I find I make resolutions like, “I want to be a better person,” “I want to be a better parent,” “I want to go to the gym more,” EVERY YEAR. These are all worthy goals, and I’ll be writing more about good ways to pursue them. Well, at least the first two. I mean, I’m almost 35 weeks pregnant over here, people. I get winded walking to school/the refrigerator.
When I make more concrete resolutions, though, not only do I stick to them, but I also find that I have a better sense of the positive impact they’ve made on my life.
An example: when I was going through a terrible divorce five years ago, I spent a lot of time reading Us Weekly. And I mean a lot of time, as in I knew exactly when the new issue hit the racks at my local Target. I drowned my sorrows by reading about the tribulations of Britney Spears, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Aniston. I read and studied that magazine like I was preparing for some sort of gossip bar exam.
And then I decided, you know something? This is STUPID. Surely there were other avenues of escapism (like books, for example) that wouldn’t dumb me down at the same time that they offered me relief from my personal problems. And not only that, but by buying Us Weekly, I was subsidizing an industry which profited off of gossip and bitchiness–two things I wanted to see diminished, not magnified, in my world.
So I made a resolution that I would never pick up an Us Weekly again. I’ve never read it since. Seriously. And I think my life is better for it. True, I’m not as up on what’s happening with Brangelina. But I find that my time manages to be full in other ways that are more personally fulfilling.
So this year, I decided to make some resolutions for myself regarding my virtual life on the internet, to make that life more in keeping with the values I hope to espouse for myself and my family on a daily basis. Let me know what you think–and feel free to use them, too.
Here are my top three internet resolutions:
1. No More LOLCatz. Nothing against cats, but I am really done with internet idiocy. You know what I mean–the viral videos that clog up your Facebook feed. Maybe it’s the latest version of “Call Me Maybe” sung by Snuffleupagus, Elton John, and Michelle Bachmann. Before you click on something 18 of your other friends have clicked on, I recommend asking yourself, “Is this going to improve my life in some way, or is this going to waste three minutes of my time that would be better spent somewhere else?”
In other words, if you’re feeling blue and Michelle Bachmann tapdancing always cheers you up, then by all means, have a look-see. But otherwise, don’t click on something just because everyone else is. And as a general rule, you can tell from the thumbnail if something is going to be worth it or a waste of time. I’d be willing to bet I wasted at least an hour, cumulatively, of my time this past year watching really stupid crap on the internet. Let’s get that hour back.
2. One E-mail Check-In Off The Beaten Path Per Day. I’m going to try to think of one person–friend, relative, what have you–per day to whom I want to reach out. Maybe it’s an old friend I haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe it’s a colleague whose Facebook posts reveal that they’re a little overwhelmed lately. Maybe it’s someone I know who has a new baby, and would appreciate a ‘You don’t have to write back, but just know that I care about you and am thinking of you, and am happy to drop by and drop off a hug.” Just because someone isn’t in your day-to-day life doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I often get caught up in the heat of the moment and lose track of the big picture–friends that have been there for me, or people I just met who are going through difficulties. I want to take at least one e-mail a day to connect with those people beyond a Facebook “like” or a “retweet.”
3. Be an Internet Fire-Fighter. You know those guys who have to take helicopters into raging, searingly-hot forest fires and attempt to put them out in order to save nearby towns and homes? Those guys are heroes. In contrast, it may seem that our lives are comparatively pedestrian. But there are fires that get ignited all the time that can cause lots of damage–even if they’re not “real.”
Facebook conversations, Twitter interactions–often, the facelessness of our internet dialogues lends itself to things turning sour. People “speak” to each other with a degree of rudeness that they’d probably never embark on in person. As the proprietor of your Facebook page or your Twitter account, for example, you can take upon yourself the responsibility of making sure discussions–especially in political seasons–stays civil. As I’ve written here before:
First, when I see people treating each other without respect online, I try to bring the conversation back to a respectful level, and to create an online “neighborhood” of respect and thoughtfulness. As I recently posted on a friend’s wall during a discussion, “When I’m privy to an online ‘debate’ that degenerates into personal attacks of various levels of vitriol, I try to make an effort to write to the person who is taking it up a notch. I do it privately, so as to not embarrass them, and say something along the lines of, ‘You know, you may not be aware of it, but what you’re saying on X’s page really comes off as mean-spirited and cruel. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but…'” etc. I also post within the discussion itself, saying that I find that personal attacks detract from substantive discussion.
I also try to behave well online. As mad as someone may make me, I try not to stoop to a level that is beneath me. And I know you do the same.
There are plenty of examples of jerks on the Internet–but sadly, there aren’t too many examples of smart, kind, religious parents who are as articulate and compassionate as you are. Please don’t cover up the wonderful you: let yourself shine, and let others learn by your light.
What are your ideas for how to make your internet life more meaningful?
To get some more resolution inspiration, check out our blogger Carla’s resolutions for 2012, our other blogger Tamara’s resolutions for 2012, and what it looks like to actually follow through with these.