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Saving my sanity

March 28th, 2004 · 1 Comment

In a recent post at misbehaving.net: Intimate communities: social/emotional support, technology and the gender divide , danah boyd asked:

Historically and broadly speaking, men and women have different types of social networks and use them for different purposes. For example, most men don’t have any trusted emotional confidante other than their wife. Men use their social networks to address functional needs; women are more likely to use their networks for social/emotional needs. Women were classically the group who maintained a family’s community social ties.


So, i have to ask… what kinds of social/emotional support does technology provide you? How? Is this about supporting everyday interactions or providing access to a whole new world of support?

I think I’d be insane without the Internet at this stage of life. Some days, especially if the children are ill, the only people I see face-to-face are other Leungs: three little ones and Ted. I don’t know how I would survive without the social and emotional support I receive through my on-line community.

Email has become invaluable to me. The ability to communicate with friends far away sustained me through our difficult move and transition to island life. I don’t use the phone much. Real-time conversation is complicated by my three little children. But the convenience of email fits well into these busy years. My friends and I can read and write to each other at whatever hour we choose, typing in moments caught here and there, between doing dishes and burping babies. Email is easier than picking up the phone, or getting dressed and out the door. Even though many of my friends are distant, we can write and keep connected. I probably spend at least an hour a day working on email.

I’m also learning to make new friends on-line. This year I’ve joined a few yahoo groups and I’ve started to get to know some other moms through these dialogues. Two local support groups for homeschoolers have been especially helpful.

Blogging has introduced me to many people. I started only months ago but already I feel I have friends – even though we’ve never met face-to-face. It’s been fun to explore new social circles. Ted and I were able to make it to one Seattle Webloggers Meetup and I am looking forward to meeting more bloggers in flesh and blood. I find that blogging provides daily support but personal email is, at this point for me, more intense and effective; perhaps explained by the length of time I’ve invested in my email friends as compared to blogging.

As I mentioned above, some days my only emotional and social support comes from my family and my on-line interactions. Although I enjoy blogging and email, I do miss face-to-face conversations. Also my on-line relationships are not sufficient for my children’s social needs. Some of my friends at this stage of life are not on-line or connected to the Internet. It’s difficult for many moms to make it to the computer. So I do need to use the telephone. Or go for a walk around the block to see neighbors. And we do need to get fresh air, play ball, run on the beach, and be with friends.

When we do get out, I find that my Internet relationships have given me new freedoms. The depth of dialogue I can have in emails and blogs satisfies my need for intense conversations. With young children running around, it can be difficult to finish a sentence. At first I was frustrated by this stage of life. I longed for energetic and intense interactions with my friends. I longed to speak – and listen – in paragraphs without being interrupted by trips to the potty. But now I’ve realized that I can have those discussions on-line, in a format where I can find time to concentrate and focus. Then I am able to enjoy the fresh aspects of in-person play time and to carpe diem, to seize all I can from the moment while I’m in it: being a mom with her children, making friends.

Tags: blog

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 anniem // Mar 29, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Hi, nice to see you still on this topic! It’s a big one. I meant to reply a while back but first the vacation and then the break-in kind of interrupted!

    Anyway, with the fate of the women’s forum in serious flux, I have to admit I’m questioning the financial cost/value of the trip. It doesn’t seem like anyone in the online forums wants to talk about women or social interactions =>the only topics that draw me. I’ve had one other person (TPB?) express interest in the subject via email, but on the forums I feel like I’m shouting into the wind. I can do that from home for free.

    Again, I just have to point out the irony that women have been shoved to the corners of our society in the RW, and now after finding a medium for public interaction (with a baby on our hips and all), we’re being shoved to the corner in the blogosphere, too.

    This is sad b/c one commenter ragged the conference for not being as cool as SXSW, and I thought at the time that SXSW is so close to me, but I haven’t attended except to see the bands a few years back. Why? Because it’s so exclusive. This conference had a chance to set itself apart. I thought it was inclusive b/c it was free and invited _me_, but now with the “newbe” talk and the ignoring of social topics, I feel like it may just be a mainstream techie wannabe. Turns out Boston’s not too far from Silicon Valley after all.