Friday, 3 March 2017

"Tell Her I'm Not Here".

When I was about 14, there was this boy that every girl I knew fancied. He was beautiful - at least to a group of girls who listened to Nirvana and spent entire weekends sitting watching our boy friends skate. One miraculous night, he kissed me. In fact, we spent an entire 'night' at the under-18s club we went to (I swear this was cooler than it sounds; we were all steaming drunk regardless) just kissing. At the end of the night, he gave me his home phone number (because I am actually old enough to remember when not everyone had a mobile) and told me to call him. So I did. Twice. Both times I had lovely conversations with his mother, but on the second call, I actually heard him telling her to say he wasn't there. 

See, ghosting people was a lot easier back in the day. You didn't have to be as blunt as blocking people - although this has brought up painful memories of my first 'boyfriend' who just deleted me from MSN messenger instead of break up with me. You could just drift away like a dream, and people didn't have a thousand different ways to try and get in touch. Nowadays it's a lot harder to completely ignore someone you have no interest in; everyone knows you've got your phone on you at all times. If you don't respond to that message, they'll be checking when you were last on WhatsApp, if you've tweeted since, or if you've updated your Instagram. It's easier to just reply, even if you don't want to. I've found myself doing it on many occasions - what if people do it to me?

Social media is a joy. Talking to people online has been a part of my life since I was a kid, although it's only recently become a way to talk to people I don't personally know. Twitter particularly has changed my whole relationship with social media; instead of looking at the photos of some girl from my high school's new baby, I'm talking to people from all over the world with the same interests and hobbies as me. That's pretty amazing.

In fact, it's so amazing that I've made 'friends' on there - people I talk to on a daily basis, share my life with and would love to one day meet. But there's a little niggling voice at the back of my head telling me I'm being stupid. "These people don't consider you a friend!" "They are just being polite!" "They only talk to you because you won't leave them alone."

Because there are no boundaries on Twitter. Unless you flat out block someone, you can't stop them from liking and responding to your Tweets. You can't stop people from reading what you're writing unless you are so abrupt that you're likely to incense them. While most people wouldn't phone your house at 2am, there is no way to stop someone messaging you at any time, regardless of what you're doing, expecting your attention. There is no way to whisper "tell them I'm not here."

What if every person I think I'm building a relationship with is an unwilling participant in that? People are, for the most part, polite. They don't want to upset anyone, even if they don't know them. I know that the majority of people with a public Twitter account have one because they are inviting interaction, but there is a clear difference between interacting with people and being their friend.

This is a line that has been very blurry in my experience. There's someone on Twitter who I did interact with a fair amount, but who took that as carte blanche to start making disrespectful and insulting jokes under the umbrella of 'banter'. Now, I am not the kind of person who can't take a joke - in fact, I make self-deprecating comments all the time and I would always laugh if my friends jokingly slagged me off - but that's the thing. I didn't consider this person a friend. I didn't know them anywhere near well enough for them to be commenting on aspects of my personality for laughs. But in that all-consuming sphere of social media that is Twitter, they had obviously overestimated what they could get away with. And yet in order to remain polite, I'm still following this person and responding when they contact me... hmm!

On the flip side, I've had people say absolutely lovely, flattering things to and about me. Obviously I'm not going to complain about a compliment, but there is a large part of me that finds it almost creepy; these people have usually said less than two sentences of actual substance to me, don't know anything at all about who I am, and yet are loudly proclaiming I'm "such a lovely person". Well thanks, but no I'm not. You don't know my morals, my politics, my beliefs. You don't know anything about me, you just think you do because Twitter is so captivating that we spend half our life on there, absorbed in a community that can feel as entertaining, as stifling, as petty and as real as high school did. 

But what if I'm doing the same thing with my Twitter friends? What if I've just got caught up in this weird little online world that I think I'm much closer to these people than they do?

