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Do you assume that everyone on the internet is just like you?

Interesting point that Mr Muddling made at the weekend (yes you darling if you’re reading…) was that I do generally react to things on the internet as if they were said over coffee with friends or perhaps at a dinner party.

And it made me realise that we probably do see things on the internet through our own pair of rose coloured spectacles or at least through a set of lenses tinted by our own life and our own experiences.

And yes, on reflection a whole lot of people have now judged me for using the word spectacles.

But its an interesting point in that the internet is in some ways a great leveller – you don’t know if the person you are interacting with a balding bloke called Barry with B.O. or a 16 year old spotty teenager.  You don’t know if they are rich or poor, clever or stupid, bald or hirsute, young or old.

And yet as you read what they write you do start to overlay your own impression, your own ideal of how that person actually is.

Its made meeting up with bloggers in real life a bit strange – will they be anything like I imagined?   Especially the ones with impersonal avatars.

What I have found is that almost everyone I’ve met through the internet, and I’m lucky to say I’ve met some great people I now class as real life friends, is that they have been very much like the people I thought they’d be and to be honest they have turned out to be the type of person I’d probably have wanted to be friends with in real life.  Except that without the internet our paths probably wouldn’t have collided.  Which for me makes the internet, forums, Twitter and blogging a very good thing.

But there are people I look at on the internet and I think ‘what?????’
Like the ladies on twitter who describe themselves purely as someone’s mother and someone’s wife – where are you?  Where is your identity?  Do you exist only as a reflection of someone else?  And no I don’t tend to follow them

Or the people on Twitter who appear to only be there to pimp their blog – good use of social media apart from the whole ignoring the social bit of it.  Sigh.  And unfollow.

And talking of which the people who get hissy with you if you unfollow them.  Surely there is more to life than the number of followers on Twitter?  And isn’t Twitter about engagement and being sociable so if I’ve unfollowed you its because I um, don’t want to interact with you so if you then start haranguing me I’m unlikely to change my mind.

Or the people who write endless blog posts about how cute their child is, endless photos (usually slightly out of focus…) of those children and perhaps the occasional jab at working mums because we aren’t there everyday to witness the delights of our offspring.  And yes, I tend to unsubscribe pretty fast from those blogs – hit mark all as read just takes too long when you do it every time you go into google reader.

Or the endless reviews – and yes I understand why people do them but I find the logistics of remembering to them too much (if I disappear into a work crisis then I’m going to forget and understandably people get grumpy then) and how hard is it to be amusing or innovative writing about a kitchen appliance.  And yes the odd review can be helpful and I’ve found some great presents thanks to reading about them on blogs but there is definitely a real stuff / review quotient and at some point I’m just hitting mark all as read, probably missing the good stuff and just moving on.

I’m not suggesting the blog-sphere should actually become like the new Boden community.  That’s a concept that makes me shudder.  Do they really think women will come together and bond over a love (or perhaps hate?) of their prints and cutesy product names?  Do they really think that we are all seeking a middle class haven filled with people with three children, a dog and an idyllic lifestyle enjoyed whilst wearing their products?

In fact has Boden now taken it all too far and assumed that not only do we think that everyone out there on the internet is just like us, we actually all crave to be the same and to inhabit their fantasy world that they create for their catalogues.

What about you?  Are you sitting there reading this overlaid with your own prejudices or are you able to rise above them and have a less complicated view of the world?

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19 comments to Do you assume that everyone on the internet is just like you?

  • Interesting article. I think it’s true what you say about assuming people onind are similar to yourself.

  • Ivet Nikolov

    The internet is tricky as we don’t have the benefit of seeing the person and ‘reading’ his/her body language so we have to resort to words (made of 140 characters only) and to preconceptions. I think we do assume a lot of things of people we interact with. But as in the offline world there are people we like and people we don’t get on with.

    I tend to work out quickly if I like a person (and not only in the Facebook sense of it) and if I want to know more about them, the ‘Follow’/’Unfollow’ button on Twitter comes very handy then.

    Thanks Hannah for this post, has made me take another look at the way I use twitter/FB

  • Hilary

    Great post and very timely as the last 24 hours on Twitter i have seen some posts and read some timelines that have made me realise that not everyone is like me and there are some people that you would never normally come across in life and quite frankly wouldn’t want to.

    • Muddling Along

      Strange isn’t it – do find myself having to question myself as to why I get so riled by the internet, afterall I can turn off and walk away but its so hard to do

  • You gravitate to people who are like-minded. For every one of us there are millions of people who think along the same lines but probably even more that don’t, you find your niche and you’re right that it doesn’t matter about age, class or background just so long as you get along. I think it’s nice that we don’t generally know what people look like, it tends to make us judgemental when we should judge people solely on their words.

