I’m reading a book a friend recommended to me called You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I’m reading it because I felt like it might be sort of a self help book of sorts (maybe). And also I was told I might connect somewhat with what she has to say because she’s another introvert who lives in her head a lot (it is true; I completely get Felicia Day). I’m also reading it because I want to UNDERSTAND you, Internet. You are weird. And full of toxic. And perturbing and odd and helpful and misleading and scary and funny and amazing and sad and broken and uplifting. I just want to figure you out. Which is how I conduct myself in most everything I do and/or become involved with. Also, I think my hair is falling out in stress clumps, and I suspect what you have brought me is behind that. Damn you, Internet. I am already feeling unsexy. Can I at least keep my hair?? It may be the one attractive trait I have left as I head into my twilight years.
Over the weekend, I was discussing my incredulity at the weird nature of Internet friendships I’ve made recently and over the years. In that some people I’ve befriended on this weird and wonky technology-universe have become friends for years and years, some going on 15 years now. And others I have had to let go of, or drift away from, or just outright burn a bridge and run the holy freaking hell away from occasionally in sheer terror.
Why is this? I asked my tribe. So strange, so baffling, and I just don’t get it?
Then, one observant member of my tribe pondered out loud: “Well, let me ask you this. These friends you’ve made on the Internet, the ones who’ve been around for years and years. Do they have other interests that don’t revolve around spending a lot of time on a computer? And also: do they have friends they have made that they didn’t meet on the computer?” And my answer was, why yes. Yes, that is true of all these long lasting people. They do have interests that don’t involve getting on a computer, and they do have friends off the computer. Quite a few, actually.
And then that same observant member of my tribe asked: “And these friends you’ve made on the Internet, the ones you’ve had to burn a bridge with because they revealed they were outright sociopaths or had many other issues. Do they have offline interests and friends?” And my answer was, well…no. Or I don’t know, maybe? Probably not. I mean, sometimes they do have other friends, but most…of….their friends…seem to be….onli-…oh. Wow. WOW.
And that tribe member then suggested that maybe this is what the issue is, that people who get almost all of their social interaction and needs fulfilled via the internet are lacking in a certain…something. And whatever that something is, eventually I start to see: woah, this person has ISSUES. We start out okay, they seem perfectly fine and very normal, and then slowly but surely…woah. And so then I start to focus on the fact this person has issues, and the issues become issues for me. Because I don’t get the issues. This is the part where I begin to lose patience for other human beings. Because most of the issues revolve around the online friends don’t understand how people work, really. Or they don’t live within the confines of reality. Or they don’t get boundaries, or they are using the internet and social media to fill voids and I become just another filler, etc and so forth. Things that people who have figured out how to toggle back and forth between online and offline and online/offline friends don’t have problems with. Therefore, my squaddo told me, in the future when making online friends, check first by asking: Do you have interests and friends off of the Internet/Social Media? And if the answer is yes, then proceed but still cautiously until they prove they are someone you want around forever and ever amen. Be like a fox sticking its nose from its den.
This is quite possibly the most astute thing anyone has ever said to me in the last half-decade or so.
Here are some thoughts I’m thinking, because I spend an inordinate amount of time, time I will never ever recover, on Pinterest pinning endless quotes that feel meaningful to me based on where I am at, emotionally, when I am on that place (if you follow me there, I am sure it looks like I am manic) (okay, fine, I actually am whenever I hop on Pinterest – but in my defense, it’s usually because it’s 3 AM and I have insomnia):
Translation: Bye, Felicia.
Because listen: I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky person, in general. For the last 3 years or so, I’ve been focused on salvaging a damaged marriage and raising a small child within it. I’ve been struggling with a lot of job grief and insecurities. I’ve had more than my fair share of sadness and where-to-now? on my plate. But through it all, I was generally, on most days but typically never during winter months, a pretty positive and even-keeled and happy person. I have an ironic, odd sense of humor and I heart eccentricity like nobody’s business. So if I suffered angst and darkness of any kind, it was usually because it was winter and I am very concerned about doing the right thing for everyone involved but maintaining that it’s also fair I end up happy myself. This is where my angst and inner darkness struggles always begin: in making sure I get to be happy too, do I suck for making a decision that made that other person unhappy?
You will never see me dark because I have addictions because I don’t have addictions (at least not the kind that’ll get me arrested). You will never see me go dark because I am a negative thinker because I am not a negative thinker (unless I’m around negative thinkers, and then yes – I do tend to absorb others’ elations and morbidities).
You will only see me go dark because I allow other people’s issues to affect my self-esteem and inner peace. I have done this all my life, and I will confess now: I think I am quite over it. For years, counselors have told me we can only be responsible for our own feelings. Take care of yourself. Just take care of yourself. (I say this all the time to children, and it is now just sinking in it’s good advice for grown ups as well….don’t worry about what I’M doing. Just take care of yourself.)
This Fall and (endless) Winter have also taught me that I do like eccentric people. Oh, how I love eccentric people. But not the ones in need of medication. And I like drama, but really just in movies and books. And I like messy people. Oh, how I love messy people – together people are *snore*. But I do not love chaotic and/or completely f-ed up people, and I most certainly do not heart in the very least people who are manipulative and controlling.
And I’m starting to think, Internet, particularly on your Social Media bits, is where You are chockablock full of dramatic people in need of medication who are completely f-ed up and highly manipulative. And that, my darling, is something I am completely disinterested in allowing over my doormat of a person. I got a lot of issues, and I write dramatic and stuff. But in real life, offline? I like calm, positive, sane people who don’t obsess over other humans or look to other humans to fill their voids or are just crazy like bat guano.
So I’m going to put on some blinders, some very big blinders. And then I’m going to fix my hair and apply some lipstick. And then forward motion. I got shit to do.
(Oh, and read Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) – she is a delightfully entertaining writer, and makes me wish I were a nerdy gamer girl too. Except Gamer Gate. Noooo thanks, Internet. Please see above.)