Online Communities

I may have mentioned that since I’ve quit my job I’m going to Vocational Rehabilitation, and I’m going to these classes that help them determine how serious I am about this whole rehabilitation process. A lot of what we’ve gone over so far is stuff that I’ve done in other workshops. In one handout, though, there were some statistics on communication.

This is what it says, verbatim: “One-on-one communication is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language.” So, when we write to each other, unless we know each other well and can imagine reactions to things, we’re only getting about 7% of what is being said, because all we get is the words. That leaves a huge area for misunderstanding, miscommunication, misjudging, judging, condemning–the list goes on and on.

Now, granted, this is concerning personal communication face-to-face, but it made me wonder how it could be applied to the internet and how we communicate there. I’ve seen a lot of miscommunication take place, get explained, get cleared up. I’ve been in the middle of some of it. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be, because you have absolutely no idea where you stand. If it’s something that isn’t such a big deal to the other people involved, or there are other things that need to be taken care of first and the situation isn’t the highest priority, I wait for an email with this anxious feeling of dread. The feeling like I’m the newest, I’m the one that doesn’t belong. Territory has already been staked out, I’ve infringed. People don’t know who I am, what I’m like, whether or not I have ulterior motives. It’s as if no one believes someone can actually be nice just to be nice anymore, they have to have a reason. Well, I’ll say it, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, but I’m nice just to be nice. I help people because I want to. I like to help when I can. Sometimes I don’t always get it right, but my intentions are good.

But, the problem is that even saying that, it’s just words. No one on the internet who doesn’t know me in person knows whether that’s the truth or not. They don’t hear the tone in my voice. They don’t know how upset I get when I feel like I’m suspected of wanting something in return. Is that the kind of world we live in? That being genuinely nice causes you to be regarded with suspicion?

I don’t have any deep dark secrets. I don’t like being bulldozed by people and feeling powerless, although there’s the argument that the only one who can make me feel powerless is myself. Sometimes that really isn’t the way it works. I don’t like it when I feel like I’m not being listened to, or when what I’m saying is misinterpreted (again, there’s the 7% of what we get over the internet–just words).

People who know me in person would say that I’m a nice, kind, funny, caring person. I would say that I trust people too easily, and am too gullible, because I have the sort of autistic (I’m not, I just scored high on the tests) “Theory of Mind” where I believe other people are the same way, they think the same way I do and perceive things the same way I do. So I don’t learn and I do the same thing over and over and over again, expecting things to turn out differently. Do you know what that is? One of the definitions of insanity. One of the men in my class said he was an “optimistic pessimist.” I asked if that meant he was pretty sure things were going to go badly.” If I were a cartoon character, I’d be Charlie Brown, always believing that one of these times, Lucy will leave the ball there.

Because I want to believe the best of people, even though there is constant proof in the world around me that people are not capable of living together, much less communicating.

People seem to have become fairly skilled at navigating online communities. I’m not sure I’m one of them. I finally forced myself out from being a lurker, to be more of an active participant, yet, now everything, at least for me, is stressful. It’s not for the other people involved. They’re intrenched, they’re the ones running the show. It’s their playground, their rules. It makes me sad. I haven’t decided what to do yet completely. I’m still waiting for the person I didn’t want to bother because she’s so horrifically busy putting a complicated project together to write me back–I didn’t want to bug her in the first place, but that’s what I was told to do. I don’t blame her for not getting back to me right away, there are other things that are genuinely more important right now. But because my 7% of words have upset the wrong people, I think I will end up leaving the group simply because it will be too uncomfortable. It’s not my sandbox to play in.  It does feel a little bit like kids on the playground. There are some wonderful, fantastic people in the group. Lurking is still under consideration. Then no % of me is out there to be judged.

There’s work I should be doing. I was just thinking about those statistics and how things can get messed up so quickly online.

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