Do any of you remember the world right before the World Wide Web burst into prominence? People had modem capability and set up little local communities called BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). You could dial a local number and hang-out with others doing whatever the topic of the BBS was.
I was a wide-eyed innocent when I joined the Final Frontier BBS almost 14 years ago. It was a fun little BBS where you could download shareware/freeware games (does anybody remember Joust?), probably porn (I was innocent and not looking remember?), and play some in house games.
Final Frontier had a Food Fight you could get involved in. You started with X number of pieces of food and lobbed them at whoever and if you were successful and got more points, you could "buy" more food. So I created a username for myself and started lobbing. What I didn't do was look around the bbs and get to know any of the participants first. I jumped into a private party and acted like a lunatic (to them). I just thought I was being silly. They all turned on me, made fun of my username, told me I was a loser, and pretty much humiliated the innocence right out of a newbie.
Had I been stronger as a person then, I could have turned and told them all to fuck off and not be so stuck up about who they were pasting with cream pies. As it was, I tucked my tail between my legs and left BBSing. I had been humiliated for 13 years in public school and I was god-damned determined not to ever willingly subject myself to that fuckall again.
It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I re-entered the web and joined yahoo groups. I was very careful about posting questions or responses, to the point that I would lurk for at least a month or more and usually read a lot in the archives before my first post.
I was pointed to my very first blog by one of my yahoo groups, having never been to one or even heard of them before. After much reading and much enjoyment and much following around of the links, I created a name for myself and I set up my own blog. I really didn't have a clear picture at the time of what I wanted to do with my blog. I wasn't even really sure what the possibilties were.
Blogging has been my first big adventure where I really put myself out there since that painful experience on Final Frontier. Really exposed myself to potential ridicule and scorn.
The one thing that I learned from Final Frontier, was that text can be very misleading. People read into it what they want to, not necessarily what the other person meant. Where I was typing silly, they were reading bitchy.
Just today, I misunderstood an e-mail from a dear friend. What this person said had been fairly clear, but I jumped to the wrong conclusion and assumed the worst.
Text is a very tricky medium. There are smilies to indicate humor.
:-) There are smilies to indicate anger >:-| Cripes there are whole web pages dedicated to decoding the various smilies. People will capitalize entire words for emphasis to try and prove their point. Remember how fardling annoying dani was always capitalizing the TRUTH that she was trying to get across?
Sometimes people will use italics or sometimes bold to show when they are emphasizing a word in a sentence.
But with all of these clues, it is still not always possible to know entirely what a person is thinking.
A single comment can be taken to mean many different things depending on who is reading it and what they are assuming another person means.
After the Final Frontier Fiasco, I decided to try and always give people the benefit of the doubt. And if I misunderstood what was said, I was very quick to set things straight and recover from whatever I thought the person had said and respond to what they had actually meant. I also try and work hard at making sure I am being clear with what I am trying to communicate.
For example if this comes across as sanctimonious and patronizing, then I have not been clear in what I wrote. For that I apologize.
What I am is monumentally unthrilled with negative assumptions.