When you are in control of what you present online, you curate everything to fit your own narrative. You don't create a full picture of your life - no one ever includes the mundane. Only my closest friends would know how often I spill food down my front when I eat (to the point I used three napkins as a bib on my wedding day), that I watch Jeremy Kyle when I do the dishes, and that I break every electrical device I ever own. I could ramble on about which of my friends likes to order two Big Mac meals at a time (ahem) but I couldn't tell you any of the little habits of any of my online friends. It's an interesting thought: we spend so much of our time talking to people that we don't really know at all.

No matter how often you talk to someone online, it will never replicate the 'real thing'. There is so much you miss out on when you can't see body language, facial expressions or hear the tone. I don't have a clue when my online friends actually think something is funny, when they have been insulted, or when they are bored of me - things I'm always on the lookout for in real life. I don't know that these people aren't sighing and rolling their eyes every time they see a new notification from me. 

This is the kind of thing that goes on inside my anxiety-riddled brain. In the grand scheme of things, does any of this matter? Well yes and no. No, because of course I could just log off Twitter and go outside, but Yes because behind every profile picture is a real life human (I think - are any of you robots?!) and there are lots of them I would like to like me. I consider them friends, and I'd love that to be reciprocated. 
It would suck if they were just being polite, hoping I'd leave a message with their mum and get the hint.

Have you ever been the subject of a one-way online friendship? Or do you worry you are the person that is bothering others?


  1. This post makes me firstly worry that you think that you are ever a bother, I really don't want you to think you are! I consider you one of my closest friends ( who gets to see my awful green hair first) and who supports me even though as yet we have not met in person (I got scottish travel plans for summer you will not escape me). I also know that sometimes we don't to talk to people, and if that is the case then please don't think that putting yourself is something people cannot understand.

    The vast social media age we are in means that instead of meeting in person talking to someone is that you do miss behaviours and things that only that person does.

    Your content is so so good and the photographs of levi are just so pretty 💓

  2. Beth, I can totally understand how you feel! Quite often I am in the situation where someone is saying to me on social media that I'm such a lovely person and that I'm this and that and the other, and while it is very flattering and they are being very kind, it still makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable because like you say - they don't really know me! I feel like I have made some true friends online: you, Vee, Tori, and Rachel are fantastic and I definitely count you as friends - that's based of so so so many interactions though, so I feel like that constitutes a real friendship, it's not just like we only occasionally tweet each other and say hey! Us girls have been so open with each other and I can't tell you how much I enjoy our chats and finally having a group of wonderful non-judgemental ladies to call friends! You're never a bother or a burden and I'm so happy to have you as a friend!

    Abbey ❤️

  3. I'm sometimes worried that I'm the one bothering you... I relate to this post very much, since half of my interactions are quite random. Sometimes I feel like I have some kind of connection with someone, that we're building a friendship, and then they just kinda stop being there. Most of the time I feel like I'm bothering people on Twitter...
    I just wanna say that I enjoy every single one of our conversations. You were one of the first UK bloggers I actually talked to outside chats and I'm glad I got to know you :)

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation

  4. I can relate to this SO MUCH! I only became more active on Twitter last couple of years, and very quickly developed online "friendships" with quite a few people I'd never met IRL. I think people assume they know everything about you because (they think) every detail of our lives is now online, and that a follow back or accepting a friend request of FB equates to IRL friendship. I have met people I've spoken to online and they've assumed we were instant BFFs though we'd never spoke in person. When folk see a running commentary of our everyday lives it's easy to equate that with a deeper relationship than is actually there. I'm kind of wary of it now, especially when I haven't had any meaningful conversation with a person past "liking" one of their tweets or them complimenting my new hair colour.

    I totally believe that online friendships can become IRL ones; my best friend is someone I met on Twitter and found out was going to the same gig I was. We speak to each other every day, meet up at least a couple times a week, and go on holiday together. I have a few very close IRL friendships that started out as just online, and I'm really grateful to social media for that.



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