During my teenage years I wasn’t that much of a party person. Sure I went to parties invited by friends, and I used to be pretty popular for a nerd. But the truth is I undeniably had more fun staying home…you know, playing online games and watching anime. I’ve always had the so called virtual friends — my mom would freak out at times, apparently it’s an alien thing to talk to people you have never seen (even though that’s just how you meet people even irl!), and we would spend our days playing and chatting in-game or Skype calls, such things are nostalgic to many internet veterans, and I didn’t have to deal with any pedos mind you. But nothing lasts forever, and as everyone went through with their lives, the groups slowly started fading, so did my interest in online games, besides, I had to work after school now. I barely remember the names -or nicknames- of the guys whom I used to play with.
Enter high school, a complete change of environment and new people I’d get to see everyday. I honestly don’t know who finds this exciting. I couldn’t go to where my other friends studied so…yeah, kinda scary meeting so many new people after spending almost 10 years with the same ones. Long story short: the environment and new people weren’t so nice to me and everywhere I just saw “ew” people instead. Meeting people irl is not that easy, you can’t simply teleport away from them, or block them from interacting, and teenagers can (and often will) be the most toxic assholes. Oh my, irl sure has left me disappointed.
At the time, I started to browse Twitter rather innocently, it sure wasn’t love at first sight, as once again it was a completely new environment filled with new and unknown…virtual people. This is not that bad? And I kinda like the fact that on the internet you can sort of become a separate entity from your real self, you certainly come across countless “anime avatars” out there, or characters from a series or movie or artists…the list goes on. While this is not true for everyone, many won’t put their faces on the profiles because they don’t want their “online life” to be associated to their “real life” — although there are many so called influencers who draw a thin line between these concepts. Like, what you see here is what I might not want people irl to see. It’s complicated if you haven’t “been there, done that”. But consider the following: me, a teenager in his 15s, going through a lot in life, not that close to parents, with people whom I saw everyday not being worth my time…why would I risk being found by them even on virtual spaces. You can have my Facebook or Instagram and that’s all, see, my face is there! Funfact it took a while for me to stop using anime avatars even on Facebook. I don’t really like my face, and Tsumugi is so cute, she’s doing great up there if you ask me.
Okay enough sidetracking. Twitter! The website where I could follow people with the same interests, see what the world is talking about, people talking about their interests and lives and…no bullies? And I can block all of them? All righty we have a deal this is from now on my official safe space!
And so I followed people, and we mentioned, RT’d and fav’d each other to no extent. I made friends from all across the country, how would I do that irl (if you say “traveling, duh” I will kick you). It’s obvious at this point that I’m really introverted and my school life didn’t help much so my mental health just…decayed. So I’d spend hours upon hours mindlessly scrolling the timeline and interacting and most importantly…I’d talk about my problems and someone would come and ask what’s wrong and if I want to talk. Really, many of my friendships begun like this, with an emotional and confident bond coming out of nowhere, something I have never seen and never had offline, either because I was too scared to open myself or found it pointless anyway. It’s hard to open myself to others irl, specially if they are not relatable.
RELATABLE! That’s the word.
Oh you’ve been bullied too? You like anime as well? OMG I love this band! Yeah I also suffer with depression and anxiety, it really sux…
On my so called safe space I have people who understand how I feel and share my interests and won’t mock me for whatever. And after some time I decided to expand things and meet my virtual friends! Well at least some of them, the ones who live in the city. Social anxiety of course has taken its toll, but it was the first time I decided to go against my (aquired) fear of new people. And hey, they weren’t actually new, I knew them online before, so we already had a lot to talk about. And they were nice and we didn’t need to draw a line between virtual and irl anymore because everyone would understand the memes and the anxieties of each other. Looks good enough, so things went on like this, for many years my friendships would start after hitting a follow button and some mentions and DMs. I could meet new people, and they can become irl friends! No need to bother talking to anyone on school or work or go to parties to make friends, as I’d have to fake things for it and that’s…draining. I have friends at my new work now because I grew up a lot last year though.
Okay what do we have here? A safe space where I can vent and rant for all I care (not REALLY safe as there were a lot of fights and discussions but that’s not the point), where I made almost all the friends I currently have, that I used to fight fears, where I fell in love a few times despite being absolutely terrified of flirting and talking with random girls irl (well most guys seem to do it for a kiss without much problems). Twitter’s importance to me had grown to an extent I couldn’t have imagined when I started using it. It put a lot of broken pieces together, it made me happy. But it broke me as well.
It’s obvious by now how detached from reality I have become.
