In my last post, I talked about perpetual travel's effects in the long term. Since then, I took a week off my job at AgileBits and now I'm back at work. It helped having that week off, but the weird thing is I didn't think it was helping at the time. I just wanted something to do with my time. I tried to make myself wander around Melbourne aimlessly, not expecting anything to happen, and read one of the three books I'm in the middle of on my Kindle. I did wander and read a bit, but I also watched almost all of Orphan Black.
Everybody blogs about digital lives, and I don't want to add to that noise, but I do have something I've been wanting to write about for a while. For a long time, I told people my best friend didn't even live near me. I could take him with me everywhere in the world. With my remote job, I can take my coworkers with me as well, and I've grown close with some of them so I also have some other friends when I'm on the road. It's like my whole life is there with me, wherever I am. It's like that, sure, but it's not actually that.
I know some people whose lives have been changed by the internet in the best ways they could be. They remain connected with their family who's studying abroad, in the military, or just on vacation for a bit. And in all the times I've tried to use the internet that way, those people just aren't me. As much as I've wanted that mythical digital life, where everything you are is on the internet and you're always connected with those who care about you, my heart says otherwise.
One reason I've not written about this before is because it's one of those trends you hear:
Oh yeah, the internet. I'm taking time off that to spend it with my real friends.
It's become a statement to take a break from tech and a hyper-connected world. I don't aim to contribute to that, but I do want to get my thoughts out there for whoever they might help, even if it's me reading this in the future.
What connection feels like
I grew up going to school at home, which was very much an introverted lifestyle for me. More time was spent with LEGO, odd novels, radio drama, and soundtracks than with people. I liked it that way. After all, what was I missing? For all I knew, rejection. I've since found that I missed a lot of great stuff, but that's okay — I've found plenty of ways to enjoy it now.
Growing up without a lot of friends, however, makes you put a lot more value on the ones you have. If you need a friend right now, well, the internet is there for you. It's convenient, you can find a place on Reddit with people like you, and you can digitally live there if you want to. But to me, that's not a human friend. At least it's not anymore, not after what I've experienced.
Something I've begun to notice the past year is written relationships are often a lot different from spoken ones, and spoken ones are different than ones in person. I learned this mostly through Tinder, but also working at a company where most communication is written, either in chat or longer forum-style discussions. I've also noticed that working completely online means I don't have as much interest in digital friendships as I did when part of my life was on a computer and part of it wasn't. That was a key realization for me.
I'm the kind of person who loves to be a quality friend, coworker, and general human in whatever relationship I'm in with someone. I know there's lots of people out there being irresponsible and I thought I could do better, so I set out to be the guy who texts back fast. He's always there for you, Jacob. He'd love to hang out whenever, shoot photos with you, play music with you. Whatever he needs to do to make you happy. He just wants you to be happy. He's a Type 2.
But then Jacob became a bit of a robot.
When I started doing customer support full time, I didn't notice much of a change. My whole life could be online — convenient! Now I see quite a bit has changed. My communication style is very specific when I talk with our customers at AgileBits, and it shouldn't be the same as how I talk with my friends. It kind of merged into that though, because I spend a lot of my day doing work. I also began to want less screens in front of me at the end of the day. I liked my job, but I didn't understand why I was getting tired of it. I didn't understand why I didn't want to message people anymore. I didn't understand why my wrists and thumbs started hurting.
So that was when I got burnt out. There were a few stages of it, from mental to physical. I've since learned how they happened and I'm over most of the bumps, but a few days after I got back from my week off, I realized the most recent thing I need to work on: Digital friendships.
I am where I am
It was nice to be that guy who always stayed connected, because I was often the one who felt like people stopped talking to me because they stopped caring. I wanted to show people that you can always care no matter how far away you are. Today I realized that's just not the case, and it's not sustainable. In the future, I'll be where I am. I'll continue traveling, I'll continue to make new friends, and I'll be there. I'll be alongside them, and we can share a bit of our lives with each other.
The moment I started to see my messages from friends as a job was the moment I knew things had to change. As much as I want to make everyone's lives better and be there when they all need me, I can't do that. It's a curse of the Type 2. I love being me, but I have to accept my limits and do what I can. The biggest challenge is one of desperation, because there are times of loneliness when traveling. There are times I want to reach out to my friends and ask how they're doing. And I'm going to call them, I'm not going to text them.
If you're my friend and you're reading this, you're awesome. Thanks for making it on my special list (which doesn't exist, because who needs lists for their friends, silly?) and for caring. I'm sorry I've given you little bits of me if you were looking for something deeper; I'm sorry if our friendship was too deep and you just wanted me to help you edit your term paper and move on. I will not promise to be anything other than what I am, and I will not be there if I am here.
There's always more to be said, and I'd love to keep talking. Sleep beckons, which is okay because this is enough for now. I hope my stumbling through life sheds some light on maybe one or two things for you, and I hope you keep making mistakes, because that's why we love you.