Interphobia

I’m comforted by reading ArLynn Presser’s blog. A self-proclaimed agoraphobic who avoided leaving her neighborhood for three decades, Presser decided enough was enough after she turned 50. Vowing then to meet all 324 of her Facebook friends, she set out last year on a journey that would take her around the world, a journey that is all the more remarkable when you consider the extent of her fears: “I’m scared of travel,” she says. “I’m scared of flying. I’m scared of just about anything outside my door.” I understand this completely.

It has never been easy for me to leave my room, much less walk outside my door, but, in spite of this, I have traveled fairly widely, though never well; I have flown to places as far away as Australia, though almost always with foreboding; I have gone to a great many parties, though invariably with unease; I even went into teaching in part so I could overcome my shyness and my aversion to the spotlight.  

Granted, not everyone’s destined for a career on Broadway, and not everyone’s meant to hold forth on the Senate floor, but everyone deserves to live unfettered.  

At times I find that I am able to loosen my bindings long enough to venture out into those parts of life that alarm me, but I now find myself shackled with a different, but no less disabling, kind of fear, and one few people confess to or even discuss: a fear of the Internet, or interphobia, as it has been called. It is not that I am afraid to travel across cyberspace, per se, but more often than not it is with the same kind of remove I seem to practice in my “real” life.

Where others flourish on social networking sites, I wither. Where others forge bonds, I retreat into isolation. I bravely created a Facebook page but have provided no personal information, rarely post, and turn away from almost every request I receive to be someone’s “friend.” In fact, I can count on four fingers the number of people I have friended, or, I should say, have not unfriended: one is my daughter, one is someone I have known for forty years, and two are people I trust. Then there’s my LinkedIn account, where I also never post and only occasionally interact.

Many people are set free by the anonymity they enjoy on the Web, but I am made afraid by it; yet, here I am, blogging away with abandon and with a very great wish to connect. It appears I need a plan, though, in much the same way that Presser needed a road map for her journey into sunlight.

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