up each other’s slack when a full week means minimal blog posting.

So: 40 Questions. 40 is a shorthand for this “the time is now” time of life. Questions are how we keep things moving forward.

It’s my hope that as we get our bloggy feet under us we’ll keep asking each other questions—not just the three ladies of this blog, but friends and strangers, regular and irregular visitors too—and find ourselves moving forward in all kinds of ways.

For me, I’d like to get in the shower some morning and think, “I can’t wait to get to this,” instead of “I can’t keep going like this.”

We have some ideas that I hope will unfold in the coming weeks and months to help us shift into the next gear. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting—some comments have opened a few windows for me already, and I hope now and then we can do the same for you.

iBalance

I notice a lot of people of my generation have mixed feelings towards technology like television, video games, and the internet, as well as social networking sites and expensive igadgets.

Are we wasting our time? Our life? Are we just getting fatter and paler and losing the ability to concentrate?

Maybe these fears and biases are more prevalent in the crowd I roll with, which includes natural parenting, vegetarian, raw milk drinkers who ride their bicycles to work and bag their groceries from Whole Foods in organic hemp totes. But they are also plugged into Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon via their smart phones.

I admit I am good and plugged in. My laptop is my diary, my record collection, my library, my encyclopedia, my social circle, and my writing outlet. When I go for a run (so as to not be so fat and pale), I strap my iphone to my arm and turn up my running playlist. My newest purchase is the iPad 2. And I am counting on it to add at least $500 of value to my life.

To that end, I just downloaded an app that is a food diary (people who keep a daily food diary lose more than twice as much weight as those who do not) with an extensive food database. It also has a calorie tracker, an exercise tracker, daily charts, and long term progress reports.

And as much as I am conflicted with Zuckerberg over his privacy policies, I am grateful to him for Facebook. I have friends and family all over the country, and being able to connect with them in real and meaningful ways has genuinely added to my life. The friendships I renewed, kindled, and developed on FB have saved me. Did you know that people with a strong support network of friends have lower stress, heal faster, and live longer?  And women with breast cancer who had a support group, lived twice as long as those who didn’t and had less pain. Take that, social networking naysayers!

Obviously, I am pro-tech. Yet I still collect actual paper books, play card games and old-style dungeons and dragons (with dice, paper and pen. Gasp!) and I take daily walks along the beautiful river in my small Midwestern town.

I admit I am still conflicted about the amount of time I spend online, even with all the obvious benefits. Are you conflicted? How do you balance your virtual world with your “Real Life?’