Virtual Community in a Vacuum

*sigh* I’m back to talk about Knights and Dragons again. I’ve finally realized what I meant when I kept saying that leaving my second guild in this game “felt like a breakup.” Basically, the experience contained these two parts:

  1. My guild had become a significant part of my life because I don’t really have a social life any more, and they really were the only people that I got to talk to on a daily basis (besides my husband).
  2. My guild expected things from me that I wasn’t comfortable with, but which I tried to accommodate because they were significant to me.

So, it was a big loss when I had to leave them because they finally asked for too much. I immediately joined another guild because it truly benefits my character to be a part of one (better rewards, access to more events, etc.). I had encountered one of its members earlier and the guild’s name (Life Happens) gave me the impression that there wouldn’t be many rules about participation levels, spending real money, and so on.

At first, there weren’t. It was pretty good for me, and I got to grow much stronger. I earned a promotion, I got to influence guild decisions, and I enjoyed being with them. I had boundaries this time, and I kept them. No one got to text me directly. I got to choose how I would spend my gems. Until we became successful. At that point, the top members of the guild decided to join an alliance, which is a group of players who spend a lot of time and money on the game.

They wanted me to reinstall the chat app so that they could text me. I wouldn’t. I left silently and changed my name. It hurt less this time.

Now, I’m in “Spikey Ninjas,” which has lived up to its motto thus far. No one has demanded that we sacrifice our real lives or money for the sake of the guild. It’s working out pretty well, but I’m still wary. It only takes a few people to decide that the whole guild needs to change, and if it happens again, I’ll leave quietly.

I miss having friends. Real friends. But for now, virtual communities are about all that I can have, so they will just need to be enough. I guess.


Belief Systems

I drew this today after journaling about my current spiritual state. I don’t want to say much about this, but I will explain a few parts.

  • The circles and squares represent two different, unspecified belief systems.
  • The specific shapes represent individual adherents.
  • Shapes that are connected to others are in a community together.
  • The isolated shapes aren’t (not with each other, and not with the similar shapes).
  • This drawing was created out of discomfort.

“The Silence is Deafening” Part 3 of 3

I need to push through this, or I’ll end up marinating in it forever. I’m going to just jump in; please read the first two parts for context.

When my neighbor jumped out of her window and died, I didn’t mourn her or feel much at all. Instead, I just watched everything from across a vast emotional rift. It felt odd, like a ghost being surrounded but not affected by the events of the world. It was a unique chance for me to collect data regarding the manner in which people respond to suicide. For my safety and my future, I needed to capitalize on this event.

So, as I went about my schedule, I observed the changes in others, and I took notes. I needed to know if one person really matters to the world. I needed to know what happens when they die. I needed to know if I mattered and what might happen if I died.

It was important.

My neighbor was not in my classes, so I had never really interacted with her much. This is what I wrote about classes on that first day after her death:

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

It was bizarre; I had never seen these people interact with her, and I could not find the hole that marked her absence anywhere. These were not, as far as I could tell, the woman’s friends. They may not have known her name or recognized her face. They didn’t even seem to be connected, and yet, here they were… mourning. How strange!

For a depressed person, this type of experience can easily be a powerful one, for better or ill. I was prepared to learn from it, and so I did. In this horrible, dark time, I learned that everyone makes ripples out from themselves. That everyone connects in some way to a community around them. That life matters.

It’s still hazy to me, honestly. I saw that she was connected, but I never saw how. And just because I saw people grieving, it doesn’t mean that I understood why they did so. Was it because they knew her personally and missed her? Was it because they are opposed to the vague concept of death? Was it because her death upset their perception of what college should be like, or how much time people should have to live, or some other abstract idea?

Why did they mourn? Why didn’t I feel anything? Maybe it’s too complicated for me to nail down after all. They, the crowd of hundreds or thousands of students, staff, faculty, etc., probably had hundreds of thousands of reasons for feeling pain at this young woman’s death. I, likewise, had one or maybe a handful of reasons for not feeling anything for her.

