I can’t sleep and the graveyard hours are relatively free of distractions (cars, kids, etc.) So I figure it’s time to keep brushing away mental cobwebs and bringing ideas out to the fore.
There is a thought that has been sticking in my head for a good while. It’s brought out some iconoclastic feelings in me, namely a desire to smash some rose-tinted views on one side and some scarlet letters on another.
Please excuse me if I repeat things I’ve said before; I’m sure I have. The title should be a giveaway that I speak of VOX.
I must make a broad observation, first: it seems to me that the more ubiquitous Internet communication has become, the more people have become isolated. When I started, it was very possible to meet people face to face, and it actually often WAS locally based. By the time I got to VOX, that possibility grew increasingly nil. Oh sure, VOX had “meetup” events, but I don’t live in a metropolitan urban area.
I had already looked at blogging with a very wary eye and had joined reluctantly. My typical thought process, at least in communicating with others, is that I put everything out on the table about a particular idea. Usually I’ve been ruminating on them for a while, and I put them out for outside feedback. When I figure I’ve gotten the external input I want, I draw it all back in and think on it a while longer, either until I come to a particular decision. I’ll say it again: I think some modern trends in online communication, particularly “social networking”, is an attempt by extroverted, out-going sorts of people to bend a rather flat medium into something more interactive.
And I figure myself to be a more shy, retiring sort of person. I did have trouble reading nonverbal communication when I was younger, but ironically, the near absence of it online leaves me wanting.
I don’t remember the year I came to VOX. I guess it was some time between 2006-2007. I’m pretty sure I missed the beta period because I was quite jaded. LiveJournal (LJ) was my blog home at the time, and I was cynical that VOX was going to be a better alternative, as least the way Six Apart was pitching it. But I grew tired of problems at LJ.
To give you an idea, and some examples, I was introduced to LJ by a Live Action Role Play (LARP) group I was involved in known as The Camarilla, which was based on White Wolf Studio’s World of Darkness games. In a word, this was when people were thinking of vampires more as Anne Rice wrote them, not Stephenie Meyer.
The Camarilla was a meeting of fangirl and fanboy hell a la train wreck, more so on LJ blogs, where many gamers had usernames that were the diaries of their characters, i.e. they were blogging fictional. Another quick primer: I use ‘fanboy’ loosely to refer to the old wargaming tradition of hack ‘n slash (D&D and its variants), and ‘fangirl’ to refer to the prose-based tradition from writing circles that was morphing to freeform online. On the one hand you have the “Hurr Hurr Boobies” squad, and on the other you have the “Fanfic where my favorite male comic book/cartoon/manga characters bow-chika-wow-wow get it on is so cute, even more so if they’re furry.” Of course all of this played out on LJ, too.
Apparent yet? Nope, I’ll give it to you stronger. One member I followed had one post that read: “I am prettier than a porn star” and another where she got her jollies posting a slash Harry Potter valentine… basically Snape buggering Harry like a dirty pedophile. Yep, I still can’t bleach my brain enough.
Or maybe this sums it better:
Are you still with me, dear readers? I thought I might get away from that… but oh, how I was wrong!
Through my own personal struggles at the time, I seemed to be drawn to drama like a moth to the flame. Apologies again if my descriptions hereafter seem to lead to gossip, for I hope just to illustrate the problems I saw. Sadly, most were women, and I suppose that focus is another reflection of my own personal demons again.
Please, don’t identify anyone by name if you think you know whom I speak of… I won’t confirm or deny.
I think VOX was as close-knit in dysfunction as it was to anything sort of “Neighborhood” kinship. There were the right-wing authoritarians, one who seemed to get satisfaction out of riling everyone up as much as possible. Then there was the young woman who blogged about family, but in frustrating attempts to boost statistics for a WordPress blog, decided “Christianity” and “homosexuality” was the best way to attract attention– and of course it brought out the combative types. I felt I had to show her the door because if VOX was a neighborhood, I didn’t want to come visit when regular company was hostile, particularly a man with a chip on his shoulder about his gay identity. (I will laugh if I find out the “Madonna” account was his.)
