I recently wished a friend Happy Birthday on Instagram. Beneath a grainy photo of the two of us taken almost thirteen years ago (with an actual camera!), a passage from my caption reads:
“The year 2006 started off with a magic sparkle, because in January of that year an inspiring circle of kindreds gathered in my home, including this lovely bluebird. Can I say we were trailblazers? We were bloggers, the world of social media wasn’t yet on the horizon, and we had to find our way as friends in a wild, digital world.”
Truth is, having to figure out how to nurture relationships through the advent and expansion of digital communication and social media has not always been an easy road. I have spoken up about this at different times ever since my first days as a blogger around 2004. The tone of my reflections has run the gamut, from giddy appreciation to snarky complaining.
I’ve celebrated the miracle of being able to meet and, in some cases, collaborate with women from all over the world. I’ve also had to wind my way out of landmines I walked into or created through something as innocuous as a one-paragraph blog post. With so many digital pathways and platforms for communicating, promoting, and day-to-day storytelling, I’ve had to learn how to strike a balance between being cognizant of the potential sensitivities of others and yet not taking undue responsibility for them.
And I’ve had to learn how to apply those lessons to my own feelings, a task that was mainly about managing expectations.
A few of the comments on that Instagram post reflected the complicated relationship I’ve had with social media since its inception, with one longtime kindred saying, “A more innocent time…” alongside a funny face emoji and another one lamenting, “I miss those days of simple, heartfelt self-expression and friendship.”
For those of us whose work and lives straddled the worlds of pre and post-internet, I’m called to create some kind of merit badge.
As we helped build the digital universe most everyone now takes for granted , we were also figuring out how to engage with each other in way no one in the history of the world ever had to figure out. We took the leap from analog to digital, from VCR to streaming-on-demand, from spiral notebook to iPad, all with no guides, mentors, or wise elders to teach us how to do this mindfully and gracefully.
There was no one who could warn us of the pitfalls of making snap judgments based on an initial—digital—impression and being able to immediately hit “send.” We had to muddle our way through it, at times hurting each other’s feelings. We didn’t always give each other the benefit of the doubt. We weren’t always willing to take full responsibility for our own feelings.
Yet somehow, year after year, in one situation (and social media platform) after another, we’ve learned how to do these things.
As we’ve built our brands and businesses we’ve also raised families, created homes, and nurtured deep friendships. Most of humanity up until the 21st century has simply had to figure out how to be a grown up; we’ve had to figure it out while riding a wild wave of the information age.
I love this creative community. I am grateful for all the ways the technology of this century has enabled us to encourage and support each other, to print, publish, and sell our work, and to share the daily inspirations that keep us connected to our creative selves. I’ve made my share of stumbles and I’m certain to make more. But I’ve enjoyed being along for the ride and I’m still excited for the adventures ahead, wherever they might take us.
About the Author: Christine Mason Miller
Christine Mason Miller is an author, artist, and explorer who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life for more than twenty years. Her latest book, The Meandering River of Unfathomable Joy: Finding God and Gratitude in India, was just released. Learn more at www.christinemasonmiller.com.