This morning I had an incident that knocked me for a loop. An incident that might not make much sense to others but does to me.
It started innocently with a comment on a guy I follow’s twitter feed. He pulled off a hoax that circulated around the internet. I, a known hoax fan, praised him. Nothing major. That was until a journalist I had respected decided to start hurling names at me, including using language that I do not use on this blog. I bent over backwards to apologize, trying to be nice. The result? It only got worse. It ended with a panic episode. The individual had no way of knowing I have severe social anxiety and I certainly don’t wish to shame anyone. He’s unnamed because the last thing I want to do is escalate things. If he does read this, I know you didn’t know. (And I’ve since mended this fence. I don’t hold grudges)
But it made me realize I must write on this topic. I admit I’m taking my cue from another entry on the idea, though going to take my own cues, by the author Chuck Wendig. I don’t always agree with him but I found his thoughts profound and well worth citing. In his post he makes the point that the internet is real, that the people we attack are real. And he’s right. It’s easy to forget but we’re almost never dealing with bots. Always real people.
I have frequently erred on Twitter as I myself have noted. Why do I care? I’ll never see 99% of my followers. I can live my life consequence free really. The only reason I really could face consequences is I do put my name on everything I do. I don’t live anonymously online by choice. And yes, that could have severe consequences in my life. But I choose to risk them in order to keep myself in line.
The thing is, I value my social connections here. Just because it’s behind a screen doesn’t mean it’s not social. It’s all social interaction and I never forget that. I never overlook that there are people behind these screens. I try never to say something to them that I wouldn’t offline. I act with respect and decency at all times. As in life, I try to defuse hostile situations when I can.
Furthermore, I’ve come to make many close friends on here. In offline life, I’ve met Albert Wiltfong a mere handful of times. Barely enough to call him more than a casual acquaintance by “real” standards. Yet he was a groomsman at my wedding and is by any definition as true of a friend as any I have ever known. As of Friday he’s even my partner in a fundraising venture! (Must promote with all breath)
He’s not the only one. I’ve had long, intense conversations with people across the globe. I know you’re all real. I know you’re all awesome. I value you all so much.
And I can’t overlook the most important fact: an online chat on OKCupid led to me sitting in the room I’m in now. I met Amanda, the other half of me, on an online site. How can I feel online is unreal if I met her in the digital realm?
It’s for this reason that I take online so seriously. It’s all real to me. So yeah, a bad interaction another might shrug off, I won’t. It all matters to me, If I forget that, I run the risk of forgetting to be decent and kind to others. I can never do that. I urge all of you to do the same.