Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missing Persons Report

Sometimes I think being a member of a community is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I find myself looking at the wheels, the track, the engine, the body. Every single part tuned to interlink, function, and power ahead against the forces of nature. Watching communities is more fascinating than watching just about anything else, and seeing how my own interactions affect the whole is possibly even more fascinating. But as much as I'd like to claim myself a non-participant, I'm still very much a part of the whole machine.

The problem with that is I'm human. Emotional, shallow, and at times, jealous. If I find myself taking a break from this well-oiled machine, and finding a similarly-shaped cog in my place, I freak out. Sometimes, in my flailing, I'll hit the machine with a bat. The thing is, I always feel stupid and petty after I watch the machine shudder. It'll take a while, but I'll want to hit the machine with a bat again eventually. But is it really so stupid and petty?

In a lot of ways, yeah. Looking into why I do it, I'm just stamping about for attention. If I don't get enough of it, I'll throw a tantrum and storm out. Usually, without too long to wait, that tantrum will come back and bite me, and I'll feel stupid and petty. Yet, like moth and flame, I find myself wanting to do it again and again...

I can't help but feel like I should be doing something proactive about it, maybe re-identifying myself instead of sitting around in denial, trying to ignore the urge to hit things with bats and storm away whenever I feel upset. Am I really this childish sometimes? I think a more accurate answer would be I'm really this childish all the time.

Either way, I have to wonder why I stay at the Escapist at times. Not just for the childish reasons, but the actual ones. Granted, I enjoy myself most of the time, but am I really ever doing anything. I pitch one article every 20 or so issues, so it's not like I'm taking an active stance on the writing front. A lot of the writing I do ends up going unpublished (officially) or squandered away on self-referential fanfiction.

In all of my attempts, I've never figured it out. So who knows. Maybe I will figure it out one of these days. Until then, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Maybe, with some luck, I'll end up being able to do something helpful like becoming a mod, or getting some full-time writing gig. Who knows?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Invisible Wall

Perfect strangers are fantastic councilors. They don't have friends, vendettas, biases, or predispositions. They simply see problems from a third-person perspective, weigh the options fairly, and can produce primarily fair opinions.

Internet friends are even better. They don't see the friendships, have alliances with many or all of the parties involved, nor do they have hidden agendas or vendettas. They can observe the facts without bias, and provide solid and unbiased advice. The bonus is that they also care. They can look at their friends, and know to be kind and fair when giving advice.

The only problem with internet friends in that invisible wall. (Cue Draw With Me.) A giant, faceless, ceaseless, emotionless, and gelatinous expanse that exists between all internet friends. It's a subtle beast, who holds friends at arm's length. It separates them by time zones, internet availability, schedules, and accessibility. I have friends in many parts of the world. North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Asia. There is maybe a collective of 6 to 10 hours of the day where I can actually see some of these folks, cutting down the time I can talk or spend time with them at any given point. That's also assuming I'm free all day, and so are they.

Beyond that, that's just time to talk and converse. I can't take them out to dinner, ask them to pop off to the gym with me, go swimming with them, or anything. In most cases, without considerable driving or a plane ticket, I'll never meet these guys and girls face-to-face. Never shake their hands. Never give them a hug. Never see them. Ever.

We are the first sort of generation to do this thing, the first generation to be able to yawn, wake up in the morning, and say "howdy" to someone on the other side of the Earth. I regularly talk to people from the future, and that's something I'm almost certain my parents' generation has ever said. It's a unique thing, but one that provides little frame of reference. We're sort of alone in this venture.

Don't get me wrong, I love it. I like being able to say "One of my best friends is from a country that spells 'armor' with a superfluous U." But it can be a little alienating, can't it? To have this giant, expansive, invisible wall between us. I'll never see a movie with this guy, and barring some crazy twist of fate, I won't have the chance to shake his hand.

It's the price we pay when facing the online friend. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't give it up for anything. (Except maybe an endless supply of plane tickets to meet these folks in person.)