Thursday, May 8, 2014

A PSA: Online Me vs. Real-Life Me

“I will let you down. I will make you hurt.” – Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”

There’s a discordance between my online and real-life selves. Anyone who has ever gotten to know me online (on Facebook, mostly, but also from my various blogs and blog-style writing sites, and from being on the receiving end of my lengthy e-mails) and who has then met me in real life knows this. The big difference is: I have an online persona – swaggering, arrogant, articulate, irreverent, saucy – and I don’t really have one in real life. In real life, except with my immediate family and Jonathan and maybe a few close friends, I’m never really there.

When I tell you that I will disappoint you in person – this isn’t mere “Aw, shucks” self-deprecation. You will feel cheated, hoodwinked. You will wonder if perhaps I am paying someone else to post all that stuff in my name, in some sort of “Cyrano de Bergerac” scenario for the digital age.

Right now, if you’ve never attempted to talk with me in the real world – you’re doubting this. You’re thinking, “This is one verbose chick, and her vocabulary is quite superlative. She waxes philosophical about all of these writerly things, and on occasion I find her to be fairly amusing. Surely some of these qualities must carry over into her ‘IRL’ interactions.”

No, pretty much none of it does. Or it does, but it stays in my head and doesn’t get out.

I repeat: You will feel duped.

You will question whether I’m the same person as the one you know in the virtual world.

The answer is yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that I don’t have some logorrheic writer chained up in a pet crate in my bedroom, an unwilling ghost writer feeding me content to post in my name. That really is me who types all that stuff.

No, in the sense that even if I were to read aloud my own words I wouldn’t sound like myself; I would sound like an impostor. There’s some vital connection between my brain and my mouth that is just broken, or missing completely. I open my mouth and what comes out is mundane, muffled, thuddingly dull. It’s diluted, nasal, flat, squelched, milquetoast, lacking fire and verve.

The spark remains in my mind where only I can see it.

After attempting to engage me in conversation once, if you’re a kind and encouraging sort, you will want to give me a second chance, the benefit of the doubt. You will try again. You will observe me closely for signs of the stifled soul rattling the jail bars, straining to let itself shine through.

You will see nothing of the sort. You will see a myopic and self-conscious person with oddly vacant eyes, a diminished presence, saying the same old bland stuff that boring people say in elevators.

So if you see me out somewhere, you’re better off nodding a quick hello and then moving on. Later, when we’re both home, we can exchange e-mails and private messages and leave playful, heartfelt comments on each other’s posts. It’s in my written words that my truest self resides.

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