Monday, August 28, 2006

You don’t belong.

The idea of a virtual community, I admit, seems a bit… pathetic to me, and I suspect to you as well. It’s not that there aren’t people who have no qualms about counting themselves proud members of internet communities. On the contrary, there are lots of people like that. Unabashed, and quite frankly proud of their place in whatever virtual circle they’ve adopted, or been adopted by. But the fray, it seems to me, is populated not by those types of people. And it’s no accident. Where do people who don’t want to be a part of something go? Where do people who want to play on the internet, but don’t want the internet to intrude on their lives go? They go where others like them go. They find a place, a community that makes no demands, respects total independence, and rejects even the hint of obligation.

In a way, we are a community of people who want nothing to do with one another, a community of people who enjoy the company of perpetual strangers. That doesn’t mean people looking for a community to belong to don’t stumble upon us from time to time. But they don’t last for long. We offer a rude welcome. Not because we’re exclusive, but because we’re a certain type. Because, we make and maintain a clear distinction between the world we care about, and the world that exists here, that we’ve created here, to satisfy our interest in playing in this medium, while guarding against it intruding in our already full lives. And therein is perhaps the clearest way of drawing the distinction between us and them. People who count themselves members of virtual communities first inclination when presented with the possibilities of the internet, is to use it to find something real, while the people who populate BotF came here not to enrich their real lives, but to explore the virtual.

There’s no single mindset that applies to each and every one of us, and it would be a bit mind numbing trying to and catalog the degrees of remoteness we each protect. And certainly, there are exceptions to the general premise among you. But if you don’t count yourself as a stranger here, then why have you settled for BotF? I ask because if what you’re looking for is not a comfortable distance, then you’ve settled for something far short of the kinship, friendships, and even romance that other communities offer. In fact, you’d have to be something of a masochist to choose BotF as your preferred virtual personals.

Consider, although many of you have and continue to meet in real life, I’ll be interested to know how many of you will admit that you went to those meetings because your real life friends weren’t cutting it, or worse, you don’t have any real life friends, but want some desperately? Any takers? I didn’t think so. And even if you answer yes to any part of that question, you know better than to admit it here. That type of neediness or desperation is rejected in BotF. It’s the character of the place. And it’s no accident.

I’m reminded of Montfort and zinya. Why did the leave? Was it Geoff becoming the fray editor? Or was it something else? I say they left because the fray rejected them. They crossed the invisible line that the rest of us respect. They admitted to being failures. Why else would they find love here? Seriously. Who here is willing to admit that they’re such disappointments in person, that the best option left to them is to turn to the faceless, impersonal virtual world, since that’s where all the other losers who ran out of better options went. Water seeks its own level, and the shallowest of waters end up looking on the internet. Does that sound cruel? Sure, but it remains true here, in the fray, if not on the rest of the internet because we are a community of strangers. When Montfort and zinya stopped being strangers, they stopped fitting in. They stopped being fiercely independent and instead became painfully aware that their obligations to one another carried over into the fray. Although they tried, we were quick to note that their opinions were now suspect. Was it really that their opinion was shared by the other, or were they only jointly present on a particular thread out of a sense of responsibility to be there for the other? No longer were you disagreeing with two people free to change their minds. You were disagreeing with two people wedded to their original position, one out of deference to the other, and the other now obligated to hold fast least they betray the other’s loyalty. It can get quite complicated. And those types of complications are exactly what we reject. So, we rejected Montfort and zinya. We refused to respect, and in fact assaulted their dual loyalties. Here, individuality rules, and we guard it selfishly.

I could go on with other examples, but you must realize that in a world that is embracing the internet as a wholly adequate substitute for the real thing, and perfectly suitable for meeting new people and finding love, that our snide collective coolness toward community has nothing to do with all things virtual being pitiable, and everything to do with the fact that we are a community of strangers by choice.

All that just so I could share my sense that the reason a majority of you are uninterested in joining Wag the Slate has nothing to do with it being my creation, or not recognizing the potential, or not understanding how it works to your and our benefit, or that it’s more effort than you’re willing to invest. The reason you’re rejecting the idea of Wag the Slate is that it threatens the allusion that BotF (the fray) is not a community, and joining Wag the Slate is the equivalent of admitting that you belong to something. *

1 comment:

switters said...

Enjoyed this, Ender. I think you're close not quite dead on. Been thinking about similiar things my own self.

Anyway, I'm trying to get used to this format; and when I do, I'll post some blasts from the past.