When online following goes too far.

Wow, sometime real life writes these blogs. Often I will start an article, and then let it sit for a day or two as I sort out what I want to say. In the case of this article while I was writing it events happened that directly relate to the subject.

So let’s start where I was going to start in the first place.

Recently I had what I realized was a very odd conversation with my wife. On the surface it was a normal conversation. I was telling her about the plight of a couple who were in the process of moving in together and the struggles that entailed. In particular the complaint they were sharing that their whole life had become boxes, nothing but boxes. What made it weird I pointed out was that while we were aware of this couple they have no idea who we are.

In fact they are two online reviewers from That Guy with the Glasses, Nash and Jesuotaku, who I follow on twitter.  As I mentioned in passing in a previous post, Nash also has a decade old online video streaming show called Radio Dead Air that we watch every Monday (well I watch, my wife listens to from the other room). So between all the online interactions I know a lot about their lives. However it struck me as odd that I was catching my wife up on the lives of two people that we never met.

There is something about putting yourself out on the internet that can create a false sense of connection. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about your online interactions with friends and family, this is about people you have never met that you are following through social media. Will Wheaton, George Takei, Penn & Teller, or web celebrities like The TGWTG crowd or the Nerdist.

I’m sure that part of it is helped along if the person you follow post often, and if they put up videos more so. And if they are like Nash and have a weekly live stream, well you might start thinking of them as friends.

Not to mention that there is the ability to comment and maybe, just maybe, get a response.

But the truth is that these are not your friends. They are people you like to watch and follow on social media, but they do not know you. So when you start acting like you would with someone you are actually close to it gets really awkward, especially when you start giving unsolicited advice on their lives. I’m not saying you can’t comment if there is an appropriate place for that, and feedback on their work is usually fair game. However when you cross the line into commenting on who they are in relationships with, or other unsolicited advice and comments on their lives a line has been crossed. I know there is an argument to be made that if you have put yourself out there on social media you are asking for this kind of interaction. I disagree with this whole heartedly. That would be like me saying that a random person on the street has opened themselves up to my meddling in their lives just because they decided to leave their house that day.

In other words just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

And we have reached the point I had written to when events unfolded that I don’t feel I can really ignore given the subject and the people I chose as examples.

In a nutshell another contributor to TGWTG known as Spoony had a massive flame out on twitter, apparently fueled by not very well managed depression that led to him being first suspended from the site, and then parting company with it all together. Unfortunately for Jesuotaku she was drawn into it as Spoony had made a tasteless joke about her involving rape and many people assumed that was what had led to the issues. Nash of course was involved as he was standing up for his girlfriend. Overall Jesuotaku and Nash behaved as adults and remained as much above the fray as humanly possible.

But there is a factor here that goes back to my original point. Many of Spoony’s followers started giving him unsolicited advice on how to deal with his depression and the issues it was causing. Far from solving the issue it fueled it further and may well have been the actual cause of the full-fledged flame out.  These are not people who knew him, or any of the participants in real life, but felt the need to interject themselves in the issue. And we are back to just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

I’m also not saying that you should never respond. When Nash’s dad had to go to the hospital a while back, I sent a message saying that both of them were in my thoughts and prayers. I did not give him advice on how to deal with it however.

In the end it is a question of thinking before hitting send. Asking some simple question:

“Is this something I would say to a stranger face to face?”

“Could this come off as creepy?”

“Am I helping, or do I just want to get their attention?”

Example, when this is posted their could be a temptation to send a link to Nash since I am writing about him. I won’t be doing this as in the end, I am just using him as an example to illustrate my point, and frankly with everything going on I think sending it to him would be a bit creepy.

So I’ll just make my post and hope I made some good points on dealing with people online.

And hope no one flames me.


2 thoughts on “When online following goes too far.

  1. Great job launching the new website! I had begin to wonder why I wasn't seeing your newest posts!

    On the topic, I'd like to recommend checking out a bit from my favorite late-night chat show host, Craig Ferguson, called "Does this need to be said?". It was a Comedy Central/Epix release (currently not available on streaming anywhere, clips may be online in some video-centric websites) . He has a great 3-part process on when to say things. If I recall, the whole show was pretty entertaining and NSFW.

    Anyway, once again great job getting launched and importing all your posts! Looking forward to all you have in store!

  2. The new site looks great!

    Also, this is a fantastic post. There are a lot of times that I'll stop in the middle of typing a comment somewhere and ask myself if it's something that really needs to be said.

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