"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about"-Oscar Wilde
So as some of you know, I have participated on and off on an internet message board over the past few years. The board was a Feeding Choices Debate Board, but over time, we ended up debating not just food and nutrition, but every topic under the sun. I stepped away from the board after Babycenter went through an overhaul and I thought the board died (it was still there, but no one ever posted to it). I assumed that we all just ended up being Facebook friends and moved on with our lives. A few months ago, a member of the board died and I found out it still existed, but was private and invitation only. Somehow, all the Facebook friends who came from the board had forgotten to mention this to me.
Maybe you can see where this is going.
So, I got myself onto the board (yes, it sucks I had to ask, but there you go) and I was welcomed back into the fold. The board had changed, evolved into something a little more support related, a little less debate oriented, and many of my favorite people from the old board were not active on the current one. But it was still a group of people I had known for over six years with whom, due to the quasi-anonymity of the internet, I felt comfortable discussing personal and awkward things. I genuinely care about the people who contribute and find myself thinking about them even when I am not online. To some degree, this is unhealthy because it clearly feeds into my tendency to become over-invested in the lives of others and it is one more way in which I waste time on the internet instead of doing something productive and useful with my life. On the other hand, I am exposed in a meaningful way to lives completely different from my own and, from a writing standpoint, all this insight into how other people think is enormously helpful (I recognize this argument would be more convincing if I were producing more on the writing front).
Which brings me to Friday night.
Someone started a thread with the subject title "Do You Have A Soul Mate On This Board?"
At first I thought it was an awesome topic idea. Over the years I had noticed there were posters who had opinions so scarily similar to mine that it sometimes felt we had a psychic link. And then there were posters who were identical to me in some areas, but so different from me in others. It made sense someone else would be experiencing this and would then be wondering if it was a universal phenomenon and who others considered to be their virtual twin.
Yeah, it stayed like that for about three replies before turning into a list of who everyone liked most and then, probably when people started noticing how the same ten people were getting mentioned, how important everyone was and how impossible it was to mention everyone because, inevitably, people would be forgotten. A few people valiantly attempted to say something positive about every single person on the board, but a lot of people did not get mentioned very often and, as I said, there was a core group of posters that got mentioned by everyone who participated. A few people have said it is their favorite thread ever. A few have said that they love it and it reminds them of a Slam Book. Clearly these people have had a far different experience with a Slam Book than I did. A few people have said the thread makes them insecure because it brings up insecurities, especially since no one is mentioning them, but then people rush in to tell that person they are special. Hurt feelings are smoothed over and the general love fest resumes.
Personally I think the problem with these things is that even when it remains positive, even when everyone talks about how every single individual is equally important to creating the overall culture and that is obviously true, it is also obvious that when you see the same ten names mentioned by absolutely everyone as their favorites, some people are more equal than others. Of course I haven't said any of this as it would seem like I am wrecking everyone's fun, making them feel bad over something that clearly was not intended to be malicious in any way, and, besides maybe I would feel differently about things if I were more popular.
In case you were wondering, on a board of over a hundred people, I was mentioned five times. Five times. Most of them were in the "who am I forgetting, oh, yeah, her" sense, though they all five said something quite nice and meaningful about me. Oddly enough, it seems most of them identify me more with my Facebook social activism than with anything I say over on that board (and maybe that is a good thing. I would rather be remembered as someone who fights for social justice than a girl who has body/eating/exercise issues, even though the latter may be far more accurate). Of those five mentions, only two of them were from people who participate regularly on the same threads that I do. I have made jokes about how clearly this is a sign that I am so awesome, people felt that they didn't have to mention how much they loved me because they assumed it was understood. Also, I rationalized that since I am a little less open than some people about the details of my life and family, maybe I am just harder to remember for some people. But, let's be honest here, it hurt to realize how little I mean to people. I mean, remember, I wasn't even told this board existed until someone died and only then because I found out about it and asked to be included. What does it say about me that even my imaginary friends who live inside my computer don't notice me? I'm not saying I need people's reassurance that I am their Sally Field, but 5% is really pathetic isn't it? And if I am so unmemorable, has anyone actually appreciated my input/advice/support? As I do have a tendency to become invested in other people's lives, shouldn't I at least make sure that those people are somewhat invested in mine?
Maybe instead of seeing this as a bad thing, I should see this a big reminder that I need to dial back my participation from online activities, in particular this board. Sure, it can be supportive and nurturing and provide all sorts of insight, but not if it is just a big waste of my time and energy which, it would seem, this may have been. I'm not saying I am going to flounce off into the sunset, but I know I need to wean myself from the habits which I use to procrastinate. I need to get more writing done. Besides, one of the great things about being an adult is that one will never be in high school ever again so why am I willingly putting myself in a similar place?