There have been a lot of changes around 'the neighborhood' (oh man, you better believe I'm going to milk that...) lately. I feel like, slowly but surely, I'm evolving as a blogger. It's almost embarrassing to admit that I've been doing this for over six years and I'm only just now getting around to a custom domain and swaps and so on. I guess when I first started, I didn't really know what I was doing. I was a teenager and a blog was an easier way to journal because I could type faster than I could write, which meant I could keep up with my thoughts more efficiently. Blogging has turned into SO much more since then though.
Our ability to share and connect with people has been enhanced in almost every way since the early 2000's, and blogging is no exception. In many ways, blogging and online social networking is acquiring a somewhat negative connotation nowadays. Many believe it has actually hindered our ability to truly connect and interact with one another. I respectfully disagree, but with an asterisk*
*Some people know where to draw a line.
I recently learned (during a google search of myself as a joke and an experiment) that MySpace started awarding badges...? I found that (though my account has been deleted for years) I had earned two in particular: "Old School" and "O.G." - one for being one of the "original myspacers" and one for being a member of MySpace before it was ever cool. HA! It really made me laugh. I think I joined MySpace in '03 or '04. But I joined facebook and Hi5 and Bebo and a handful of other social networking sites at that time as well. I didn't even know what they were. I added anyone to my friends list who requested to be there. I had like, thousands of friends, yo.
I learned quick, the hard way, that you can be a little too open on the 'net'.
One day, a guy I didn't even know showed up on my doorstep with a gaggle of idiots (I'm assuming they were friends of his) greeting me as if we were old pals, asking if I wanted to hang out. At first, I thought maybe they had the wrong house....and the wrong girl. Then "Nick" says "You don't recognize me, do you? It's Nick! From MySpace!" My protective pseudo mamma (I lived with my best friend's family my senior year - that's another story. Don't worry, my mom approved.) respectfully, but firmly asked the boys to leave (Thanks, Mamma C.!!) and they complied. You don't mess with that woman. She'll getcha! I don't know why she did that - maybe she saw the look on my face and knew that I was frightened.
It scared me. How did this guy find where I lived?! I may have been a little naive, but I never posted my address anywhere. I ran to the computer. I needed to find out how Nick found my house.
After some searching, I had it. My pictures. There were pictures of me in my old cheer uniform (yes, I was a cheerleader once upon a time--don't judge me too harshly - I only did one year of school cheer and the rest was city league and an All-Star competitive team--I did it for the sake of participating in the SPORT. Try arguing that one with me. Another time....) which told this guy where I went to school. There were also pictures of me around town with friends, so the city I lived in was easily discovered as well. Through comments and other status updates and random tidbits, one could easily gather that I lived on a street right next to our high school. And then--the dead giveaway: there was a picture of me standing in fresh snow in my yard. You could clearly see my neighborhood and a street sign that advertised obvious cross-streets in front of my house.
I figured I had a few choices. I could delete all my accounts....but I wasn't about to do that. I could remove any photos that gave away too much information....no WAY (anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a picture whore and my photos are sacred and cherished). OR....I could trim down my contacts. I immediately went through and deleted everyone from my friends list that I didn't actually know. This was a wake up call that I wasn't prepared for. The guys left and never came back, but what if they didn't? What if they had been dangerous? I felt sick for putting not only myself, but (more importantly) my best friend's entire family at risk. Papa J. would never have let anything happen to any of us, but it was still a risk I shouldn't have ever taken.
So what about now? Seven years later, I am on facebook and Google+. I write a few blogs (this one and a photo blog and FOUR--count them!--others, two of which are private). I'd say I'm out there. Obviously I don't have some huge following, but I'm not stopping anyone. My facebook is private and Google+ is...well...whatever it is right now. I am enjoying having so much power to share at my fingertips. Friends and family that time and distance would have otherwise thrown into a black hole can now, by these means, see and read about anything I want to share. I can post pictures of my family and old friends from St. Louis (holla!) can see what my son looks like and watch videos of him dancing like a maniac.
Some say that today's technology is distancing us from one another. They say that we are forgetting how to interact on a personal level. We are losing our social skills.
I disagree. There are those of us who use modern technology to connect to those we might have lost in our lives. I am meeting new people (Hi Karma Kristin!!) and sharing stories and pictures and videos with my family who, for each of their reasons, is spread across the globe. I can Skype with my sister and my son can jabber away with his cousin from thousands of miles away.
So I say this: Use the tools you have for good and for awesome. Connect with people, but don't forget your real-life obligations to your friends and family and others around you. Be smart about what you share and who you share it with. Be yourself. Spend your time wisely. Never forget that you can play that game, write that post, answer that text whenever YOU decide. Technology is here for your convenience--don't allow yourself to be controlled by it.
That is all.
P.S. Just kidding--that's not all! Click here to enter my giveaway--you have until the 6th! YOU could win a whole month supply of Green Tea Daily!
P.P.S. I have been having so. much. fun. shopping for my swap partner. Some of my ideas have had to be abandoned due to lack of availability of certain items, but I think it will be a fun Swapoween!!