Corrie-lynn Dyson Is Expanding Her Coterie of Friends She’s Never Met [FIERCE ANTICIPATION]

Being a stay at home mom (SAHM) is an absolute joy and a blessing, the only real downside is that your brain quickly turns to mush.  A typical conversation with my nearly two-year-old daughter goes a little something like this.

Me: “Kitty.  This is a kitty.  Can you say kitty?”

Toddler: “Titty?”

Me: “That’s right!  Kitty.  This is a kitty!”

Toddler: “Titty.”

After about ten hours of this, my husband comes home and I tell him our daughter can say ‘kitty’, sort of.  Then he asks about my day like I hadn’t just told him all about my day when I said our daughter can kind of say ‘kitty’.

There are lots of clubs and organizations for SAHMs but I have two problems.  One, I don’t have a car so it’s hard for me to get around with the baby.  Two, I’m a misanthrope with commitment issues and live in terror of being trapped with people I don’t like.  It’s bad enough to maintain awkward conversations at the park.

Good thing Al Gore invented the internet!  I can communicate with other mothers from the safety of my own home.  We can share problems and triumphs and use long words without any of that messy face to face contact.


Expanding my coterie of friends I have never met.

Naturally, I thought forums for mothers in general and SAHMs in particular would be the answer to my need for virtual companionship.  I went to these forums eagerly and backed away just as quickly.  The thing about the internet is that everyone has a platform from which to make their opinions known and also to be nasty, judgmental and unkind with no real repercussion.  God help the woman who is considering using formula instead of breast feeding!  You would think from the vitriolic responses that these women were planning to feed their babies nachos mixed with gasoline.  I do still visit these forums for late night questions like “Why are there boogers coming out of my baby’s eyes?” or “How long can a baby going without pooping?” but I never feel (or want to be) a part of these communities.

Oddly, I did manage to form an on-line circle of fellow moms through… (drum roll, please)… fandom!  If you don’t know what fandom is, you aren’t wasting nearly enough of your life on the internet.  Long before I was a mother or a wife, I was a hardcore geek, and yet I never got involved in internet fandom.  Oh, I went to two Star Trek conventions in high school but that was as close as I’d ever gotten to being part of an organized fan subculture.  Until recently, I assumed fandom was reserved for shows with a cult following such as Star Trek or The X-Files.  Turns out there’s a thriving on-line community for even the most mainstream network comedies and the members are just as wacky and rabid as any trekkie or X-phile.

While mindlessly surfing the net, I came across a post for a game centered around a popular sitcom.  The participants are divided into teams and assigned small projects like solving puzzles or creating graphics that are submitted for points.  At Christmas, we made ‘gifts’ for one another and I actually found myself communicating with people on my team and realized there was another SAHM!  We’ve been (virtually) thick as thieves ever since.  I’ve met several awesome people this way and it’s been wonderful.  I chit chat with people from around the world on a daily basis.  I now know that, thanks to time zones, my friend in Australia lives in the future!  While I’m still living in the world of Friday, it’s already Saturday for her and all her koala friends.


Faking my death on the internet.

When you spend a lot of time on the internet, things eventually get weird.  One day I got a random friend request and when I went to make sure it wasn’t a porn site, I found it was a site where people from a small niche community could complain anonymously about other people in their small niche community.   I expect something like this to have existed during the heady days of X-Files ‘shipper wars’ but not in a relatively small community.  Given that most people weren’t exactly using their real names to begin with, the need for anonymity struck me as particularly hilarious.  Heaven forbid Luvzdaisies89 find out LOTRrulz111 is talking smack about her poetry!

I prefer to avoid controversial topics such as abortion or Greedo shooting first,  I just can’t take the yelling.  I didn’t expect the same kind of passion from conversations about a sitcom.  I have since learned there is no topic or statement so banal that someone won’t be offended.  While expressing my surprise/terror at the rage surging through this community, I began to hear stories of true internet insanity.

Twitter has made it easy to follow your favorite stars, find out what makes them LOL and create a deranged fantasy in which you and he are locked in a passionate secret affair.  Social networking has taken the legwork out of being a creepy stalker.  It also gives people a false feeling of intimacy with their heroes and familiarity, as the saying goes, breeds contempt.  The most die hard fans become the harshest critics and endless petitions are circulated.  Stories of Big Name Fans gone mad are a dime a dozen.  Someone starts a fan site so people can come together (and be separated into different threads because they won’t stop bickering about nonsense) and talk about the show.  A year later, the Fan is on the receiving end of a restraining order and has been ousted from his or her own community, replaced by someone who will likely also go mad from the illusion of power.

Mini-god complexes are fun but a fandom hasn’t come into its own until someone develops a life-threatening disease and starts soliciting gifts and money.  The pattern is, a member begins to complain of health issues and gets sympathy.  Feeding on the attention, the illness gets worse and worse.  Some people do a decent job with their fake illnesses.  Others say things like because they are getting chemotherapy for breast cancer, they are only losing hair on their body from the neck down.  No matter how bad the story is, someone’s going to believe it.  The world has as many kind-hearted trusting souls as it has manipulative toads.  The really committed then die.  You may be saying, “But, Corrie, if the person dies, isn’t the party over?”  I’m getting to that!  Be patient.  What you need to do before dying is create another identity:  a husband, child, mother, friend, who can continue to soak up the sympathy and possibly donations for a funeral.  It’s not all about money, of course.  It’s about getting attention and feeling cared for and significant.  In one case, it was apparently about getting lip gloss.

The problem with faking your internet death is that you’re never as anonymous as you think.  People will actually take the time to see if your IP matches up with your story, if you’re registered as a patient in a hospital or if you have an obituary.  The strangest part is that every one of these stories I’ve come across ends with, “and then she/he tried to come back with a new name.”  Just like in real life, when you’re on-line self dies, you have to stay dead.


Get involved in a flame war.

As I said, there is no sentiment that can be expressed that won’t offend someone deeply.  You can’t go anywhere on-line without encountering the occasional troll (just ask Charlie Sheen) and there is always someone to feed these trolls.  Even the most absurd and transparently inflammatory statements get the angry responses they are seeking.  It’s bad enough that you can flame any forum by implying everyone there is a loser living with his or her parents but you can do the same thing by calling people fat.  Think about how sensitive a person has to be about her weight to be offended by a fat joke from someone WHO CAN’T SEE HER!  Here’s a tip if you want to troll the comment section on any article;  take a strong stance on Sarah Palin.  For or against, doesn’t matter, she’s troll bait either way. Is the article about zombie ants?  Doesn’t matter,  people always have strong if irrelevant opinions on Sarah Palin.

What else do people have strong opinions on?  Everything.  The best and brightest of recent flame wars happened at DC Comics blog, The Source.   The flame war itself wasn’t unique.  A debate over who is faster, Superman or The Flash, led to gay bashing and other personal attacks aimed at anyone and everyone.  It was, by most accounts, a pretty typical day at the forums.  What is remarkable is this was the flame war that made DC Comics temporarily shut down the comment section on the blog.  Histrionically fighting about nothing is a big part of geek culture.  Being shut down for excessive hostility at a comic blog is like being kicked out of an all you can eat buffet for gluttony.

By the way, the Flash wins nine times out of ten.

Fandom Bingo image credit: Liz Henry

flame war image credit: darkpatator