Lesson Eleven: Going up in flames – How to be a part of an online community Gay ladies, let me ask you this: who are you IRL? Are you a different person altogether when you’re online? Does the internet allow you to develop a new persona, one who performs another role and speaks entirely differently than you do in the outside world? It does?! Not to be a bitch or anything, but YOU’RE SO FRICKIN’ WEIRD! Personally, I am exactly the same online as I am offline; I walk around constantly correcting everyones P’s & Q’s whilst wearing a dainty apron and setting the dinner table just so.
Now that we have established that I am nothing if not consistently perfect and honest in every possible way, I think it’s quite clear that I’m impeccably placed to provide you with today’s lesson regarding online community etiquette. Firstly, a philosophical discussion. Gentle ladies, be honest with me: how much time do you spend on the internet during a single day? Five minutes? Twelve hours? Somewhere in between? Do you check in and out of your Facebook, Twitter — and of course, AfterEllen.com — at various intervals throughout your day, maybe from your work computer, maybe from your phone? At which point then, do you make the magical switch between Real Life You and Online You? Have you ever met face-to-face with someone whom you’d previously spoken to online? Have you ever sent a Facebook message or a Tweet to someone with whom you have had sweaty relations? What I’m asking, my dear thoughtful creatures, is whether you still think that the internet is indeed a whole separate world away from ‘in real life’ anymore?
Choose your own adventure! Path A: Nodding sincerely with a gently radiant smile, you agree that ‘IRL’ is indeed now a redundant term. You Facebook is under your real name after all, and when you express your opinion online somewhere, it’s an outlet for your real voice to be heard. Path B: Frowning somewhat, you disagree, politely but firmly. The internet is a whole other magical world you can only enter via the right combination of mystical strokes on a keyboard. You can be anyone you want in there, and that is precisely why it is wonderful. If you chose Path A then come on in, honeypie, and make yourself comfortable! Tea? Cupcakes? Take a seat over there, amongst your friends — some you’ve known forever and somee you’re about to meet — and show us all the parts of who you are, the parts we might not otherwise get to see. Tell us about the things you love and hate, what you believe in and what makes you laugh. Stand up and make your voice heard. Show us all what you stand for and the person you truly are inside.
If you chose Path B push hard now at the back wall of your wardrobe and arrive at an undiscovered land, filled with wonder, brand new colours and a myriad of different views sparkling under a sun that never ever sets. Welcome! Smell the fresh air — so different from home! You’re free here, free to be anyone or anything! What kind of person will you choose to be? How would you like to represent yourself? You can have a whole new clean slate, with none of your past injuries or mistakes weighing you down, unmuddied by anyone else’s preconceived ideas of who you should be. You have so much potential here!