On Depth and Breadth and Social Media Broadcasting

WARNING: This post contains strong navelgazing and is only tangentially related to gaming. Discretion is advised. You have been warned.
UNRELATED: Happy Pi Day!

Dear reader,

I apologize for giving you less than my full attention. I let myself get distracted by the shiny spewing from the internet firehose. In concentration and communication I am woefully out of practice. I'm an editor who needs to turn a critical eye to my own choices and frivolities.

Let's start that process.

In my youth, I switched elementary schools every other year and spent the summers travelling with my grandparents. I was the perennial new kid, and I tended to be academically ahead of my grade level. These circumstances predisposed me toward social breadth rather than depth. I didn't really have deep friendships until high school, after I decided to live in one place for the entire year.

I've been involved in theater since 1981, the same year I picked up the Moldvay D&D Basic Box. Improv exercises and RPGs have gone hand-in-hand for my entire gaming career. To become a better improviser, I've leaned more toward breadth than depth in academic pursuits. In college, I started as a Physics major because I wanted to study everything, but then the math got complex and too non-intuitive for me to grok. I ended up with a degree in what I spent all my time doing: Theater.

Welcome home.
There's a certain amount of omniology that springs from studying the theater, and I did every job I could. I started as an actor, then took on playwrighting, directing, stage managing, producing, advertising, program design and layout, printing t-shirts and other promotional materials, set design, master carpenter, house managing, lighting design, running crew, and dramaturgy. No matter what job I did, I needed to understand the story of the play and how to present it in the most effective way possible.

I didn't get pigeonholed into a specific role in the theater, nor even a specific side of the curtain. I could do any job and do it fairly well. Again, I flitted between the actor and techie social circles. I've played kings and clergy and villains and boyfriends, but I never quite had the depth for a real romantic lead. A part of that realization hurt, but it made sense to me intellectually.

I acted as a social bridge. I could understand what several diverse groups wanted and at least bring them to the same table if I couldn't forge a compromise with my insight into both sides. I could speak several social languages, even if I struggled with high school-level French. I still think of my D&Dified self as a neutral good half-elven bard, firmly wedged between almost every extreme you can think of, building worlds and communities for myself because nothing else quite fits.

"Seek a life useful."
Which is not this.
Now social media is a major method of social interaction. I still have the drive to connect with diverse groups, but that leads directly to stream glut. I can't keep up with all of it. I drowned in Twitter, so I moved my focus to Google Plus. Now I'm running into the same problem there from my poor circle management skills. I have almost 1400 people in my "Gamers" circle, and I just added a few more this morning. I post almost everything to every circle I have, if not Public. I feel like I have precious little time to give to diving into the depths of social interaction, and I feel like I'm missing the point of social media.

I'm broadcasting. I'm disregarding the potential for deeper connections and conversations for perceived lack of time, and I'm treating social media like TV: broadcasting into the void and hoping the message gets through. Sure, I try to follow up to comments, but I think that's the barest of minimums for social engagement.

All this breadth is starting to impact me negatively. I'm doing what's in front of me because I gave up trying to plan anything for fear of those plans falling apart. I was lucky to get 4.5 hours of sleep last night, between working, editing, coordinating buildings & grounds at my church, making time to play games, and spending time with my wife and daughter. I want to do all of these things, but I need to start making decisions about the price I'm willing to pay to juggle all of these priorities. And right now it's coming out of my health, which can't last for much longer.

I'm teaching my daughter to play chess, but I feel like I don't have the depth to concentrate on the game. Right now I'm in a crappy position and down a Knight. My daughter isn't even 7 yet and if she manages to plan ahead at all I might lose our third game. I played my father to a draw at age 10 and haven't really played since, but it still hits me square in the pride.

Earlier this week I tried meditating for 10 minutes and ended up straining my back. There's my wake-up call, I think. Maybe I'll answer it this time.

PAX East is next week. I don't want to go into PAX this year with the attention span of a rabid weasel on crack. Again. I want to have deeper conversations. I want to be more comfortable and more open, not moving on like a shark and trying to "trade up", whatever that means. I don't want to run away from awesome opportunities to get to know people like the new kid in school did. If you run into me, sit me down for a few minutes and let's talk.

I don't know if I'll become a better social citizen anytime soon, but typing it out helps.

Wish me luck.

All the best,
-T.W.Wombat

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