There was a time that I wasn't on Facebook.
I didn't read political blogs.
I didn't read commentary on the Middle East, or terrorism, or any of that.
I didn't read the news every hour, follow the latest columnist on his tirade against corporate America, or those calling for stricter laws on guns/drugs/prostitution/etc./etc.
In fact, I think I was quite blissfully unaware of a lot of the endless chatter going on between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, independent vs. everyone else, and on and on.
And it wasn't just politics, but everything else, too. Atheism vs. Christianity. Heck, even Christian vs. Christian. The culture wars. The sexualization of our girls. And on and on and on.
I lived in a bubble. I was consumed with my writing and my history. I didn't really get concerned about these types of matters until around 2008 when the presidential election started to heat up.
Ever since then, I've crawled out from underneath my rock and in a lot of ways, I regret it.
I've had troubled evenings thinking about arguments I've had with people, turning it around and around in my head to try and figure out how I could have convinced them of my point of view...which is pretty much pointless in most cases.
I've feverishly checked my FB statuses or the statuses of others to see what new comment has been made.
I've hit the "refresh" button far too many times to see what new tidbit of information on the latest tragedy has appeared on a news site.
I've spent countless hours googling information, digging into the issues, and more often than not, finding opinions that generally agree with my own.
I've argued with complete and total strangers on Twitter and, most recently, even a minor celebrity.
I am not proud of this.
I sometimes wish I could go back under that rock.
I'd love to go back to that bubble, to be consumed with my passions - writing and history - and not be so concerned with the noise emitting from every website, FB status, and Tweet of the minute.
In some ways, social media has sucked part of my soul away.
That's the negative view of things, of course.
On the flip side, I've become much more knowledgeable of politics, world affairs, and the myriad viewpoints of just about everyone. I've researched subjects I've never thought to research before because some conversation spurred me to it. I've also bonded with people I don't even know over a shared opinion - and knocked heads with those opinions I don't share.
As in so many things in life, it comes down to this:
Being knowledgeable of the world is good. Having an opinion and wanting your country to be the best it can be is good.
But it can also be draining - soul-sucking, mind-numbingly draining.
And when you're drained, you don't have much energy to devote to the things you love.
What is the solution in this day and age where so much of our lives is done online, from paying bills and checking emails to watching movies and playing games?
I'm really not sure. I've done a few things, though. I did delete my Twitter account. I did "unlike" some FB pages where the discussions would get so heated, it would tear me up inside. And I did make the realization in the first place that I had a problem.
But I am still trying to figure all of this out. I imagine I'm not alone.
I've blogged about the Internet being a two-edged sword, so I'm still trying to make sense of how I can make it fit into my life without sacrificing my sanity.
Anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions.