I have never fit into a group in my whole life. I’m the sore thumb sticking out in every get together, club, class, and forum. Even when I think I’m being subtle I glow like neon. Sooner or later I suck at being friends, too, as lightly detailed in my Fun Myspace Survey on my Bluejacky blog (the Menudo part to the End of the World part), but I’m too busy being busy to wallow longer than two minutes at a time in weepy black depressions. My tagline on Bluejacky since 2008 has been “I am the cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. -Rudyard Kipling”.
Twitter changed all that. I was working on my plan to reconstruct my internet empire from my old evil villain days (I now accept that a few people found me a profoundly annoying boat rocker), quietly tweeting to a seemingly unnoticing world and politely swapping links with a few other scifi webmasters last winter when I suddenly found myself being swooped on by a little twitter gang telling me “good morning” and “happy hump day” and “TGIF” and many other yappy little niceties through the week, week after week after week….
Insert context here- The reason I suck at being friends is because I have Asperger’s and I’ve spent most of my life not getting what the social dance in conversations is all about until recently, so I couldn’t imagine why in the world this little gang persistently kept tweeting hello to me. I pulled one aside to ask why, he said “Because it’s nice.” Ok, so it wasn’t anything weird or suspicious, but just people being nice to me out of the blue for no reason I could discern, which flummoxed me. (The unspoken ‘gossip’ in the survey link above runs pretty deep, I felt used and jaded like never before in my life, all because I obsessively built a fan site to a scifi TV show). About two months into it I finally got the hang of the happy hello yap, but it took another two months to keep their names straight, along with where they live in the world, if they have kids and pets, and the sorts of things they find interesting. We’re talking a little group of 6 people with a few extended contacts. Yes, I suck that badly at being friends. I’m better at telling identical white chickens apart than I am remembering this person has a cat and that person lives up north. But after what happened in 2007, I decided this was my chance to try again, and if it doesn’t work out this time that’s it, I’m done trying to have friends.
I noticed over several more weeks as I adapted to more and more bits of random personal information tweeting at me in sudden flurries of howdies that our common theme seemed to be particular TV shows. Call me slow, but it finally dawned on me that every one of us had a thing for the Syfy channel, or what fills in for that in some other countries, like the Space channel. I myself followed Sliders from NBC to Syfy in the late 90’s, then followed Stargate SG-1 and Lexx from Showtime back to Syfy, and I’ve hung in through schedule changes ever since. No one else in my family outside my marriage cares for scifi, and coming from the extremely religious family history that I did, that made me a black sheep. My dad was very concerned that I watched TV shows challenging my faith, actually chock full of false gods like Q, Ra, and Thor. If anything, I found my faith in humanity and pursuing right over wrong strengthened by shows like Star Wars and Star Trek more than sitting in church ever did. Unfortunately, growing up aspie and more intensely isolated than most kids (my dad is a Mennonite), and then rarely running into adults who watched these things, I had no one to talk to for decades. I have quietly cherished memories of the original Lost in Space series from my childhood like some people might cherish memories of family holidays. I see now how remarkably sad I was that I would never be able to talk to my parents like Will and Penny could talk to their parents. I guess it was kind of like The Brady Bunch, except with spaceships, aliens, a robot, and a mad scientist. Interestingly, I ‘got’ the social stuff just fine when it was embedded into scifi stuff, but as an aspie I can’t stand shows focusing only on relationships. The clincher for me is the problem solving that the group does together for the sake of survival, or for science. Love stories and parenting sitcoms and crime shows bore me silly.
So yeah, after decades of never being consistently socialized with or validated by people who were supposed to love me, I found it confusing and then amusing and then very comforting that a gang of scifi watchers wanted to say hi to me nearly every day for going on nine months now.
One of the people in my little gang was not only a content writer for a TV show and movie review global website family but is also part of another twitter gang called the SnarkAlecs, who like to live tweet what they’re watching on TV, mostly based around Syfy original movies but also including new shows on Syfy and other networks. The SnarkAlecs ‘boss‘ and his own little gang put together a weekly podcast show for radio talking about the TV shows they watch, and create their own Snarktistics such as ratings for movie of the week, coming in mostly from live tweet watch parties. What’s impressive is that the SnarkAlecs pull in some cool guests from Syfy movies and other podcast and music projects, and now they are branching into spinoffs called Dylan Knows and Snarkaholics. Like me, they create because they love this stuff and pay out of pocket to do it, like I do with my blogs, so I think it’s safe to say I’ve found some kindred spirits. I’ve started a SnarkAlecs pinterest board if you’re interested in seeing these guys, and the pins link to the shows for easy access. (I’m a groupie.)
