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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Life of an Online Social Butterfly

Upon speaking to a perfect stranger yesterday (okay, he's not a stranger... technically), I was reminded of my teenage years whereupon I chatted continuously with a bunch of perfect strangers day-in and day-out. My close friends know me as chatty, a good listener, a decent adviceist (yeah, I made up that word!), and hopefully helpful in a time of need. My acquaintances however, know me as quiet, shy, and probably annoyed to the point of seppuku with all your small talk. I hate when strangers try to talk to me like in an elevator and whatnot. Yet I am a complete social butterfly online.

Back when I was sixteen and roaming the interwebs, I discovered a chatbox that assigned me a nickname and popped me into a room full of other random nicknames. People were typing to each other. This was interesting. I began to type too, and realized that my social bar was going up (think The Sims). Hey, this was neat. I didn't need to be a chatterbox at school if I could talk to people in the comfort of my own bedroom. I downloaded a program called mIRC, found a couple of rooms that had good people and good conversations, and for the most part had a great time. There was some drama, some crying even, but I made some good friends. I talked with people all over the world. A folk musician in Australia, a girl in New Zealand (and don't you dare tell them their accents sound the same or they will rip you a new one), and several people from all over the USA. And out of all those people, only one in my home state. I met my fiancee, Josh, there too.
After Josh and I moved in together I dropped mIRC off the map. I didn't need it anymore. After he passed away, I tried to go back. I managed a couple of times to let the people know, who had known the both of us, about his passing. But I could never stay. It never became a habit like it was before. To this day I haven't been able to re-establish how it had been. I think a lot of that has to do with the invention of Facebook and Twitter; as those IRC chatrooms are pretty empty these days.

I got a bit of social fulfillment from World of Warcraft, an MMORPG, which basically means you're playing with a bunch of other people and you have a chat window to talk to them with. And then I dug myself in deep with Facebook and Twitter. It's different than good old-fashioned chatrooms for sure, but in a lot of ways it's better, too. You don't just talk to perfect strangers anymore; you talk to perfect strangers who share a hobby or two with you! I've met a few people (and one in real life, believe it or not. Holy crap - another person in my state!) through my Facebook and Twitter love of Alton Brown.

I love chatting it up with people. Even if you never end up meeting them in real life, you get to know them and who they are and what they love. It's fun to connect to these people on such a personal level, and it's so much more freeing than talking to people in real life because I can easily share just about anything online thanks to the anonymity it brings me.

Of course my real world friends mean everything to me too, and there's something to be said for being able to hang out and do things with people out there in the world. I'm not holed up all day in my room like I used to be (I have a smartphone now, I can hole up in the living room - lol) but seriously, having a life outside of social media is important too, and there's a balance to be had, for sure!

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