Life wasn’t easy when I was in my late teens. I was 17 and completely lost. I was sleeping all day and awake only at night, a soon to be high-school dropout fighting depression and the realization that I was gay. Therapy was gradually helping me out, but there were many days when the thought of living life as gay man would churn my stomach. Those days were extra dark, mostly spent staring at the ceiling, contemplating the best way to end my life. Sometimes I’d be on the phone well into the night and early morning, talking to one of the few friends I had. Unfortunately, she was also suicidal and shared a very dark place. Instead of lifting each other up, we’d compare notes on the best and least painful ways of making it all go away. My mom picked up the phone once and overheard the conversation. Unable to process what was going on in my life, she started yelling at me… screaming… words of desperation… saying I was “sick” and then she broke down crying. Mom was fighting her own demons, trying the best to raise us without our father around, while her youngest son, her baby, was slipping through her fingers before her eyes.
I’ve only been on Facebook for a short amount of time relative to most, a couple of months has gone by since I made the leap into this digital equivalent of humans in herds. I administer content management systems at work (ECM), so the least thing I needed was a personalized version. Then my blog came along and I gave into the temptation of having a platform to share my articles. While during my first week on Facebook, I was amazed by this unified form of consciousness I seemed to be observing, I quickly became aware of a darker side to this mass method of communication. Unlike social interactions in the flesh, people feel free to act or react in ways that they wouldn’t do so in public. I used to teach an orientation class at work on cyber manners, back when this new thing called the Internet became a tool for business. It was then that I was first introduced to the analogy of people acting the same way online, as they do in their cars, especially during incidents of road rage. The comparison was made of someone getting in front of you in the movie line, to if they did the same action in their car while driving. In the later example, you might scream and yell at the person, shoot them the bird and hold your hand down on the horn. While if you acted the same way face to face, you’d probably scare the shit out of everyone around you and might even get arrested.