April 22nd, 2010

Maybe It's Not Better To Have Loved Than Not To Have Loved At All

As my Live Journal world continues to collapse in on itself, I keep getting overwhelmed with what I can only call internet depression. Even though I have my blog entries exported to Facebook -- when the RSS function works, that is -- the emotional pay-off is quite different. Most people on my list of Facebook friends either log in irregularly or have so many friends of their own that the likelihood of their reading my longer entries -- or of my reading theirs, obviously -- is slim. And as happy as it has made me to reconnect with friends from graduate school and high-school classmates there, the sense of online community is much more diffuse than was the case when my Live Journal "Friends" list was most robust, between 2005 and 2008.

More troubling to me, though, is what happens when personal connections that Live Journal either made possible or powerfully reinforced start to be cut off. The other day I heard from someone I really like, whom I got to know on Live Journal, that she has pretty much decided not to return to the site. This was hardly the first time that something like this has happened, but especially upsetting because A) she lives close enough to me that I can actually see her in person and B) I feel that the absence of regular contact will make me feel too awkward to sustain a friendship in the absence of social media. Why? Because I have a terrible time communicating with people unless I encounter them regularly, whether on the internet or in person.

Now, I recognize that I could and should work to remedy this deficiency in my character. And I have been trying to do so for quite a while. But the more depressed I get about the state of my Live Journal circle, the less I feel emotionally up to the task of staying in touch. Nor does it help that the indirect connections I had with people through other journals have largely ceased to function, either because someone has stopped using the site or because all traces of my existence have been concealed out of concerns for safety etc.

And then there are the cases of people I have known for a long time to whom I felt much closer because we were in touch through Live Journal. Even if the recent diminishment of contact with them more or less mirrors the state of affairs before the onset of social media, it feels to me like irreparable damage has been done to our relationship. That is, the absence of regular exchange, however innocently it has come about, gets emotionally processed as a "break-up" by that part of me -- let's call it an "it" that I can't really control -- impervious to logical arguments.

Taken together, these two types of internet loss combine to make me think childish thoughts like, "I'd rather have never encountered these people on Live Journal than be awash in this internet depression." Now, I have enough sense still to take a step back from such impulsive conclusions and reflect on their origin and implications, as I'm doing here. But that doesn't make me feel much better about the trajectory of my engagement with Live Journal. Nor does my increasing reliance on Facebook as a support network really make up for the void I'm confronting. Each new love bores its way into a different part of the heart, leaving the holes left behind by previous relationships unfilled.