We’ve all heard over and over again about how the internet is a breeding ground for distasteful behavior. I’m one of those people who tends to like to see the beauty and goodness in people, and a majority of my experiences as a citizen of the internet have shown me that I’m not wrong. But there are some times, and some people, who continue to put black spots on the marks of kindness that I have found here.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I’ve done a lot of socializing on the computer. When I was dating in my mid-20’s, I tried internet dating, and actually found my husband on OKCupid. I met up with one other guy there before I met my husband. He was nice, but ended up being a flake. He’s my friend on Facebook now, and we don’t ever talk, but it’s interesting keeping up with him. Even he wasn’t the scourge of the earth.
I really began to have an internet social life in early 2010. This was when I started playing MMOs, and I quickly warmed up to the idea of making friends and having a social life where I wouldn’t have to go out all the time. Call me an ambivert…I like to be social, but I also like to be comfy in my house.
Along with the MMO world came friendships that ended up meaning a lot to me over the years. I began being a mod for certain communities, I ran blogs for my RP characters. I routinely get to go and visit a few friends that I have made online at their homes in various places. But for each lovely person I met, I heard horror stories about people who weren’t so nice.
Eventually I came across one of those people myself. We became great friends, so much so that I didn’t see what was happening beneath the surface. Slowly, this “friend” was whittling away at my self esteem, making me feel that I was doing things wrong, and that I was a bad person for trying to maintain a sense of sanity with what I was doing. It is a very easy thing to get wrapped up in story when you’re playing pretend online, and I knew this. But it didn’t make it any easier to distance myself from it. Eventually I learned that this wasn’t a healthy friendship, and I cut ties. But it was difficult. I had invested a lot of time and emotions into that friendship, and losing it was like losing a piece of myself.
Things died down for me online after that. I ended up conceiving my son shortly after, and spent a lot of my time contemplating life with a new baby. R was born in November, and I’m not just getting back to some of my computer activities. I have returned from a hiatus on one of the message boards that I moderate, and I’m not sure if I should have.
People seem to not understand how to step back from the computer. As much as I love my friends, I would never jeopardize my mental sanity and good nature because of people on the internet. I get that people have strong opinions. Why does it seem that some people turn the internet into a vacuum into which they can shout those opinions the loudest? Are we all struggling that much to be heard?
I watch people interact all the time. I teach highschoolers…and I will never understand how grown adults on the internet act so mean to each other over things that are essentially meaningless. And it’s not just on the boards that I moderate…it’s everywhere. People trying to drag others down, people taking advantage of each other. If someone has a platform, they have an audience, and there is no way to drown out the angry throngs of voices.
Why can’t people just take a step back? There is nothing that needs to be said so badly that it can’t wait the five minutes it takes to get a soda and a snack. Perhaps by that time, people would let their frustrations die down, and they’d see the truth…that it doesn’t matter.
Have you ever been involved in an online conversation that exploded into something it shouldn’t have been? How did you feel after the fact? Do you feel that it could have been prevented? And what do you think when you see behavior like this? Looking forward to your comments and stories!
~Aly, aka The Mommy Gamer