The theme of transparency seems to be recurring in my life. And each time it pokes its little head out, I seem to learn something new. I can remember the first time I was really aware of the concept was in junior high school. I would get so frustrated with the flippancy with which people would use “how are you?” in conversation, and so I learned to make a point of smiling and making eye contact and asking questions because, well, I knew I liked it when people treated me that way so it made sense. I'm not saying I had this whole thing dialed by any means, but it's the earliest I can recall transparency being something I recognized in relationships.
I usually can read people pretty well, and have always had a hard time with difficult-to-read individuals and feeling comfortable with them. I think this has all to do with my deep-seated desire to be liked and appreciated because if I know how I am being reacted to and understood, I feel more comfortable. I have more control. (I'm really hoping this isn't some kind of pathology I don't know about...) Growing up I strove to achieve because it was the venue through which I received positive feedback. It was a priority for me to be appreciated that way because it was better than the alternative. (Just for the record, I was very much loved as a child and never doubted this.) It seemed like it was easy in our household to get noticed by doing something wrong, so I wanted to do right things.
And that translates kind of strangely through adolescence. It affected my faith in that I developed little patience for hypocrisy and definitely stirred up a tenderheartedness that has gotten me into trouble more than a few times. I've had to learn the hard way how to say no and how to rest, usually at the expense of those closest to me. They see all the ugly, all the times when I'm frustrated and tired and all my buttons have been pushed and I'm so drained I haven't the energy to be helpful to anyone.
So then comes college and with it the joys of self-discovery, identity formation and social networking websites. What a recipe. My undergrad years coincided rather disastrously with the advent of MySpace and Facebook. Not that it was a disaster for me, but that I think these things have contributed to a very unique generation of young adults. We have friends all over the world we've never met, and aren't even aware of the degree to which we manipulate our images via our respective social networking addictions. Now, having friends all over the world isn't all bad. In fact, I love Facebook and Twitter and use them on a regular basis. I love having friends accessible to me pretty much any time of the day.
And that's probably not so good.
It's not my friends' jobs to be available to affirm me or make me feel wanted when I want to feel wanted. It's not their responsibility to be on the other end of the phone always or respond to every text I send. So why in the world do we get so caught up in this delicate construct of relationship that's essentially built on “what I want you to know about me”? And in saying this I'm not arguing for total and complete transparency because that's a safety issue. (I grew up being told I would be murdered by anyone I told my name/age/location/favorite color to. Wait, maybe that last one was a Monty Python thing...anyways...)
And this whole issue resurfaced today in a conversation with a fellow blogger and very dear IRL friend. (Check out her site at www.whatmegmakes.com...her last post was a VERY sweet entry about yours truly that very nearly made me tear up!) She informed me that a blog we both follow was under some fire because of some choices the blogger made in the amount and type of information she chose to share through her blog. There were some lack of truths involved and frankly the whole situation kind of unsettled me. We can be so very interested in the type and amount of attention we receive via our cyberspace communities that we not only distort transparency but we lose the chance to develop it in our real lives.
Because I really shouldn't get upset when Twitter's down. It's a chance for me to focus on the people right in front of me, with no distractions. As much as I care for each and every person within my favorite little Twitter community, that must always be tempered by an even greater focus on the people around me. And an openness to reviewing each thing I say in cyberspace as a tiny fragment of who I am, aware of how I might be inadvertently manipulating how it might be perceived. I need a willingness to be called out, both here and in real life.
So, friends, if I ask nothing else of you, I ask that you never be hesitant to call me out. I want to be transparent through all aspects of communication, from conversation to text to Facebook to Twitter to gchat to good old-fashioned letters. :) For your sake and mine.