Dissonance

My Saturday started far too early today. I had high hopes when I collapsed into my bed last night that I’d sleep deeply and long enough to overcome the exhaustion I’ve suffered this week (see earlier post “So tired…”). But my treacherous body had other ideas, waking me before 7am and refusing to return to sleep.

So I decided to use my time wisely (ha!) and immediately dove into the online worlds of blogs and Twitter. As with my journey of self discovery, my experience with both forms of social media is fairly new. But, being the tech nerd that I am, I’ve quickly come to love them both. Twitter, especially, is intriguing because you get to partake (actively or passively) in such a wealth of diverse conversation. I’ve never been good at mingling and small talk, so Twitter’s open discourse, and the distance and anonymity of the virtual world, are both welcome crutches for the socially inept.

But, it was during one of those refreshing (yet terrifying) conversations this morning that I experienced a tiny epiphany. I think part of my struggle in coming to the Big Decision I’ve previously alluded to is that there appears to be no support in my in-person, in-real-life (“IRL”) relationships for this discovery (or its results). The only support, encouragement, validation I’ve experienced so far, has come from total strangers on Twitter and through comment exchanges on various blogs.

Right or wrong, my brain is wired to value IRL relationships over the virtual, view them as more genuine, more valid than the online discourse. Virtual friends are transient, ephemeral, so the discussion must necessarily be casual, throw-away, not something to be relied on as solid guidance. “After all”, my subconscious tells me, “you don’t really know them, nor they you, so how can that conversation be real?”

The problem is that for a number of reasons that I can’t fully articulate (partly to protect anonymity, and partly because the explanation is too personal even for this blog) I can’t have these same discussions with the people I know and love in real life. So, there’s a dissonance between my new virtual connections and my long-time IRL relationships. The things I say and feelings I can express here, in the comments of various blogs, and 140 characters at a time on Twitter, war with who I am with my friends and family on a day-to-day basis.

This morning’s Twitter chat was so wonderful, for all that it was short and with someone I’ve ‘known’ for less than two weeks. This person, upon seeing my pathetic lament for my lack of a supportive family, reached out with a virtual hug and kind words of welcome and inclusion without judgment. What a rare and beautiful gift! (Thank you @StaySassyJM! You made my day!)

But just having that open, honest chat makes me feel so guilty. Shouldn’t I be able to say to my family, who love me, and my best friend, who has been there through the worst moments in my life, all the things I can say to these strangers on-line? Why can I reveal my truest feelings in a blog post, but not over coffee with my brother? Why do Twitter and blog contacts get to know these things about me, but my best mate hasn’t heard them from my own lips?

The dissonance is grating. Even though these online confessions are genuine, authentic, my lack of IRL transparency makes me feel like a fraud.

I don’t yet know how to change that.

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4 comments so far

  1. FemOutLoud (@FemOutLoud) on

    Love this post. And for what it’s worth, the little I’ve seen of you here and on Twitter makes me think you’re a beautiful person, someone I’d proudly call “friend” in real life were that an option. Please do remember that the people who reach you only through excited electrons bouncing off satellites are still real people, and their compassion is equally real when it’s offered. The world’s becoming a smaller place, and the line between “virtual reality” and simple “reality” blurs further every day.

    Sending you a genuine hug, even if conveyed through glowing words on a screen rather than with warm human arms.

    • Searching4Self2013 on

      Wow, thanks! Yes, I think I phrased that awkwardly. Virtual friends are every bit as real as those I know in the flesh. It’s just that I perceive an ever-widening gap between who I am most comfortable being IRL vs. virtual life. That difference makes my analytical brain search for not only reasons, but for ways in which to reconcile them. Hence, the hypothetical difference in value. In truth, the compliment of your (and all my virtual friends’) conversation and acceptance of my presence is of more worth to me than all the gold I can buy. Thanks for the affirmation!

      • FemOutLoud (@FemOutLoud) on

        😉 Stop apologizing, especially for feeling awkward. We all feel awkward at times–even the “homecoming queens.” Substitute “charmingly honest” or “refreshing” or “genuine,” if you like; they’re all accurate.

        And I do understand, even if my experience is different from your own. For example, irl I’m a fairly well-recognized local human rights activist, a professional, someone seen at board meetings or (a few years ago) sports mom meetings as much as anywhere else. But ALSO, irl, I’m a very sexual, flirtatious creature, who generally suppresses that side of myself in public for rather obvious reasons. Yet, it’s a very important part of who I am.

        My real life and online presence in general overlap significantly; most of the people I speak w/ regularly online also see me regularly face to face. So I’m careful about my online presence; my work is deeply, critically important to me, and I’d never sacrifice it for the sake of a careless joke. But does that mean I can only let my hair down at home, w/ my partner?

        After reading ButchOnTap’s blog, and wanting to see/interact both more and more freely, I gave in. I revived an email address I haven’t used in ages, set up a Twitter account not connected to my name, and allowed myself to socialize in a more playful, even occasionally blatantly sexual, context. I’m having fun, and I love it! But very quickly, I feel the guilty tug of being inauthentic; is it false to the people I’m meeting on Twitter not to reveal who I am elsewhere? Yet I can’t, if I want to indulge in the kind of playful banter I love, and can’t show in public … frustration!

        And I still don’t have the answer. We’re all feeling our way through life, and none of us know the One Right Way for anyone else–heck, we’re in a teensy tiny privileged minority if we find it for ourselves!

        But for whatever it’s worth, I see bits and pieces of my own journey in what you’ve had the courage to share of yours, and I cherish that tenuous connection. Please keep writing; you’ve been sharing good stuff. 😉

        Thank you, and *hugs* again.

  2. Searching4Self2013 on

    FemOutLoud, it’s worth a heck of a lot. Thanks, my friend!


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