    That’s what I love so much about the internet, the fact that you can pick and choose who you want to interact with, something that you can’t necessarily do in real-life without being called a lot of names!

    • Muddling Along

      For me, my world has become a series of smaller and smaller ponds in which I swim so I tend to find myself surrounded by very similar people – my big issue is realising that in some ways the people I’ve self selected to be closer to, to be in my pond, are now in many ways different from the people I probably would prefer to be with

      The internet has been great for me in opening up the opportunity to meet like minded people who see eye to eye with me in a way real life people just don’t

  • Mummywhisperer

    Lol I’ve just had a big rant on my blog and it is definitely because even though I know people are different, there are still times when I’m surprised! You made me smile, thanks lovely xxx

  • “Great post and very timely as the last 24 hours on Twitter i have seen some posts and read some timelines that have made me realise that not everyone is like me and there are some people that you would never normally come across in life and quite frankly wouldn’t want to.” Nice advices Hillary, and welcome to Twitter.

  • What you write is so true – I assume everyone is on the same wavelength as me and then get surprised when I read posts that: bore me to tears/I can’t relate to/I think WHAT?!

    But, I would say that I am not sure anyone’s blog is a real reflection of who they are. My posts are totally coloured by my moods and general interests and can be very erratic. I probably come across very differently in real life.
    However, I did have a very good experience at Cybermummy last year and it was great to meet the mums behind the blogs. They were all lovely and I wasn’t disappointed :)

    • Muddling Along

      I’ve found that bloggers have been split into people who come across as just like their blogs and others who don’t – I guess some people filter their blog more and some have a blog that is a real window into them and their lives

  • I totally agree on all the counts of what we assume of people we come across online. I forget that in real life I might be very unlikely to have a conversation with this person, then I feel bad and think the internet is a great way of stopping the prejudices we all carry.

    I tend to lean the same way as you on peoples use of twitter and their on line image, if there is no person I’m not interested.

    I like the fact I have ‘met’ different types of people and hope I can continue to lose my prejudices in real life too.

    • Muddling Along

      Its a good point about prejudices – I have met people through the internet who I probably wouldn’t have come across in my real life – it is great for widening experiences

  • Hmm, reviews, gushing posts about how wonderful my son is. Yep that’s my blog. I hope I get the balance right enough that you can still bear to read it!

    I think I know after reading someone’s blog for a while whether I will get on with them or not. I tend to gravitate towards people similar to me and the people that I have met have turned out to be as wonderful in real life as I imagined they would be.

    • Muddling Along

      But yours does have other things – there are some that really don’t have any content that engages me and yes, I do just erase them from my reader, I can’t read every single blog out there but the ones I like I keep getting pulled back into reading

  • Everyone I’ve “clicked” with on Twitter who I’ve gone on to meet, I’ve got on like a house on fire. I don’t see that making friends on the internet is any different to people who used to have pen friends in Australia who they wrote to for 20 years before they met them in real life!

  • Kirsty

    I think VBIC has got it pretty spot on. I’ve recently become more brutal with unfollows on twitter and in reading blogs. I like to read blogs that have something to say, interesting questions to ask or beautiful things to share. There’s such a mind-bogglingly vast volume of excellent (to me) stuff out there that I don’t want to spend time on the bits I’m not really inspired by.

    I think my instinct online is to assume that people are just the same as me. Then they’ll drop into conversation that they’re a size 22, or a size 8, or were born in the 70’s, and the mental image I have of them shifts a little bit. I think I like the opportunity to start with a ‘blank slate’ and develop my image of someone as I get to know them.

  • Hm, well of course we have all different interests, but to a certain extent we are all the same too. I don’t want to be philosophical – just that I found sameness in many corners and I enjoy that. I said this before elsewhere – I don’t blog to find new friends or to do the “social media” thing (in fact I blogged before I knew what social media was). If it happens, fab, but personally, I’m not looking for soulmates so I don’t mind if 9 out of 10 posts of some blog aren’t catching my attention, I’ll still follow for that 10th post. I just enjoy reading, enjoy a good debate, enjoy writing. If friendships come out of it too, that’s a bonus.

    There is a danger of misunderstandings – the written word, comments etc, are easily typed and they may have an intended meaning, but someone else picks up an unintended meaning and may alienate or even offend. That’s part of the package; and it usually gets me thinking which is a good thing. And looking at your last few posts it gets you thinking too!

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