In what kind of communities do you engage with others online?
I’m just thinking about how lately I’ve joined book clubs that started either as a result of Twitter & Facebook and most of us knowing the person who started it or knowing someone who knows someone etc. How my online interaction on Twitter has led to real life interaction with like-minded folks all real-life.
Have you had many offline interactions with people you first met online?
Yeah, when I first started using Twitter, there was a social group called MTUB (Melbourne Twitter Underground Brigade). So people that are now currently more IRL friends were initially met through Twitter or going to an event where we used the social network and lived in same city as a common interest point.
The social-media-to-RL contact now feels like it’s more from a semi-professional place. So we’re trying to break into similar industries and are also interested in being friends but our meetings are focussed on what brought us together e.g. the book clubs I mention.
Before you met, did you share much personal detail with people?
Strictly first name & gender. It wouldn’t be hard to find out some of my personal life from when I was regularly blogging on EDS, but now I would be much more reserved unless I felt that people were interested in me as a person & vice versa.
I feel like my reaction or demeanour in real life is often so affected by anxiety that sometimes i can come off as being unfriendly… when it’s just sheer panic. And also feel like people are less likely to judge you for what you look like too.
Do you find it generally easy to connect with people online?
As an introvert, yes. I feel like my reaction or demeanour in real life is often so affected by anxiety that sometimes I can come off as being unfriendly… when it’s just sheer panic. And also feel like people are less likely to judge you for what you look like too. (I’ve never online dated because of this and having to put up photos)
And I like that when I have had contact online with people and meet them in real life, sometimes they can be just as awkward but it’s not personal.
I notice your photo in this chat is abstract, as opposed to recognizably of you…
Yeah, it’s my Radiohead tee. It says “ok not ok” but my boobs have distorted the “ok” a bit. They’re my fave band ever.
Was pretty obsessed with OK Computer when it first came out…it’s still such an ace album.
I do feel like there is pressure as a woman to not post a particular way so as not to attract unwarranted attention from romantically interested parties.
When you’re online, and interacting with people, do you think about how you are perceived at all?
I do. Often I feel it’s most likely this person who is obsessed with poetry and probably posts boring links. I do feel like there is pressure as a woman to not post a particular way so as not to attract unwarranted attention from romantically interested parties.
Has this happened to you before?
There has been a couple of times where my chattiness about books and music has been ill-perceived to mean i have a crush and want to hook up. Which hasn’t even entered my mind. I’d say that’s also why i try to focus on posting writerly content.
How do you deal with these situations when they arise?
I guess that’s why meeting offline when the group has a specific purpose or interest is also a great social thing. In one instance, I just try to stick to neutral topics. With one person who I did consider a friend, he doesn’t actually talk to me or treat me as ‘one of the guys’ anymore because i was a bit flabbergasted.
So i limit my online interaction to what can be seen publicly. He has once tried to DM me and I replied in a purely friendly manner and he hasn’t replied since that. I’ve actually noticed it more in the Melbourne beer community.
Some of the men seem reluctant to converse with me on, say, a beer i reviewed, but they’ll talk to man beer nerds about it. Same when men discuss sexism in beer industry. They just want to talk to other men about it? wtf? But might get token ‘expert’ opinion (apparently their girlfriends).
Has it ever been tempting to with hold your gender online because of this?
Absolutely. I try to be as gender/sexuality-orientated neutral as possible because i also feel it’s an insult that just because I am female, i might only be interested in males, which again seems to be a widely held assumption.
Do you think that – in your experience – there is more or less sexism online than offline, or does it really not matter?
The last three or so years, I’ve tried to hold a view where people can meet or connect as friends first and feel that it’s harder to hold onto this as it seems to be too naive. About a year ago, I met up with an online friend as we both love beer, so it would make sense that we’d want to drink together. Ge went home early and I stayed on with his friend and my drink got spiked that night (i’m not sure who by but know which drink it was) and it was actually female IRL friends who ‘told me off’ as in you shouldn’t have gone alone, make sure you’re dressed appropriately etc (i was actually wearing jeans which is completely irrelevant).
The guy who went home early, I’d told him and he was super concerned, as was my best friend in Hobart and they didn’t shame me at all. But a bunch of female entrepreneurs I met through a writing acquaintance didn’t want much to do with me after that.
It leads me to believe that sexism has always been there but something about being online just makes it more visible.
My food blog had a troll for a while, that was weird. I can’t really imagine why an online stranger would go to so much trouble to hate on someone online. That felt at least that it was nothing to do with me being female.
