Imagine that I had a disagreement with a real-life friend this afternoon. It became heated, and we cursed each other out. Later, my friend apologized, explaining that he was going through some tough times. We hugged. That night, I wrote a post about it, detailing my emotional state about the experience, and published it on my blog.
The next day, you read the post. What is your reaction? Well, it depends on how well it was written. But you will probably understand it in the context of the age-old narrative tradition. Incident. Conflict. Drama. Resolution.
Now imagine, this same disagreement occurred with a friend who I only know online. I write a post about it, detailing my emotional state during the heated exchange.
How would you react to this? I think you would be angry at me for acting unprofessional, for betraying the trust of the internet, even if I kept his identity as anonymous. We do not write about each other. That is the domain of trolls. We only discuss our writing and our careerism. Our feelings of anger, love, jealousy, frustration with each other are off-limits. It is not our fear of writing about our children that caused us to run from our personal blogs. It is our fear of writing honestly about each other. We don’t know how.
Today I asked on Facebook the same question I’ve been asking for years, “Is all this virtual stuff — the connection, the emotions, the friendships — real? And the answer was a resounding, YES.
OK, so maybe it is. Yes we are friends. Yes, we have the same emotional and human reactions to each other than we would have with friends in the physical world. Frequently, it is even MORE intense. Yet, we should never mention it. So we get no interesting stories from our virtual world, even if we are online ten hours a day. And as writers, stories are our life blood. So, until we figure out a way to tell stories about our virtual experiences, we will view it is as inferior to the physical world. The real world is a place where stories are thrust onto us by just walking out the door. No one wants to hear a story about the comment section of Facebook. Maybe in the future. But not yet.