Following 2017, the year I got fired from my job — issues included not comunicating to coworkers and using my free time to…well, you know what site I’ve been using better than my boss, the thing is I just had too much free time…it made me anxious to be honest, having nothing to do at home is much better. Except it’s not. From May to mid January 2018 I was unemployed and used all this time terribly bad. Sure I’d go out to study or search for jobs but most of the time I was…keeping track. Of what was happening online, what people were talking about, if there was something I could talk about or someone I could help. Or just mindlessly scrolling. Sometimes I’d be self-aware of this and just stop, but for a short time. I deactivated quite a few times too, but always turned out as a pathetic attempt in the end, as less than two days after I’d be back, anxiety screaming at my ears for my return. And so I did, as nothing ever happened, with memes and all that.
The reason I’m always returning is because I’m afraid I’ll miss important things, that people will forget me, that I won’t have anywhere to share my feelings or meet new people who might be important to me, or who might be suffering like me, or who might love me. Scientists out there call it FoMO, the infamous Fear of Missing Out. Given my past with the social network, and how many thousands of hours I spent there, it’s no surprise. I built a deep, strong relationship with that place, and it has become something toxic. There really is no one to blame for that, not even myself (maybe), things just snowballed as I got deeper into mental illness land.
I said a lot about people coming to help you and asking what’s wrong, but that doesn’t always happen. And then you start to crave for that attention. And then self-doubt kicks in and you feel like you’re talking (tweeting?) to numbers and numbers can’t reply, people can. So am I being ignored? What if nobody likes me? If I deactivated for a week who would be worried? It’s wanting people to come after you, to look behind and see all the “irl” people you grew so distant of that now they are like strangers and talking with strangers makes you anxious, like it’s the first time talking to them. I don’t know what face to make when I see a childhood friend nowadays, it feels awkward, like they came from an era where “that me” doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s so confusing, people all around the country and the world become a part of your routine, you wake up and there they are sharing things, it feels good getting used to it. But it’s not just something I got used to, as I’d skip reading books, watching things, studying, just to keep being part of that. And lately things are so overwhelming with all the turmoil surrounding politics and social justice. It’s not that my “safe space” was ruined, the main issue is that it became the only place I cared about, and whenever I needed a break, to disconnect…well I couldn’t. There was nowhere to run. Reading the same complaints the whole day, the same negative headlines, the same comment that politician made about black people, but wait at least there’s memes too! And when it became as chaotic as my own mind…I started to fail and there was no distinction between the me with an anime avatar and the me behind the screen: both couldn’t take it anymore. And what did I do? Of course I tweeted my frustrations. Over and over again — sometimes I would just stop looking at my screen for several minutes just sighing and thinking about something to rant, and tired of both the virtual and the real. My “online” and my “irl” selves were then facing a crisis.
If I could translate the feeling into a fight it would be like this:
“I want a break.”
“It’s just not working anymore. I’m feeling bad.”
“But are you just gonna leave me like that? After all I’ve helped you acomplish?”
“Listen I’m grateful for all of it, but the current state of affairs is just harming my mental health.”
“If you’re feeling bad you can always share it, someone is probably going through the same!”
“I don’t need more virtual friends, I’m tired of ephemeral connections. I need to focus on myself.”
“Good luck. Let’s see who will come after you if you don’t overshare how miserable you’re feeling. Let’s see if you will find new friends or someone who will love you out there.”
And I’d be back online sooner or later. It’s as if I’m trying to shove the responsibilities of my problems into others, but the truth is it’s all for validation. In hopes to read that I’m not like this, that it’s going to be ok, that I can DM if I need to, that I’m beautiful and the irl people are all wrong. It’s as if I got used to feel bad and have someone else make me feel valid and needed, and that won’t heal me, being nothing but a palliative, I’ll need it again and shortly. People have their own lives so of course this is far from healthy. I lost touch with so many people, and in the end it included even myself, I saw people that I didn’t meet online as obstacles, just because they didn’t share my interests, or understand memes, it’s a bubble that I refused to use my introvert energy to go outside of. I became dependant, and after almost ten years of non-stop tweeting, it dawned upon me that I need to change because I don’t owe my life to a damn website. My empathy makes me act like I help without expecting something in return, but it’s not true, things were always an unannounced trade.
I only talked about Twitter, because it was the only out of many tries that had such an impact. I tried other social networks too. None gave me the friends I have today. I don’t even know how my life would have been without all the friends I made and places I discovered thanks to that website. It’s insane how it got to this point, someone older might just blame my generation for this. But things got to a point where I already have all I need but kept looking for more, more of something I didn’t even know. Also I really have a tendency to become dependant on what makes me feel loved and accepted, and it can be someone or…something. Like a website. I’ll work on that because it’s disgusting.
This month my depression has hit me really hard, and ironically it was just what I needed to open my eyes to some things. I’m currently trying to stay away from Twitter and rediscover myself. Figuring things out and all that. And always fighting the urge to come back. I grew up on the internet, but if I want to become an adult, I’ll have to get rid of emotional crutches once and for all.
Twitter, let’s just be friends from now on, and thanks for all the fish. It’s not you, it’s me.