Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Virtual is not Disposable

I am not a Sim. I think that perhaps I need to go into virtual friendships with this disclaimer. Why? Because there is an aspect of Virtual relations that really bothers me and that, as of yet, I have to see happen in real life.

In real life when there is a conflict, a discussion happens. When people I am friends with, or in a group with, shoot, even at the dog park, disagree, we talk. What has happened to me, twice, once with a friend and now a group online, is that either all communication stops or as in the group, a dismissal with no recourse or explanation.

Then, people tell me it shouldn't bother me. Well, it does. Because I don't see the difference between investing IRL and investing virtually and I don't think virtual friends are worth less then those you actually have to look at to interact with. I don't think online relationships demand less respect.

Unless of course, I'm missing something and in real life some people just cut and run and then hide.  IRL you have to have a discussion that the other person can participate in in real time. Virtually, you can send an email and then you just never have to respond.

Now obviously in both cases, I upset someone. In both cases I was and remain clueless as to what that upset was. It was easier to get rid of me then to allow redress. And that bothers me. I  haven't figured out if it's simply the lack of fair play, or maybe I don't like feeling like I upset someone, maybe it's because I really didn't want to join but did anyway. Maybe I really dislike chickenshit tactics or all of the above and more.

In both these cases I had invested time and energy and was encouraged to talk freely. In both cases they parties involved sort of knew me, so ME wasn't something they weren't familiar with. In the case of the friend, turns out 'm not the first, so that sort of tells me it's not personal. Not that I'll ever know.

With the group, it bothers me because there was no warning or opportunity to correct whatever mistake I had made. It was just an Off With Her Head! governance. I was "Incompatible". IRL this would not have happened, or if it had it would have been considered dysfunctional and unfair unless the offense was egregious.

There would be discussion about whatever I was doing/saying and how it did or didn't work and so on. Well, in my lifetime that's how it has gone anyway. My experience has been that usually groups you are invested in just don't dump you. Because you aren't something that is disposable, you have merit, you are a person. With you know, feelings. You are worthy of the uncomfortable conversation.

But because this is virtual I'm "Not supposed to let it bother me." Why, exactly? My feelings aren't virtual. Nor is my investment, or my confusion or the humiliation I feel. That is all very real. I'm not crying in my cups, but yes, I'm upset. When did it become normal or ideal not to be? I won't die from being upset and I'd like to think neither will you, having read of my upset. Isn't being upset normal?

I don't like being discarded and then being assured it doesn't 'really' matter because it's just online. Never mind me, never mind the people who were counting on me to do something and have no idea why I went *poof*.

Now a team is certainly entitled to cull it's membership as it see's fit, how it see's fit. But this post isn't really so much about that. It's about how I'm not supposed to be bothered by it and the very real lack of care that seems to be becoming more and more acceptable. Because it's "just an online thing." I'm supposed to just suck it up because it's online and so the common courtesies aren't afforded and that is what, ok?

I'm hearing that my experience isn't unique and that disturbs me if that is the way we are headed. Consideration for 'real' relationships because it can't really be avoided and none for virtual because it easily can. My virtual friends matter as much to me as my real ones and frankly, I don't consider that to be overly emotional or dorky or whatever.

The people I interact with in a common arena, whether it's a team or a group of what have you, I pretty much think they are entitled to that same courtesies my workplace folk would be. People are people, regardless of where they are or how one is communicating.

People make mistakes, they misspeak, they are misunderstood and everyone has a bad day. I've said my share of things I felt stupid about later. I've been misunderstood and have aways appreciated the chance to explain or apologize. Because when people allow you to do that, it means that even though you made them uncomfortable, pissed, whatever, you rate enough to be heard, if not agreed with.

Unless they kicked your dog, everyone deserves a conversation, if not a chance to make amends.

It bothers me. IRL it's like getting a call saying "We don't want you anymore." and then they hang up and don't return your WTF? call. Because they can and then there you are floundering and gobsmacked. Isn't online tidy?

When it stops bothering me I'll know it's time to stay offline for good. Because virtual or not, I am not a throwaway and I refuse to treat anyone else as if they are. Virtual or not, you deserve the same consideration as someone I have to deal with because they are standing right there, flesh and blood.

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