The other day I told my husband that Jennifer A Nielsen responded to one of my tweets (I was quite pumped up about this) and he said, "Wow. That's awesome. I have no idea who that is." So I got a chance to tell him that she's this amazing author who wrote The False Prince, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne. But it occurs to me that a year or so ago, I would have come home and told him about the amazing book rather than framing it as, "I got a bit of attention from someone super cool." It is an exceptionally cool thing that you can reach out to authors and people you admire and connect with them. This is not something to be taken lightly, especially when I tell my students that you can use social media for this great way of interacting with people that you look up to (you should see how happy it makes me when Rainbow Rowell responds). It makes this great big world seem very small. It's important to remember though, at least for me, that the real connections, be it face to face or actual emails and phone calls, texts, anything that is more than 140 characters or summed up in a GIF, are still vital. I see how kids fall into traps on the internet as easily as they fall into the wrong crowds at school: the acceptance feels great, especially if you're feeling a little out of your element or low on confidence. On a day where I'm feeling particularly bad about my writing, a 'tweet' or 'favourite' from someone I aspire to be like is a pretty big mood lifter. The flip side is when my words or thoughts are not recognized on a day I'm feeling down, I let it get to me, push me into believing that there's a reason (and it's not because these people have lives and jobs...no it's more personal than that...it's got to be something about me.) This is when I have to back up and realize that I'm focusing on the wrong things.
Life is not measured in "retweets" and "likes". Yesterday, I instant messaged with a friend for quite a while. In that time, she was supportive, helpful, insightful and it was all in a private chat. No outside recognition even though she's someone I admire. And later that day when I realized she was having a bad day, I was able to reach out and make her smile a little. Again, no public declarations of 'look at me', just two friends being there for each other. So this is the beauty of internet. It can allow me to be friends with someone hours and hours away and establish a real bond, a friendship. But if you focus on the wrong things,, it can swallow you up and make you feel alone. We need to teach our children this along with how to balance our desire for recognition. Recognition is wonderful. Attention is great. Especially when it's something you have every reason to be proud of. But the best validation doesn't come from the outside, it comes from within. Even knowing this, it's easy to forget.
I'm not sure this post had any real point. It might just serve the purpose of seeing how many people re-tweet it or like it. Or it may seem that way. But for me, it helped me organize my thoughts, settle something inside of me about writing. It's not everything and it's not nothing. It's somewhere in between and every now and again, I need to remind myself of that.