Sunday, October 9

Socially out of my depth?

There have been several posts about social media and kinky life lately. I've held back from commenting on any as I didn't think a mere comment would suffice to explain my views. So these are my own personal thoughts on my online life and the community I'm part of. Those of you who are in the same community, or at least an intersection of it (think Venn diagram), may see it a very different way. That's the thing with online interaction and the use of social media in general; we all approach it from a different direction and want different things from it. What we want even changes through time, circumstance and personal evolution.

When I first came online, in the kinky sense, I wanted to be noticed; by anybody in any way. I made pathetic attempts to comment on the popular blogs and retreated in rejection when no-one replied to them. By the time I set up a Fetlife account I was more sure of myself; I had a few kinky friends to call my own, but I still wanted to be noticed.

So I friended people, including 'personalities' like Mija and  Kami Roberston and Abel, hoping that people would notice me. And finally they did; the day HH messaged me on Fetlife made me feel I'd made it as a fully paid up member of the online scene. (I'm not even going to try to rationalise those intial preoccupations!) 

I started blogging to record my kinky journey but also to join in the blogging community I'd envied for years; to show off the scenes I'd done, to tell the world who I was playing with and eventually even posted pics of myself enjoying my new found confidence in myself. I blogged every day. I wanted to be seen, heard, included in this kinky life I had admired from afar.

But then the blog changed. The more real world people I met, the less I had to write. The deeper my play relationships became the less I needed the attention. Blogging became more about me and my need to process. Of course some motivations remain the same: there's still the 'look at me element', still the joy in readers' comments and the thrill of being linked to from the likes of SpankBoss and Chross.

And then there's Twitter. It too has changed over the two years I've been a member. At first I friended everyone. At first my feed was open, even running on the blog here. Then more and more I found myself talking about real life stuff as many of my Twitter circle blurred into real friendships that justified this change.

But what of all the other people who might be reading? I worried I was over-sharing. Worried I could be too easily identified. I don't work in a liberal industry - my company would easily find reason to fire me if my kinky goings-on became public. And on the personal side of things, it's not that my family aren't loving and supportive: they are when it comes to things they can understand, but some of my vanilla friends who I've explained this to are lost. I can't expect my parents and God forbid my Grandmother having to deal with knowing what I get up to.

So my account is private and I don't allow anyone to follow me I don't know or who hasn't earned my trust in some way. Now my Twitter feed is a smaller circle of friends, whilst Fetlife is the wider circle and the blog is to everyone.

But that means Twitter is now a little micro society all of its own, which comes with its own problems.  The real life worries have migrated to it, and they can be constant. Am I interesting enough? Do people like me, respect me, notice me? Can I keep this mask of wonderfulness up? Can I always portray a well-meaning, kind, generous patient person? And do all that whilst allowing and accepting others to have those same failings.

Rationally, of course not, but yet I still try! Irrationally, the 24/7 on-button causes me a hell of a lot of stress. There are friends in real life that I love very much but I don't spend every waking moment with them, whom I don't share every though. (If we did we'd probably not be friends anymore.) Yet on Twitter we are always interacting. Always sharing; sometimes over-sharing. We take strength from the kind words and advice of people there but then there are times when people damn right annoy us: say something we fundamentally disagree with, perceive that they have made a cutting remark or said something ignorant. The word perceive is important - usually it is we who have the problem; it is who have taken a comment out of context, misinterpreted a tone.

Therefore as much as I love Twitter, I find it a confusing place to be sometimes, find myself out of my depth. Not sure what the rules are but aware enough to know that we're all playing by a unique set that we don't understand and can't share. Rationally I understand should take this knowledge on board and not worry about it so much. But I do.

I find myself judging myself on how interesting I am by the number of responses I get to a tweet. I find myself irrationally angry over a tweet from somewhere I've never met or ridiculously disappointed to hear someone I admire say something I disagree with. I hate the squabbles, passive aggressive tweeting, the duty of following certain people, the perceived rejection of people who don't follow me. Most of all, I hate how seriously I take it, and how it provokes in me the same behaviour that I dislike in others.

Lately I've been asking myself whether Twitter is actually for me? Or is it detrimental to my sanity? There are people I find it difficult to interact with. I like them very much on email, blogs and in real life, yet find myself disliking their Twitter persona. How many people think that of me? Should I just admit defeat; that I'm too sensitive, too reactive, too emotional, take things too personally. (So much so I've actually been banned from Twitter for two weeks until I learn to appreciate it again. A ban given at my request and a mutual concern at how wound up 140 characters was making me!)

And then there's Facebook which often feels less intrusive and far more straightforward; if I accept I'm only sharing 60% of my life on there. I only interact with real life people there. That includes the people I met through kink who are now valid members of my offline life. That's not to say that the kinky friends I don't interact with on there mean any less to me. Some don't have vanilla accounts or vanilla accounts they want to share with me - we're still friends off-line and that's the most important thing.