You mentioned sexual orientation earlier and we’ve been talking a lot about gender. I’m curious as to how important these things are to your identity? Do they define who you see yourself as?
I find that online communication in a way is more representative of my true self in that someone else’s orientation or gender won’t stop me from exploring a common interest in the hope that my own gender/sexuality becomes an afterthought.
I don’t know if it comes across but I tend to feel pretty sexless online but not devoid of sexuality if that makes sense?
At first people can be extremely supportive but if it doesn’t get better in an acceptable time frame… It can sometimes lead to people not just unfollowing, but just plain ignoring. Which just makes you sadder when you’re down, but then reinforces that no one cares unless you’re likeable in a particular way.
Do you find yourself talking about different things online to offline, or perhaps are more vocal in an online space?
It depends, I used to be but now less so. If someone on my Twitter stream posts something that is personal and I feel like we’ve interacted enough for it to be okay to respond in a personal manner, then I do that. I’d be more timid in real life.
I tend to be quite similar offline and online now and more careful with whom I share personal things – both offline and online. Though when things are going badly lifewise, I don’t feel like I’m honest about that online because it can feel counter-productive.
I used to be more honest about just how much depression affects my day-to-day life online. And at first people can be extremely supportive but if it doesn’t get better in an acceptable timeframe… so you could update about what your life is like, not necessarily complain as such and it can sometimes lead to people not just unfollowing, but just plain ignoring. Which just makes you sadder when you’re down, but then reinforces that no one cares unless you’re likeable in a particular way ie. not sad or ill all the time.
I do try to engage with fellow depressives when they post that things aren’t going great. And sometimes people don’t want to put in the work to alleviate it. It’s a full-time job. I’ve noticed a few people on my Twitter feed who constantly invite comments related to appreciating them etc. One friend, it seems, lost a few friends because s/he often posts about how much s/he does for others but feels like it isn’t reciprocated. Self-examination is best left offline, I feel. Unless you’re genuinely open to hearing from others and taking on board what they might have to say. otherwise why post it so it can be read at all?
So to answer your question in a roundabout way, i think sometimes that being negative online can be counterproductive because it can be read as passive-aggressive which is harder to defend/refute online rather than offline.
Bottom line is I feel online communication has made offline life better.
Are you mainly talking about Twitter, where this happens?
Yeah, seems so. Tumblr too. But Tumblr has spaces where it’s ok to be openly emotional. Twitter doesn’t feel like a space that really accepts that because of its brevity.
On Instagram fitness and having a family can be seen as showing to others as some sort of weird asset and that you’re lesser if you aren’t pursuing those goals.
Back in the old days of LiveJournal there were a few communities where it was perfectly ok to discuss in detail some of the more negative aspects of mental illness. It never had the vibe of pity party, it was an amazingly supportive space. And it never felt like a competition – everyone’s pain was taken seriously and validated.
Bottom line is I feel online communication has made offline life better.
At one point you mentioned that you used to be one way, and now you’re another way, and I wonder whether online communication has been part of that change?
Before you’d get disheartened by growing apart from old school friends, workmates etc. and when that happens, where can one go to to make new meaningful connections?
I had an ex who was very manipulative and used our shared friendship network in such a way as to make our breakup into a ‘me vs. her’ thing. He still tries to get into contact with me using any remote connection or inference to him as an excuse to do that. But in the last few years, after building networks far removed from him, it makes what he can and can’t share or say online or offline about me less powerful/damaging.
I tend not to talk much about my current partner online and in the beginning it was hard for him precisely because of this. Even to the stage where I go out of my way to not refer too much to my exgf (my previous relationship was polyamorous) because it might also get exbf’s radar and I feel very protective of her.
It’s hard because it’s essentially a type of harassment, what this particular ex does.
The problem was once the relationship was over, he had no qualms about what was made public and private. He’s actually married now and I made it clear I wanted no contact. I don’t feel comfortable about him e-mailing; I’m fine with him using twitter to say what he wants.
My Eat Drink Stagger Twitter avatar is a lino cut of tea steaming from a teacup. Another one of my loves.
Tea or lino cut?
Tea! The lino cut was made by my brother in high school art class. Just the image of a steaming hot drink makes me feel warm and more relaxed.
I also chose that tee because something can look ok and not be ok. It meant a lot to me at the time when mental health discourse was so backward…in some ways it still is.
Many Radiohead songs seem to have themes relating to mental health – or at least that’s what I take from them.
And not fitting in, dysfunction, definitely. Which oddly enough was comforting in that someone else felt it too and was open about it.