Saturday, March 24, 2007

internet emotions

Last night an online acquaintance gave away all his points, reset his avatar, and set his communication preferences to reject messaging of all types from everyone. It was a very abrupt act: there were no indications of trouble in his recent posts and blog even hours before. One of the admins and I speculated on causes, and how serious it might be. But ultimately, all she could do was send a inquiry (he cannot reject messages from admins) and wait. Admin or not, that's the most power we have: none of us knows the other IRL, and we are thousands of miles apart. Unless the friend tells us, and he's not lying, we don't even know the name of the town he lives in.

Fortunately, today he responded and everything is okay. He's feeling overwhelmed by events (I didn't catch if these were online or IRL or both) and wants to back off for a while. Simplify, I guess.

What's funny is that several months ago I had an urge to do a nearly identical act: blank out my profile and delete every post I'd ever made. There was too much going on IRL, with the mate's illness and the problems with getting the house built, and I think there was something going on online as well that triggered the desire -- I don't recall specifics. Ironically, rejection like this is a call for attention: throw a big black bag over everything, and people start to wonder what's inside.

The social network of the internet is a brand new form of communication, and with it come new forms of self-expression. People threaten suicide and noisy crash-and-burns ("I'm never coming back to this site!!!") The quieter form that I contemplated is a low-key form of this: it's still a demand for attention. The people who simply drop off a site are probably the most serious, but it's impossible to tell the difference between that and someone who's simply gotten bored with the site. I do have a friend who is borderline depressed and has mentioned suicidal contemplations to me in private. I speculate that if his troubles got serious enough, he would just do it and drop off the site without a whisper.

But are these really new forms? Parallels to real-life behavior can easily be drawn...

1 comment:

Leann said...
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