REGARDING THE INTERNET, PART TWO
Yes, the Internet may have saved me, but I did get into quite a squabble in a while back. I worked for an online writing club as rough draft “clinician,” that is, I looked over people’s rough drafts and commented on them, both general comments and line-by-line critique. Because those of us who worked at the RDC (Rough Draft Clinic) were not professionals, we weren’t paid; we did it because we enjoyed critiquing. And in August 1999 the roof collapsed on us.
There were six volunteers: Karen, Kit, Walks, Dail, Vickie, and myself. I always thought that there were too many of us; there were originally four but two were added after the group got started. Now here’s the problem: Everyone wrote crits that were mostly full of fluff. I didn’t. I told each writer what I thought worked and what didn’t, as I had learned in college.
The other gals envied me for my college education, though they didn’t say so at first. Kit e-mailed me one day and told me she felt I was too harsh a critic, and I wrote back a friendly e-mail saying, “Thanks for the suggestions.” I continued to critique as I saw fit. Another reason I was singled out, stupid as it may sound, was that I didn’t think Karen’s jokes were funny. Maybe it was my illness that altered my sense of humor.
The members of the RDC were not infallible. Sometimes Karen gave feedback that in my opinion was incorrect. I let it slide until she told someone that he should use “more colorful words than ‘said,’” meaning dialogue tags. Karen suggested using “exclaimed,” “questioned,” “remarked,” “cried,” “shouted,” even “smiled,” as dialogue tags. I was alarmed that our posters were being given incorrect advice, so I posted my own opinion, that “said” disappears into the woodwork, and I suggested that the writer let the dialogue show the reader the tone of the speaker’s voice, rather than telling this to the reader. I explained that words like “exclaimed,” stand out awkwardly in most dialogue passages, though these words are occasionally useful. I backed up my claim with citations from known writing texts, and left it at that.
Karen was furious. I received an e-mail from her saying, “It’s time for a rest. You are hereby no longer a member of the RDC.”
Let’s just say my reaction was one of the main factors that led to my subsequent hospitalization.
You may ask why our emotions were so heated, why this silly conflict over work I wasn’t even paid for led to a major bang-up. I’ll tell you why: my identity was too wrapped up in the RDC. I had made the RDC my life.
I had become JGr6730800@aol.com (don’t click on it, the addy is defunct) and had almost ceased as flesh-and-blood presence. I was a mere click of the mouse. I was over-involved in my virtual existence in cyberspace. I had believed that Karen was my “friend,” that she cared about me. But she, too, was a mouse-click. What one presents to others online is only a fraction of one’s identity; what one types in an e-mail or on a message board undoubtedly misrepresents what’s going on in one’s head, on the inside. There is a whole in-person, hard-copy presence that exists beyond what shows up in cyberspace. One’s cyber-identity should not be put ahead of one’s identity as a whole.
These days, when I am online, I am known as Q. If you think Q is a real person, you’re fucked.