But I can only include friends who are fully paid up members of my real life.There is no-one on there I worry about my nilla friends and family asking about or wondering if they'll meet them when they come visit. As I moved primarily to be nearer this new(ish) circle of friends, they represent my new life, assure my nilla friends and family (both those aware and unaware of my kink) that I have a full life here. In that context it isn't about kink, it's about people. Therefore I restrict that account to people using their real names, who want to meet my other friends and to be a full part of my life. (Not to mention the privacy issues, which again have been much debated already.) Facebook, for me, is the representation of my complete and vanilla life.

Again I'll pull out the part of that sentence I think is most important: 'for me'. I know other people have different views on Facebook. Many kinky friends have duel accounts (one for kink, one for Nillas) or freely mix vanilla and kinky friends; I respect that.

So am I out of my depth with all this social media jazz? Or to be more literal: am I out of my depth being online so much and putting so much of myself out there? Should I just restrict myself to blogging and being the entertainment at parties? I don't honestly have an answer to that.

The only conclusion I have about social media in the kinky online world is that we should understand that we are all at cross purposes in how we use these tools of interactions. That nobody is right or wrong and we shouldn't apologise for choosing how we interact with different people and circles. Like everything in life mutual respect of other people's choices goes a long way.


PaulAtNorthGare said...

You're not out of your depth; you're just coming to terms with the fact that it's a complicated situation and you're not quite sure what's right for you yet/now.

I'm wondering if you're also going through a stage that's both hard and inevitable, which is when we move from seeing someone's kink interest/persona above everything else - and perhaps even think that because they're into roughly what we're into, of course they're a nice person, and of course we'll really like them - to seeing them as just people who share this one thing, some of whom we like, some of whom we can do without, and some others of whom drive us up the bloody wall. To that end, gathering people around us online based primarily on kink interest can be confusing, because we end up thinking that we ought to like some people a lot more than we do - but who they actually are is much more nuanced than the fantasy persona they might have projected for years.

Social media stuff is hard, because it brings all of the complications and insecurities of social interaction into a world where we're often far more candid than we feel able to be face-to-face - the problem there is that we're not candid enough face-to-face, rather than that we're too candid online, I think - and then requires us to make very public, and very unequivocal, displays of connection. In meat life we might have a rough idea of how someone thinks about us, but not be completely sure. Online, it's far more binary - friend/not-friend, follower/not-follower - and we fail to grasp sometimes that we've been forced to squish all the greys of how we feel about someone into the black-and-white binary, and then we read way too much into everything.

I do think sometimes that it would be much better if we didn't know who our social media "friends" and "followers" were. A lot of the conflict does come from what we read into how people have chosen to categorise themselves with respect to us, based on the programmed options. This happened a little with blogs, when people obsessed about who commented where, and who linked to whom, but it wasn't nearly as bad.

I also feel a bit fortunate that I'm not social in the same way, and am happy as an outsider, burbling away and not really caring who's reading/following. But I've also found (from experience) that the most important thing for me is to be able to say what I want. Anything that gets in the way of that - and for me that does include the self-censorship that comes from belonging to smaller social circles - I'm happy to do without.

Finally, insecurities about all of this are human, and inevitable. Anyone who claims not to be insecure about how they appear to others, and how others respond to them, is basically lying to cover the insecurity, I think.

Good luck finding your way of doing this.

Anonymous said...

Emma Jane,

Your post is very well written and artiulate and provides great advice.

Thank you,

Indy said...

Like you, EJ, I came Twitter through the kinky community. Unlike blogs, it allows conversation in real time, and, unlike FetLife, I don't have to read the comments of anyone I don't want to follow. I'm struck, though, by comments that Paul, Mija and Pandora have made about the ways in which our use of Twitter are different from those of the other Twitter communities to which they belong. I also follow a few political columnists, etc., and I value the links to interesting articles, but it's a totally different game. So I can see Kinky Twitterdom as a clash of cultures in some way.

I've thought about getting a vanilla Twitter account, not least so that I can admit to vanillas that I have one, but I'm afraid I'll confuse them. So I participate in Kinky Twitterdom and only listen when it comes to Vanilla Twitterdom.

Abel1234 said...

Really fascinating and thought-provoking post. I'm certainly noticing a real difference between Facebook (having joined a few weeks ago) and Twitter. Like you, the former is only for real-life friends using vanilla identities: somehow it seems more upbeat and positive.

Yet I've made good friends through Twitter, too - but am on there far less since signing up for FB.

I think each has its place - but I'm not quite sure what that is for me yet. And recognising that I've probably spent too much time trying to follow every conversation on Twitter is part of it for me; using my analogy of it as a local pub that one can call into from time to time, I think I've been spending too much time propping up the bar!