I Don’t Belong Here.
About a year ago, I was a member of an online message board. Normally, I don’t do the whole Internet discussion thing. But this time I knew most of the folks involved personally so I figured it’d be O.K. Usually, I try and stick to only posting here. I will do so at a few other Web sites where I feel I can get away with potentially idiotic ideas, bad grammar, and implement a total stream of consciousness (which usually leads to bad grammar and potentially idiotic ideas).
Today, I am going to write about why I try and avoid online communication.
During this post, I will cover all of the following:
- 1). I will discuss what happened on that particular message board a year ago. I will remain as unbiased as possible.
- 2). I will discuss why I left and what happened this weekend that brought it all back up again.
- 3). I will open the comments section up for:
- A). Public ridicule
- B). similar stories from other people or
- C). A chorus of song reiterating the fact that I am not only human but I’m a weak one, too.
Now, I shall begin.
The message board I was a member of consisted of the usual banter. The difference one might find there, however, was that its member-base consisted of those who knew one another and could therefore put faces behind each comment. That being said, many discussions
– while heated – could also be pretty informative and tended to avoid those all-time lows where someone would call someone else’s mother a dirty slut all the while comparing her son (or daughter) to an innocent member of Special Ed. (Who, incidentally, treat people better than most online persona.) We talked about photography, politics, computer languages, recipes, programs, driving directions, pet information, resume help, appliance recommendations, we talked about everything. It was 1 part Informative and about 13 parts Total Waste of Time.
One day, someone posted a link featuring the work of a published photographer. People critiqued. Responses like “Cool” and “Awesome” And “Meh, they’re alright” were thrown out there immediately. And then someone wrote in saying how bad he or she felt the photographer was. People asked them to back it up. They didn’t really do so. But I do remember that one of the responses from this person was that “They’re cliché. The only thing he did that might be considered special was using an underwater lens.�? This got me to thinking.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. For those who know me well, they know that I often brainstorm. I’ll ask questions that come to mind. Usually I save these thoughts for people I know well as there have been times in the past where something I ask is taken the wrong way. But on this particular day, Toby Joe was away for business and nowhere near a phone. Had he been near a phone, I’d have probably called him to ask him about it. But he wasn’t. I chose to brainstorm online with a group of people I considered friends. How bad could this turn out?
My question went something like this:
“Do you think it’s easier for people to call themselves a photographer especially given the amount of digital cameras one can buy these days? I mean, you can give a person a digital camera and put them in the middle of Iraq right now and chances are they’ll come home with at least one great picture. Especially since you’re now able to take hundreds and hundreds of shots and not care too much for waste and/or cost. Take that same person and tell them to write something about it and I imagine it’d be harder to accomplish. After all, you can give a person and endless supply of computers, pens, or typewriters, you can even give them the most spectacular experiences with an unlimited amount of time and no matter how hard they try they might not ever be able to tell a great story or write something captivating. I imagine that line for photographers is blurred a bit more with the introduction of digital cameras.”
I further went on to add that I hadn’t thought this out prior my posting it, but I figured that since my normal sounding board was unavailable, I’d throw it out there and see what folks thought.
Bad idea. The very same person who initially disliked the photographer in question attacked me. Not only did he call my comment stupid, but also went on to further insult my character, something I never would have expected from a friend who I had had met face-to-face before I even knew what a message board was. He said that I rarely make sense and that given my online history, it would probably be best for me to avoid conversations about anything that matters and stick to topics like weather. What bugged me the most wasn’t what he said, it was the fact that there were only a few people who spoke up letting him know he was out of line. A few others wrote to me personally saying as much but mostly everyone just let it slide. I guess one might say I had my feelings hurt. One might also say, I wanted people to recognize that.
I posted less after that. Eventually, I stopped going there at all. I figured my time was probably better-spent working or baking, hanging with Toby Joe or writing, even.
That was almost a year ago.
I still talk to several of the people from that board. Two of its members live up the street from us. One of them used to be a roommate. And still another is one of Toby’s best friends. Even one of Toby’s coworkers are on there. And there are a few more people I keep in touch with regularly via email or AIM.
Last weekend, Toby Joe and I were invited out to celebrate as someone was visiting from the Midwest. We met at the ACE bar. Many of the online people were present. We had a few drinks and talked about what we’d been up to. Out of everyone there, we were the only two who were no longer a part of that forum. Halfway into the evening, I began asking about some of the other folks and found out that the original forum had broken into two. I joked about this with the two women I was chatting with suggesting that when someone is irritating on one does the irked run to the other and bitch about them? Because there were a few people on the original board who were constantly being threatened with being voted off the island. One of the girls answered that, no, one was more political and very private whereas the other was more gossipy and anyone was welcome. She then said, “The private one was the one Toby Joe was invited to.�?
Now, this didn’t really sink in until the following morning. It suddenly had become clear to me sometime while I slept that I had been invited to the gossipy “lighthearted�? forum and banned from the private, more “adult swim�? variety. While I turned down the invite to the first one almost immediately, I found myself totally worked up over the fact that I wasn’t invited to the other one. I was insulted and hurt by the fact that I wasn’t invited to something I wanted no part of at all.
The best part, however, was the night before I kept asking one woman about WHO was boycotted from the private forum not even realizing I may have been on that list. And this bothered me the next morning as well. (Exclusion is one thing, ignorance is another.)
I told Toby Joe about it first thing that morning. I premised it with, “I realize this is the most pathetic confession ever because I don’t even want to be involved, but I have to share because it’s consuming my thoughts.�? That’s when I told him about how badly I felt knowing I may have been excluded by an online forum I wanted nothing more to do with. (Now, that’s the point where I reached Level Criminal on Board Pathetic.)
Are we all disinterested until we discover how little our disinterest is about us? After I got over the initial misinterpretation, what about this has upset me? Was it the fact that in all actuality we have only ourselves who care, that no matter how close we feel we might be to someone, when we’re not around our absence isn’t noticed much at all? After all, to miss someone is to remember them, thereby proving we actually forgot about them. Do we all really want to be noticed when we’re not around? Is it important to us that we’re desired even if we have no real desire to be desired by that particular person at all? Furthermore, does online communication perpetuate this desire or merely magnify its existence?
Lately, I’ve been wondering about the point. When it comes down to it, I wonder if we’re all merely searching for that special someone (or some ones) to say, “You know what? I can’t imagine my life without you.”