So often, I hear things like "Online friends don't count" and "You can't really know a person unless you know them in person." On the other hand, I also hear a lot of what I said in my first couple of lines: "Online friends are real friends," "I love my online friends," and "the people I know on the internet are awesome."
The first set of statements is over-generalizing and too all-inclusive. The second set is generous. But, then, I suppose it all depends on your definition of "friend."
Oh, cyberbullying. It's so easy. You just sit down, decide you're right about everything, and type away. Like pretty much everyone on the internet, I have been on both ends of bullying on the internet. Recently, I've been trying to keep more to myself because of an incident that happened last summer on a crafting website's forum. I shared too much and someone decided to shame me for it. Endlessly.
Well friends, I stepped in it again. I asked for advice on the same forum-- in the same place as last time-- and got burned. This time, I asked for help in writing up an assignment for my lit class on fan fiction. The assignment is for the student to write a short piece of fan fiction while including some of the tenants of fiction we cover in the textbook. I thought it was a cute and fun activity-- it gets the student away from writing a boring old term paper that they probably won't enjoy.
I have done this before. I did it last year and had an expert come into the class and speak to them about writing fan fiction. This year, since I have such an early class, I didn't ask the expert to return because I didn't want to inconvenience her. So, I asked the internet.
Most of the responses were warning me about copyright issues, which I hadn't thought of. That was helpful.
A few were very supportive and offered to help me form a good, solid overview of the beginnings of the subject.
But most were scathing: "Why would you teach something you obviously know nothing about?" "I can't figure out why you would pursue this subject as an assignment." "This is really not thought-through at all. You should consider changing your syllabus."
I'm paraphrasing, and I know that people from the website will read this and want to compare to the original post. For the record, the last one was from a private message sent through that website.
Maybe I'm crying "Wolf!" here. Much, much, MUCH worse happens every day. And I can't go all "YOU DON'T KNOW ME!" because I just can't. This is a forum that has 12,000 members. I should have known better. I shouldn't have asked for advice. I knew what was going to happen. Sort of.
When I started the thread, I really really thought that I would get some good input on how to write fan fiction and how to convey it to my students. I didn't expect a parade. I didn't think people were going to come out of the woodwork to tell me that I was the most insightful and entrepreneurial teacher ever. I honestly thought I would get advice.
This has, of course, bummed me out. I feel defeated and deflated. I feel like never going back to that forum again.
I can't ask: "Why are people so much different on the internet than they are in person?" because I know the answer. No one is held accountable for being mean. The mods on the board I am talking about are amazing. They really are. They have so much more to deal with than my petty squabbles over a lesson plan and a handful of people sharing their opinions in a blunt and destructive way. But I asked them to shut the thread down, which they did in a timely manner. For that, I thank(ed) them. I didn't want to deal with it anymore.
More than 70% of my Facebook friends list is made up of people I know strictly from this group. But I don't have all 12k of them as friends. Does that make those that are my "friends" any less valuable? I want to think no, but every time I get a little hurt, I withdraw a little more. I'm a pussy. I've said this countless times. When it comes to being social and nice and buddy buddy, most of the time I just can't do it.
So, am I a coward? Am I a social deviant? Do I suck at being a friend? I do consider my online friends to be just as real as my 5 "real life" friends.But at some point, I'm going to disagree with them.
But I come back with the belief that everyone I love is gonna leave me.