For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I’ll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.
2. You mentioned in one of your posts that you started blogging because you were told on a discussion board that you were ranting and that a blog might be a better venue for you, how do you feel that this switch has changed your writings and life, if at all?
The advent of the internet played an even bigger part in changing my life, than blogging did. Sure, the internet itself has revolutionized the way people communicate. But for me specifically, (and I’m sure for others like me) it created an even bigger change. I suffer from social phobias, so it was usually difficult for me to engage people, especially in important and meaningful conversation. For this, I lived a very isolated life. And this isolation certainly interfered with my ability to fend for myself, which in turn had a lot to do with my becoming homeless. As the internet became popular, the coffee shop where I hung out placed a computer at the bar and allowed patrons to use it, and access AOL. This was my first real venture into internet chatting.
Not long after I started playing around with AOL, something very surprising happened. A whole different side of my personality emerged. Something about the dynamics of chat rooms allowed me to be myself in ways I’d never experienced before. I was free from the phobias and anxieties that had plague me. In the chat rooms, people responded favorably to what I had to say. I was told that I was funny, that I was charming, that I was smart. People actually sought me out for conversation. This kind of thing had never happened before. As you can imagine, I quickly became fond of the internet and what it was offering. Some may say that the internet is not real life, but for me, the internet became my life. Being in those chat rooms was more fulfilling than any in-person relationship I ever experienced. This introduction to chat rooms happened in the mid to late 90s, a couple years before I started utilizing discussion boards.
Before the internet, I had pretty much given up on having meaningful inter-personal relationships, but after these experiences in AOL, I was motivated to try again and seek out real life friendships outside of the internet.
The discussion board I was frequenting, prior to blogging, was operated and populated by several of the people whom I was also attempting to socialize with in the real world. I was drawn to them because they were mostly well educated intellectual Christians. They were very different from the fundamentalist Christians I had been surrounded with for years in the homeless shelter community. Many of the people using this discussion board also attended the church that served a free lunch to the homeless every Wednesday. That’s how I became familiar with them in the first place.
Although I fared well in chat rooms, I didn’t do so well on discussion boards. Where chat rooms were mostly small talk and flirting, talk on discussion boards was more serious – politics and religion and the like.
Being that I still lacked good social skills, I struggled to connect with these people on a meaningful level. The kinds of discussions these people engaged in, I was not so good at. Also, they all had similar backgrounds that I was unfamiliar with, some had attended college together. And, they seemed to have a similar world view that I often did not fully understand and often disagreed with. I had almost nothing in common with them. Still, the seemed to have to all together, and I wanted to be like them. To them, I’m sure I was little more than a troll.
When posting on discussion boards I rarely offered up my own ideas. The majority of my writing was in reaction to other people’s postings. I often found fault with their views, and opinions, and never hesitated to tell them so. Yeah, I guess I was a troll. 🙂 Blogging forced me to generate my own content. I was no longer in “respond” mode. I was putting myself, my ideas, my perspectives, on view for others to examine. I quickly found myself placed on the butcher’s block of internet criticism. Yeah, I guess turn about is fair play. Although I did get a lot of positive feed back from people, I was often the one being trolled. It was humbling to say the least. I learned a lot from this and I think I’m a better person for it. I certainly communicate with more respect towards others now. Still, I’m relatively opinionated, and from time to time I will call someone out for being less than intelligent on a discussion board, or in a comment section, (thank you cnn.com).