For all intents and purposes I consider myself to have a rather charmed life. I realize how lucky I am on most any given day that I have a healthy family, an amazing spouse who also doubles as a best friend, a good job, and a great support system. Part of that support system is a byproduct of my time on Twitter. Without Twitter and nightly Discord voice chat conversations I wouldn’t have some of the folks in my life whom I consider to be my closest friends these days.
However, no matter all the greatness in my life, depression can always manage to cloud my view. The online relationships I take part in play a big role in this. While I was unemployed in 2018 I had a bout with depression unlike any before, and while I could attribute a majority of it to the loss of stable income, it was more than just that. You see, the problem with some of the relationships social media has aided me in forming, have not all turned out well. Two weeks ago, I talked about my indomitable friend group helping me through some of my darkest times, but other friendships forged in tweets and bytes haven’t always proved to be so positive.
Safe Spaces Become Caustic
A person I called a friend for the past 6 years or so, someone I genuinely confided in, was also one of the first catalysts to my sincere suicidal thoughts. No matter what we spoke about, no matter how benign the topic was sometimes, he’d always manage to work toward guilting me or passively admonishing me for my thoughts / questions. It started with genuine questions about things like being an ally in the gaming scene, to how I interacted with my family, to which YouTube videos I thought were funny. It basically boiled down to me not being as woke as he was. We regularly went to each other to snark on the tabletop industry but our friendship and private conversations turned into a zone where no casual conversation could be had without being policed or me being reprimanded in some way. Our bond had all but rusted through and turned into a practicing ground for him to belittle people for not being as high-minded as him and unfortunately today we’re no longer speaking.
The strangest thing is though that this shift became very noticeable after he had learned that I found some of the H3H3 goof / reaction videos on YouTube to be funny. Because he had a friend who also enjoyed them, and that friend of his was apparently a super regressive fuckboat. So because of that, he began to associating me me with this other friend of his’ ideologies. Which is completely unfair to take one person’s bad example and then apply it to an entire category of people. Irony at its finest. I’m not here to debate H3H3’s content because that’s not the point, and yeah some of it could be seen as problematic, but the point is that seemingly innocuous things can become a catalyst for much more troubling ones.
Such as… calling a friend by their name in public?
Words Can Hurt, Regardless of Validity
Just a few weeks back, while rather innocently yet sarcastically interacting with a friend via Twitter, a WotC official called me a dick and a racist. All because I addressed my longtime friend Enrique Bertran (@NewbieDM) by his literal actual name. I’m assuming because my Twitter profile pic is “white dude” that I was immediately assumed to be a racist shit lord? The time has passed but it still bothers me, because of all the dumb things in the world, of all the sociopolitical issues our world is faced with on a daily basis – racism is the absolute dumbest shit ever conceived. So naturally, being accused of being racist, really messed me up for a bit. I’m not perfect, I’m guilty of micro-aggressive language, I know I’ve called someone by the wrong pronoun (accidentally) at least once, and I definitely don’t think before I tweet more often than not. I’m a pottymouth. But a racist? Nah. Fuck that. So here, albeit indirectly, having Internet friends didn’t do me any favors and just caused me turmoil, while I was again, behaving innocuously.
This new trend of having my words misinterpreted or manipulated to fit someone else’s confirmation-bias filled narrative several times in the past year or so has really left me feeling like I’m not sure making the effort to make new digital relationships is worth the strife at times. I’m almost 35, I think I’m done making friends. It could just be depression talking, but maintaining the ones I have is work enough.
It’s obvious that forcing your raw emotions on unsuspecting people is more detrimental than anything. Here I had this friend and person I genuinely trusted and confided in, yet every interaction we had began transforming me into a person who constantly felt bad just for being me. I don’t think myself a bad person, and I think I’m relatively self-aware, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Being an ally is hard, and I’ve definitely had my share of folly in regards to my attempts at being a better CIS hetero white guy, and I’m sure I still have more to come. Nothing’s going to stop me from continuing to do so either. However, when the byproduct of not being educated enough about topic X is met with ‘you should feel like shit’ instead of “nice try, but you’re not seeing the whole picture, here’s what’s up…” can be awfully rough on the psyche. You can educate or admonish people when they’re wrong I suppose, and the Internet usually chooses the latter.
So, keeping in tune with my previous article, and May being Mental Health Awareness Month I just want to reinforce that you never know what other people are going through, especially online, so maybe be about 20% kinder than you normally would just as a buffer. Also, that you don’t quite know or realize the effect you have on other people, even via something as seemingly trivial as social media. I’m a walking example of such things. This goes both ways for me, I now realize how it has affected me, but also how likely it is I’ve effected others. When somebody DM’s you to tell you they like you but they have to unfollow your account because your negativity has genuinely had an affect on their mental health, that’s a wake up call. It’s one I don’t want to have again, ever.
I don’t have a great place to leave off here, or am sure the narrative thread here is complete, but I needed it off my chest. For now, I’ll stick with a few phrases to close on, one of which I’ve used for years now on this blog but was originally coined by a late Internet friend of mine, Randall Walker – until next time, game excellently with one another, and also in the words of one of my favorite comedians: “The universe is chaos, be kind.”