Sunday, July 13, 2008

Plurk and Shyness

I’m shy. Part of it is a lack of social confidence and a low tolerance for social frustration. However, I find myself interacting with others on Plurk. Why is that? It is not as if those interactions are not fraught with anxiety for me.
I had hoped that the internet would be my key to socialization. I’ve tried mailing lists, LiveJournal, social/support MUDs, forums, online games, blogging, instant messaging, etc. I can’t claim that all of the above have been utter failures. (I did meet my SO after all.) However, each has seemed flawed and I’ve fallen into lurk mode easily.
High volume gets me quickly. I hate feeling ‘out of the loop.’ I got enough of that irl. Plus, I’m obsessive enough to have trouble deleting things without at least a reason such as that subject line doesn’t interest me. With mailing lists and forums I learned quickly that the subject line rarely remained relevant for long. Mailing lists became easier when my email client gained the ability to thread messages by subject. However, I’ve still left the majority of mailing lists I’ve ever been on.
I have trouble inserting myself into an established group. This a problem in any social situation. I always assume that I must have something of merit to add to a group to earn acceptance. However, I assume that I have nothing of value to add to the group so I don’t try. I don’t want to have my first interaction be asking for help or advice but I rarely feel I have good suggestions to offer. Plus, I haven’t yet proven to a new group that there is any reason that I might have good suggestions.
Social/support MUDs worked for me for quite some time. The ones I used were topical which had a huge advantage for me of giving me a topic that was probably ‘safe.’ As I became older, I wanted to be more multi-faceted. I realized that I needed to be more balanced. As a result I needed to pull away from my only social resource.
LiveJournal eventually took the place of my safe Mud. I even followed most of the same people. I enjoyed the variety of topics that I could get sucked into and the ease of reading my friends page that I could easily filter. I gradually became overwhelmed and backed away from LJ. Part of it was the stupid things Six Apart did but not all of it. I don’t really use my new InsaneJournal account.
The isolation finally got to me and I tried forums. No go there either. On a purely functional level, I could hardly ever get the ‘find new posts’ feature to work on any board type even when I was careful to close the tab when done and avoid using my back button.
The forums on Ravelry are unique and I want to like them. That statement implies I don’t, huh? I honestly can’t put my finger on why. I need to expend more mental effort to learn how to use the system.
Along comes Plurk and I find myself spending hours on the site. Why?
I suspect it is that I convince myself that I can’t screw up too badly in 140 characters. Looking at PostSecret, my guess is that most secrets are less than 140 characters so I’m positive that is a delusion. However, 140 characters is within my brain’s editing limit so most of my plurks have a decent chance at being semi-coherent.
Plurk threads comments and their replies which I find far superior to Twitter. I love the little mini-conversations. Even better I’m able to mute conversations that I’m bored with or I find upsetting. This is a key reason that I’ve kept using the site, it’s so easy to avoid things. However the mute feature does break on occasion.
Also, the Karma system lets me tell myself that even if the other person hates me, I’m still helping their karma by attempting to reply to their plurk. I’ve made a conscious decision to be nonchalant about my own karma. I do get replies to my plurks on occasion but my casual attitude about karma is helping me not be too obsessed about watching for replies. Instead I just get to be pleasantly surprised.
What does concern me is that people might not un-friend me due to the karma system. No, I don’t want to drive people away but I don’t want people to keep me as a friend because they don’t want to hurt my karma. Normally I’d try to convince myself that this is a baseless fear but I’m read threads about just this.
I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with Plurk. I could get overwhelmed and quit at any time. However, Plurk had a steep learning curve for me and I’m shocked that I put up with it.
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