Friday, April 11, 2008

"Mother knows best" - or does she?

When I was living under my parents' roof (waaaay back in the day, like, eight months ago), they'd often accuse me of "hiding online." They didn't understand that, throughout high school, my connection to friends was through instant messaging. They didn't understand the catharsis of writing blog posts.

Whether I like it or not, instant messaging is one of my prime forms of communication. I've been "IMing" regularly for over ten years, from my earliest client (I still have the same 8-digit ICQ number, ha!) to my MSN Messenger and AOL IM days through my G-mail Chat use today. I have a Yahoo! account that I rarely use as well. My parents used to tell me that I could only be online for half an hour in the evenings--and that included homework, games, and instant messaging. Let me tell you, I learned to type quickly. When I got into college and my parents opted to finally get high-speed internet, I could spend more time online because the phone line wasn't tied up. My computer use quadrupled. So did my IM list of friends. Productivity... decreased. And even now, if I want to get something done online, I set myself as "offline" so friends can't try talking to me.

Growing up, I didn't go to friends' houses often. Either they lived too far away or my parents wouldn't allow me to go over there. I didn't have many friends anyway, just a handful--and I'm still close with most of them. IMing was how I talked to them, how I communicated with my world. It allowed me to voice my opinions and carefully hone my arguing skills. It taught me the value of cooperative learning, how to multitask, and how to procrastinate successfully. I learned patience as I waited for an answer on the other end, and I debated important topics (like politics and love and who makes the best cheeseburger). My life wouldn't be the same without instant messaging, and I mean that in the best possible way.

My parents were always on my case, though. They didn't want me spending my life sitting at a computer every night. I don't know if they felt ignored, or if they simply wanted me to have a real social life... I guess it doesn't matter much now, but I wonder why they were so insistent about the computer being my "hiding place." The world of instant messaging and blogging allowed me to open up, to grow, and to learn.

The words, "Mother knows best," don't seem to fit here. My mom is a wonderful woman to be certain, and she's very smart about many things (oh, how it pains me to admit that). But maybe she wasn't right about keeping me from spending time online talking to friends. Maybe, just maybe I was right.

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