I’ve recently been a lot more active on the boards than is usual for me, as I’m currently a housebound convalescent and have little else available to me in the way of intellectual stimulation or entertainment. I’ve come to appreciate the SDMB more than ever, although my more frequent and sometimes less-thoughtful than usual posting has led me to stick my foot in my mouth or make a fool of myself more than once during the past couple of weeks! But as embarassing as that is, there’s a silver lining for me since thinking about how to deal with am embarassing situation at least gives me something to occupy my mind.
In thinking more about the SDMB, I’ve also been thinking about how I treat the board and the sort of role it has in my life. I thought it might be interesting to start a thread on this subject to share my thoughts and learn about those of my fellow Dopers. I’m sure there’s a wide range of opinions here.
I’m about to go on at great length, so feel free to skip down to the last two paragraphs where I sum things up.
I’ve been online since I was a child of eleven, and have participated in many kinds of forums, including major online service message boards, local BBSes, e-mail lists, and Usenet groups. Yet from the time I first discovered it, I always treated the SDMB a little differently. For one thing, I lurked for eight or nine months without even registering! That’s something I’d never done before. I’d long known enough to know that a bit of lurking is a good idea, but I don’t think I’d ever spent more than a few days checking things out before jumping in. Yet the SDMB was obviously different from the other forums I knew, and I treated it differently from the beginning. I read the discussions and didn’t feel that I had anything to say. This wasn’t because they were boring, stupid, or uninteresting – quite the contrary. It was because there was nothing I had to say that someone else didn’t say, and often better than I could have said it. This was a new experience for me. In every other forum I knew, I could see “holes” in at least some of the discussions, places that almost seemed to call out for my two cents. But not here. So for close to a year I treated the SDMB the way I might a magazine with an intellectual bent. It wasn’t an interactive medium for me, although I read it regularly, thought about the issues and points raised by the writers, laughed at the humor, and even discussed it with friends. I finally decided to register and post because after many months of reading I came across a thread that did seem to have a Lamia-shaped hole in it. I didn’t make a big splash, but a couple of posters expressed appreciation for my remarks and I soon felt confident enough to begin posting in other threads.
These early experiences shaped the way I feel about the SDMB. I see it more as a place to read than a place to write. I see it more as a place for exchanging ideas than making personal connections with others. The latter is a bit unusual for me, as I have made friends on other forums, real friends, the kind who have you on their Christmas card list and remember your birthday. But somehow the SDMB is not that sort of place for me, although it clearly is for others. I can count on one hand the number of Dopers I’ve ever so much as sent an e-mail to. I did attend the May 2002 Londope (and had an especially good time doing “girly shopping things” with Anahita and Fierra), but I’d been a bit nervous about it beforehand and the main thing that convinced me to go was the astounding coincidence that it was scheduled for the exact same day as my first day alone in London after completing a group study tour.
For the most part, however, I not only feel that I have not forged personal ties with other Dopers but that this isn’t even something I’d like to do. I don’t like to share personal information unless I think it will be important in helping others to understand my perspective in a discussion. I don’t start a lot of threads. I have a low post count too, especially considering how long I’ve been here. I’ve avoided naming my hometown or the town I go to school in because I don’t want to encourage area Dopers to ask to meet me in person. When I found out by chance that a hallmate was a Doper I was impressed but a little uneasy, and greatly relieved when she said that she was a lurker who read the SDMB rarely and didn’t recognize my username. I like to think that I’ve kept a low profile, and it troubles me when it seems that I have not. This attitude has probably made me seem stand-offish at times. I know it’s often made the things I say in my posts harsher and than the things I say to people in person. I certainly don’t post things just to be mean or in hopes of upsetting people, but since I’m not looking to make friendships or win any popularity contests here I tend to be blunt, sometimes even bitchy. I say what I think without worrying much about trying to candy-coat things to make them easier for others to swallow.
The more I think about all this the more I think that it’s not just because I value my privacy, although that’s certainly a big factor, but because I find the SDMB a little intimidating. I consider myself to be an intelligent young woman, and it’s rare for me to meet people in real life who I think are as smart as or smarter than I am. This has been a source not so much of pride but of disappointment in my life (ah, the high hopes I had of being surrounded by intellectuals at college!), and is one reason why I spend so much time on the Internet. I like learning new things and being around people who knows as much or more than I do, and it’s easier to find them online. But even so, on other online forums I’ve always been a star. People didn’t always like or agree with me, and I was sometimes severely flamed, but my name often came up as a most liked/respected or smartest/funniest poster. As an SDMB lurker I quickly realized that there was little chance of my ever achieving such status among the elite company here, and so I never tried or even hoped to attain it. In many ways this has been a relief. There’s a lot of pressure involved in living up to being respected. But although I hate to admit it even to myself, I’ve sometimes felt that I’m not worthy to participate here and since I’m unused to feeling intellectually unworthy I haven’t always dealt with those feelings well. I’ve made posts that I’m not proud of, posts that may have contained real information but were as much motivated by a desire to say “Hey, I’m smart too, really!” or even “Ha ha, I’m smarter than you!” as to actually add something valuable to the discussion.
So to summarize my rambling post, the SDMB for me is an extremely interesting, entertaining, and informative source of reading material, a great forum for exchanging ideas on almost any subject, but is so good that it’s a little scary and often makes me want to remain a bit hidden…and sometimes makes me want to act out because these feelings are unusual and sometimes unpleasant for me.
Sheesh, this had got to be the longest, most personal, and probably the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever written here. I’m sure I’d never have the nerve to hit “submit” if I weren’t bored enough to make the risk seem exciting. If you’ve made it this far please share your thoughts and feelings about the SDMB and its role in your life, not only because I am genuinely interested in reading them but because I will feel terribly foolish if no one else says anything! Don’t feel obligated to respond directly to anything I’ve said about myself or to write anything nearly this long, but please do say a little about what you thought of the SDMB when you first found it, what you think about it now, and (if you’re comfortable doing so) how all that has affected the way you interact with the board or your life in general.