Life is just messy like that.

Indoor Introvert

This morning, I asked my husband if he was afraid to be surrounded by people.
H: *pause* Are you afraid to be surrounded by people?
Me: Yes.
H: *pause* I don’t really find it scary, no.

Of late, I’ve taken to using others as sounding boards- asking them about gaps or dark spots in my worldview just to see if our experiences line up. If they don’t, then I have discovered an area in which my view doesn’t need to be true. This may sound confusing, but it’s pretty simple. People aren’t necessarily dangerous, because I know people who enjoy meeting strangers. Taking risks doesn’t need to be scary, because I know people who enjoy pushing their limits. Having neighbors isn’t a guaranteed problem, because humans are made for community.

I’m trying to grow, and it’s working. But, back to this morning…

I’m afraid of my neighbors, in principle, not in practice. I’m afraid of the idea of neighbors, not by the people themselves; I don’t know the people and am thus incapable of having true fear, joy, dislike, or even apathy towards them personally. How can I have an opinion on an unknown quantity? It’s like professing my love or hatred of a foreign fruit that I’ve never tasted- I can imagine its texture or admire its appearance, but I cannot truly know what my experience with it will be like.

I am hiding indoors from these people, because I am afraid that they will be prickly or sour, that I will be hurt by the experience. So, my fears get to grow in rich soil because nothing challenges them, and I get to keep my worldview intact because no experiences get to challenge it. Win win, right?

I have to stop this. It isn’t healthy to live in constant anxiety.

Artificial Friends

Because I have recently moved away from my last community of  friends, and because I am very hesitant to reach out to local friends, I spend a good deal of time alone these days. The problem is that we weren’t really made to function well in isolation- we are wired for friendship, for love, and for connection. So what happens to people when they don’t get enough of those things? We improvise.

In my case, I’m creating false relationships with real people, and allowing myself to believe that I am growing to know them better through our continued, one-sided interactions. In layman’s terms: I’m binge-watching YouTube.

*sigh* I realize that this sounds pathetic, and it probably is, but it is working in the immediate term. I get to hear voices that aren’t mine, thoughts that aren’t mine. I get to laugh along with others and watch them learn new things. It’s like being in a group, but from the outside.

In a lot of ways, it’s just like my real life social interactions throughout most of my school career. I was present, at the edge of the group or in the circle, and I listened to other people talk. I laughed when they laughed, and I remembered what they said. I learned more about who they were, and I was there for a lot of their experiences, but I never really belonged. There is a real reason that I’m saying that, besides baseless sadness; I have actual proof that my friendship wasn’t really valuable to the people that I thought were my friends, and it has haunted me for 16 years now.

I need to move on. But it hurts.

Loneliness and Loss

I mentioned before that I haven’t been reaching out to any of my friends. Within the last… has it really been 5 months already? Within the last 5 months, my husband and I moved 1,134 miles away from our community. We met there. We studied there. Our friends were there. And now we are gone. And life goes on.

How is that fair? For people to lose so much and for life to go on?

… It feels like I shouldn’t be writing this entry, like someone who knows me locally will find this entry some day and get upset because I don’t feel like they are good enough or something. It’s not about that. It is just very hard to be in a community of similar people, to feel free to be myself, to make very deep friendships, and then to just be… gone. Just like that. One day, we can meet up for coffee and the next, I’m just in a car with my stuff, driving away forever. It was really drastic and really fast.

I went from being a part of a community, feeling empowered to reach out to people, and having friends within walking distance who knew me deeply to being what? Somewhere where most people knew a masked version of me? Somewhere that I haven’t lived consistently since 2004, where I have no community to belong to? Somewhere where I need to balance over-relying on the few friends I have against never reaching out to them at all?

It’s a big change and it hurts.