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All Boards Tend to Breathe

Posted by Mark H. on August 18, 2000, at 21:31:02

Greetings, old-timers!

Although my work is intensively email based, I resisted getting on-line at home until about 3 years ago, warning my Internet-eager wife that I would likely become obsessive about such an incredible source of information and interaction.

Almost immediately after getting access, I signed on to five photography forums and a bamboo list. Within a few weeks, I was reading 50-60 emails a day, all dealing with topics of interest to me, and thoughtfully responding to a fair percentage of them. Within about nine months, my on-line usage at home started to exceed 100 hours a month, and I realized I had a problem and needed to quit for awhile.

At the same time, I noticed that although the topics of the boards I participated in were often narrowly defined (twin-lens Rolleiflex cameras, for instance), eventually the same type of dynamics caused each and every forum to cycle through periods of overwhelming activity involving highly personal tangents into politics, religion, economics, "fairness," what was appropriate to post, illnesses, family events, pet peeves, freedom of speech issues and personality clashes. One fellow on a camera forum had a nervous breakdown. Several others stormed away. It didn't matter whether the ostensible topic was bicycle commuting, purebred cats, or gardening, eventually the discussions began to sound a lot like family interactions and group therapy.

I sometimes wonder if part of it is our (my) deep hunger to re-connect in a society in which we are largely separated from one another by our individual offices, cars, and dwellings. Once something has become a part of my "family," everything that happens becomes highly personal. I tend to over-react, lose my sense of humor, fear changes, become righteous or judgmental and protective of my own interests and of those who support me and share my values. I take sides. I appeal to parents (Dr. Bob or Cam W., for instance). If it weren't so emotionally engaging and exhausting, it would be funny.

One thing I've learned about myself is that in order to keep a balance, I need to take breaks. When I find myself lying awake at night pondering the fine points of my response to a fellow Babbler, for instance, that's a clue that I'm in too deep and need to put a little distance and perspective back into my participation.

But the point of this posting is that what we experience here is not at all unique to PsychoBabble. I've remained with one small photo list that has had up to 100 messages a day earlier this year, and then no postings at all -- ZERO -- for the past three weeks. Yesterday, an old-time member asked if the list still existed, and two dozen messages almost immediately followed. It is as though we are comfortable just being with one another now -- glad the others are there, but not needing to interact several times a day. Perhaps PsychoBabble will evolve similarly, although on a grander scale.

I post six reminders on the bottom of my monitor at work to help me keep my perceptions in balance. They are: What's best for (the organization I work for)? What's the right thing to do? Does this benefit everyone? How can I help? Speculate less; ask more. And, it's not about me. Now I just need to remember to look at them more often.

Thanks to everyone who reads this for being here.

Mark H.




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