Then there was the woman whom I’m guessing had some sort of borderline personality disorder and a sex addiction. Not going to even begin to try to discuss that one here.
I will mention one username in particular– valerae. Mostly because I want to say I think she was treated rather harshly. I did have a small idea what was going on, but not the full scope until someone told me privately. Really, though, I think the VOX in-group decided to hand her a proverbial scarlet letter… and I can’t begin to describe how dumb I think that is.
Again, if you’ve been reading, dear readers, you know I love my wife dearly and she loves me. And Val seemed to understand that, I think. Now, I really want you all to understand this: I know that “Mr. Val/The Ex” had chronic illness and disability. Yeah, I know what that’s like. I am fortunate Cimmorene loves me in spite of that, even when I keep asking “Why are you so nice to me?” as she is doing things for me that would have earned a “do it yourself, lazy” response or attitude from my mother as a child.
I just don’t feel qualified to judge. I just don’t. I think Val may have made a mistake to have an affair, not to mention with another VOXer, but I think it was despicable there was backbiting and ostracizing about it.
I liked Val. I considered her a friend. And I was pained that she felt she had to withdraw, hard. I don’t think she ever really judged me.
Val liked shock humor, and metal rock… probably not a combination some people would think is proper for a young woman, I guess. She could send my skin crawling but it was all in good fun. I was often wont to say: “Damnit, Val, you really are a SICK FUCK!
…good thing I like sick fucks.” Every so often I find myself saying “Mmmm… cakefarts.” I literally shit you not– she found a skinny-ass waif farting on a cake amusing, not to mention “2 Girls 1 Cup”.
But some discussions were more serious– we discussed cooking and America’s Test Kitchen. I wound up asking what duck sauce was and she asked me if I considered their method of vodka-battering shrimp to be kosher, and I said something like “Oy, Val, that’s a rather rabbinical question– about as rabbinical as a question on Mormon dietary law can get.” I went on to say Cimmy’s ideas and mine differed but I usually deferred to her judgment. (We’ve done bratwurst cooked in beer before, but I switched to a good ginger ale to concede to her concerns.)
I admitted openly that she popped into one of my dreams. Seriously, people, we were just hanging out and having innocent, clean fun. She was driving our car for some reason and we were chatting and going over to check things out at the Richland Uptown, because despite all my disdain for the political whackos in Richland, that is a reasonably hip and happening place to hang out, IMHO, despite the buildings aging badly. (I mean, hey, the Octopus Garden gift shop is there.) She said she thought that sounded cool… well, wouldn’t you? I know a fair number of Ex-Voxers have scheduled trips to meet others. This virtual meetup, albeit in a dream, didn’t seem so different.
I’ve written about the technical problems VOX had, and it would be long and mostly boring to recount them to all of you. So I will simply say that it was really discouraging to find only one employee– who left Six Apart in the wake of VOX’s closing– to care about the customer service angle as the shit was hitting the fan.
Pardon me for dropping another name. Daisy was a consummate professional to help all of us who asked before and after her employment at 6A– myself and Jack Yan that I recall immediately– I wish I could say all of her behavior was that way, too. I didn’t care for her crass posting style, but really, I think that’s because I could sense a sardonic but quietly desperate tone. I tried to follow her elsewhere, but I just couldn’t. I remember coming to read a post that I think she wanted to be funny, but I couldn’t help but cry. It’d be quick and dirty to say it’s all part of a San Fran blogging hipster thing, but that’s petty and dismissive, really.
Maybe it’s wrong of me to ask for some unarmored vulnerability… heh, my family of origin taught me to crack jokes and try smiling instead of crying, but, I don’t know. There were teeth, so to speak, and I guess I’m just too sensitive to laugh when I sense a bitter aftertaste. I’d rather shed a few tears and say, “Gee, I’m sorry. I care.”
Due to sensitive content, once again, this post will be locked down, and possibly early.