A substitute for a letter or an e-mail

I used to write longer e-mails to people; I still do this for a handful of people, but I’m finding it harder to come up with the words in private correspondence, especially when so much is already said elsewhere online with just a double-tap or an emoji. These days I’ve been finding it easier to sort my emotions and think through experiences on here than to hash them out in private.

Even though this is in a public space, I hope you feel like that by reading this you’re connecting with me on some personal level. My favorite writing online always has this sense of intimacy to it and a sense that it’s one person trying to connect with each of their readers as individuals.

My vacation to Montreal in June is slowly taking shape; I bought my plane ticket, booked my hotel room, and am making plans to meet up with one of my friends from university. I’m not overly familiar with the city, aside from passing through it a few times to and from Ontario and places further west that I haven’t been in 20 years. I have a few people in my local social circles who’ve either lived or vacationed there in the past couple of years, so I’m seeking their guidance on what to check out (though it’s a given that I’ll be checking out the Gay Village).

The world seems like it’s on fire lately, so I figured that if I didn’t bother going ahead with this trip now, it may never happen. Maybe that’s what years working in precarious employment will do to a person. I’ve also been craving a solo vacation for quite some time; the trips to New York with my sisters were fun, but I always feel like it’s easier to acquiesce to their agenda than to explore my own interests or seek out time with my thoughts and desires. Constantly being in the company of family and friends ties me to whatever idea they have of who I am. It sometimes feels very constricting.

I’d like to say I know myself better than they do, but I’m still trying to figure out how much I base my personality and identity on what I've conditioned myself to do in order to gain approval and minimize conflict or rejection. There are days when I can’t even look at my reflection in the mirror because the face that stares back somehow isn’t me, but yet I still realize this is what I look like to the world.

I sometimes think about reducing my online presence. I’ve tried weaning myself off Facebook and its constant stream of ersatz connection, advertising and other noise but can’t commit to leaving. Most of my online connections are still on there; there are people I’m a little more connected with on Twitter and Instagram is a tad better at presenting the glimpses into others’ lives, but for better or worse, a Facebook connection still feels like it has more heft. Unfortunately, it got overrun with the same crap that people used to send as e-mail forwards, and of course the concerns about privacy, sold information, and so forth (which I share, but feel like any action in response is closing the barn door after the horse has bolted).

Reading headline after headline about politicians on both sides of the border (often the same ones claiming to have some sort of divine mandate) using their power to hurt the most vulnerable in society is also bad for the soul. I’m glad people are trying to make sure others are aware this is happening (and expressing their outrage about it), but the feeds just seems like a barrage of reminders that there are some sadistic people using their position in society to hurt others, just because they can (and can somehow “justify” doing so). Even worse, it’s helping certain people connect, organize, and gather information to intimidate, threaten, and harm others.

If social media weren’t a thing, who would I have not met? Who would still be in my life? I probably don’t have the confidence to do what Elan did (not a full deletion but otherwise being inactive on the site), but I sometimes wonder if anyone would notice my absence, even if I only stopped logging in to clear notifications. It makes me think about how we take peoples’ accessibility for granted; if I were to suddenly scrub my presence off the internet and just give my contact information to very close friends and family (or not), would it bother me that so many people are no longer at my fingertips?

I don’t think I’ll bother making plans for my birthday this year. I feel like I spent most of my sociability on the gathering at the HopYard last month and I really haven’t been in the mood to go out. I don’t know if this is going to dissipate before this weekend or the next (my birthday is on the 2nd), but I really can’t think of anything I want to do to celebrate aside from my usual custom of not cooking my own dinner, and don’t really feel like drinking either. My mood hasn’t been particularly great this week either; nothing serious, and right now I’m more convinced it’s a side effect of staying up too late rather than a recurring bout of “the fog”, but if I go out in this state, there’s a risk I just won’t be into it, too distracted by my own thoughts, or something will hit an emotional nerve and BAM, I’m a wreck (something that also amplifies after I have a few beers).

I don’t really need much this year. I’m working, I have a cat, I’m getting through the day as well as I can, and I have the space I need to recover my energy when I’m not feeling great. I haven’t been as diligent in leaving birthday messages when Facebook prompts me; it feels like all I really can say is boilerplate “Happy birthday, (name!)” most of the time (with the odd reference to Jimmy Ceb for those who were in the know back in my university days). Whether or not you leave a message when the software tells you to shouldn’t be a measure of a relationship. (Maybe I’m just trying to avoid a case of black-and-white “that person didn’t wish me happy birthday, so they want me out of their life” thinking. Does anyone else ever think that?)

Birthday greetings are nice, but to be honest, I’m more interested in reading about what’s happening in your life, or if you just have some interesting stories to tell. If you want to send me something a little more meaty (and private) than the usual message on my Facebook wall, that would be welcome. All submissions on this form go straight to my e-mail, and you don’t have to give your e-mail address if you don’t want to. Just be civil and be real.

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