I find myself often having to watch myself on the internet. It's a funny phenomenon isn't it? In general for example, what is it? Where is it? I'm not trying to be philosophical or anything but I remember when first introduced to it being mildly confused as to the intangibility of the internet. Is it a concept or an entity? Please don't say a bit of both! But that's nothing to do with why I have to watch myself on the internet.
The internet has been good to me. It gave me inclusion and friendship and conversation when I couldn't find it in the real world, it has given me some friends, a wider view of the world, and most importantly my husband. Yes, it's a modern love story for the internet-age. No-one I have met on/from the internet has been a peadophile; much to my grandmother's dissapointment. I remember her coming to me when I was at my most gauky and awkward and standoffish, saying 'Now I don't want to offend you, but you are being careful on the computer, because some people are not who they say they are...'. The next thing she said was 'Oh dear, I have offended you' probably because I made an expression somewhere between shock and repulsion at the idea of my seventy year old gran advising me on something I thought of as my own. Indeed, the internet was my generation's tool, and all those older were foreigners, even if schooled in it they would never speak it like a local. I am pretty sure I was on the cusp of being a little too old to be completely indoctrinated, but I managed to be fairly drawn by it nonetheless. No, what is dangerous about the internet is not to do with peadophiles or '14/M/UK' 49 year old men with moustaches. To be honest you have to be excessivley naive, complacent or stupid to fall prey to such on-goings, and I was never any of those things with regards to the internet.
What it is that scares me about the internet is the idea that it will become the same as real life. The best thing about online interaction is the disposable nature of it. You may think it callous and I'm sure it is if I know myself at all, but I like that there is always a red box with a cross in it. It's myself that's the problem really. I have this blog and I have a tumblr. Based on past revalations I like to pride myself on being truthful and honest and completely myself online. In real life social situations require acting and falseness too often and I try my best to shun it or just not care. But there is only so much disgust and so little acception that one can take in a day. The problem is that I find myself slipping sometimes, putting things up for an audience, looking at the 'followers' figure and having that little sinking feeling when it has decreased, the same one that follows being publicly disregarded. Why did that one person choose not to follow my blog any more? What picture was it that I put up, or opinion I spouted? I've had a lot of cat pictures recently, maybe I should do that less...
It's a dangerous thing, popularity. In both the real world and online. I was talking to my friend Kirsty yesterday about it all. She is one of the only people I still see from High School, and we didn't see eachother for a few years. I like to think it was a time apart that allowed us to develop our characters and grow, but I'm fairly sure it was just me being obstinate. She told me she wished she hadn't bothered herself over the tiny things, the trivial details of which shirt or trainers you had to have, or who you followed around like a puppy just to be glimpsed near and associated with. I told my Mum the other day that I wish I had had some confidence to be myself and do what I liked in school. She told me she's glad I didn't; that being kept down is character building and the pain of it all then becomes something far more worthy later on. Perhaps she is right. And if that's the case surely I'm too secure in myself now to be dragged back into the realms of social competition in my online world.
It's hard to know how much to allow all that in. Should I be happy with no-one reading my blogs, and doing it for me, or should I revel in the affirmation of other humans passivley approving of my thoughts and my life?
Either way, what I do know is that not letting people's disapproval hurt you is hard. Being snubbed in real life is horrible, leaving doubts and anxiety festering away on your insides. This can be the same online. I made an 8tracks playlist of my favourite running songs. Someone commented 'omg this sucks'. Interesting how one annonymous person can use three words - or six if you must - to tear a person down in such a way. Of course I sit here now and say to myself that it doesn't matter, that that person just disagreed, each to their own and similar breezy comments. But that doesn't hide the sinking feeling I got having smiled at an email saying someone commented, only to find a pathetic, passive criticism waiting for me. I can never decide if this sort of thing is legitimate and free expression of opinion or unnecessary and hurtful targeting of meanness. I'm never going to be impervious so slights, that is one thing I can accept, and it probably makes me a better person because of it.
People are always quick to say 'if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all' when someone rebels against their viewpoint. As soon as the tables are turned though they feel free to spout out over-exaggerated tirades about something they believe in, with no concern to the people around or the context. I find more and more I can't function in the real world for too long, it drains away a little bit of my soul everytime I have to endure tactless people with illusions of granduer and dazzlingly low IQs. Call me elite, call me intolerant, or just call me impossible, but I like being able to block, close and cancel online. Maybe not being able to do so is the greatest fear.