I went through some pretty rough stuff at the end of summer, not least of which was my blog host of nine years suddenly pulling up roots to move to new servers for a ‘relaunch’ and building an all new blog hosting site with all the old archives. You’ve never been through internet hell like your blog host ripping your blogs up right before a book launch you had planned for an entire year based heavily on two of your blogs and it taking not just weeks but months to get everything back into a readable format with navigation. Which I’m still waiting on. If I had been free floating on my own through all that and had never been picked up by my twitter gang and then sucked joyfully into the SnarkAlecs, I think I would have just folded up shop and said forget it. The depression has been incredible. I watched people freaking out earlier this week because Facebook was glitchy for a few hours, imagine your host site being mangled for a couple of MONTHS and your content being shredded. Yeah, *that*. Suddenly everything I’d been linking and building a launch platform over was just gone *poof* and then when it came back it looked like a third grader made it and the navigation was still *poof*, and over the last 7 weeks is finally coming back enough to be able to read a little, but now it’s not making much sense because my wholeness was obliterated. You can’t survive like that on the internet any more. Everything is real time dependent if you are tying together your social media. For great chunks of it to disappear is devastating.
The joke is actually on me, I originally made all my stuff go *poof* a few years ago and then decided to resurrect it, so the irony is not lost on me at all. I did the unthinkable | GrandFortuna’s League of 20,000 Planets
A lot of flak goes to people who can’t stop texting through dinner dates or who are so addicted to facebook that they go into depressions when their computers go down, and since I had spent several years using social media to distract myself from my own depressions through building fan sites and blogging, I decided to shut it all down and take a break. I had no public interaction whatsoever for about a year. It was glorious. I figured out who I really am and what I really want are what I’ve been all along- being a public figure using social media to create things I enjoy as a way to relax and escape my own doldrums. But this time I have a plan and goals and a timetable, and it’s way more fun than it was the first time around. As before, I wasn’t on the internet to find friends, but to amuse myself and others as a distraction from whatever miseries our lives pile on us, because that’s what fandoms are all about- escapism. Except this time the key is to be a real person without a mask. That’s a scary thing in fandoms. I’ve been stalked a few times to the point of someone bringing a gun into my house (pre-Lexx), so this decision wasn’t made lightly. If I’m going to interact with fans, I’m going to be a real person, not an avatar, not a mysterious webmaster, not one icon for this activity and another icon for that. My whole entire real self is here now, my personas gathered into purpose, and you know what? It’s a relief! I’m so tired of playing the fan behind the mask game. If haters want a piece of me, I’m right here, and I don’t care any more.
I made that decision about 15 months ago. I made a new twitter account and slowly started linking my various medias. My plan’s timetable had 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month projections, like so much traffic here or there by a certain date. I studied other successful media personalities and worked hard at creating new content to support a more professional writing career.
What I didn’t expect was friends. I wasn’t back to make friends. My history with friendship is dismal. I now understand that it’s my fault, because my glaring social deficit sooner or later tries people’s souls like chaff in the fire. Once I realized this, sadly not soon enough for the 2007 debacle, I worked on communication problems with a psychologist for several years and practiced on my poor family, with some pretty good results. Not all our problems are solved, but I no longer burn bridges over communication problems. I also practice the social niceties dance every day so that my new skills remain fresh and rooted in positive habit. I still have the same old personal feelings about it all, but now I choose which carries more weight- the necessity of airing my trivial grievances versus the good feeling I get that some people actually enjoy seeing me enter a room.
I enjoy being a loner, but I really like the feeling that I’m part of the world, too. This is important.
I’m part of the SyFySnarkAlecs twitter list now. I’ve got a built in group of friends who like the same TV shows I like, and I can check that list any time and see what everyone’s up to. The very best part of that list, for me, is watching parents proactively and very positively raise their kids with full blown scifi in their houses, something I never had and only dreamed of. It’s real, and I get to see it. *feels*
Before I got on twitter I never group watched a scifi show (movie theaters don’t count). How many of us have looked on longingly during Friends and Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory wishing we had a solid group of people to come back to every little bit? I discovered live hashtag tweeting after I got my first iphone last Thanksgiving (black Friday sale!) and had an awesome time watching the Superbowl blackout happen live, and watching the Triple Crown races with other fans on twitter in real time. That’s the thing- real time. You can hang out with people from all over the world watching the same live events and seeing what they’re saying. I discovered the joyful camaraderie of watching witty people joking together and found myself literally laughing out loud just checking my phone, a sort of fun I haven’t felt in a long time.
If you like live hashtag tweeting, you might see me (Pinky) jumping in once in awhile. You can follow me at PinkyGuerrero on Twitter.
edit 10-30-13 Click this thumbnail to see comments left on the contact form, which comes to me privately and doesn’t display for the public.