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"Bro, literally none of this internet shit is real."
Today is the first Smash Sunday in what feels like a year. Probably because it was a year. There certainly weren't any while I was spiraling into NEETdom. I'm typing this right now in the same classroom as before, the same situation as before: my brothers and some of their friends are blasting two different games at the same time, screaming at the top of their lungs, sinking more and even more of their time into these fictional characters they cherish so much. (One of them, clearly lightyears ahead of the others in mental age, keeps complaining that he doesn't know any of the characters and that he'd rather be playing Call of Duty, so I guess there are always exceptions.)
I could go join them. I'm getting paid to essentially babysit them, after all. I could do what is essentially a glorified version of staring at a screen and twitching one's thumbs for three hours.
Or I could bury my face deeper into my computer and try to shut the repetitive music out and spend those three hours still staring at a screen, albeit twitching more fingers than just my thumbs, enveloping myself in the opinions of those I will never meet in real life.
Caught between two bad situations: mindless gaming, and mindless surfing.
Someone three months ago shilled my website on a post of theirs and then submitted their post link to Hacker News. I'd known about the original site that the post was on before, but because they didn't have an RSS feed, I'd forgotten that the site existed until the owner let me know that they'd written a post about me.
And Hacker News was... less than enthusiastic. A statistically significant chunk of the comments were, as usual, complaining about Reddit. A few people got into a fight over what to do in a situation where one was hosting a site from home and their fifteen minutes of fame was too much for their residential internet connection to handle. Which I found funny, because I actually was hosting my site from home at the time, and my internet connection hardly felt the weight at all. (Although the router at home is shitty as is, constantly disconnecting everybody not plugged into one of the four Ethernet ports on the back, so I couldn't have told the difference anyway.)
Someone put my name in quotes. Who hurt you? Am I not real enough to you to warrant being believed that my given name is my name?
Actually, I don't give a damn if you think I'm real or not. I'm real regardless. My name is Vane Vander, and you're getting no other.
Surprisingly, there wasn't any criticism directed at me, only at the person who wrote the original post. Which is refreshing, I guess, but also a bit anxiety-inducing: I've escaped the fire this time, but what happens next time I do something to anger the geeksphere? What happens next time I hold some opinion that goes against the Church of Alt-Tech, and someone is incensed enough to sacrifice me on the public altar of the Cathedral of Internet?
This site used to be a hobby of mine. An escape from the mundane trappings of my situation. A valve for stress. A labor of love. But now I watch the access logs fill up, and every minute someone requests poor old
/feed.xml, and hundreds of bots and crawlers I never even knew existed until that fateful day all run around as they please and steal all they can until I ban them first in Caddy and finally in iptables. The anxiety rolls in like a storm on the horizon, dark clouds constantly on the peripheries, and suddenly I have this audience that I never asked for, and I feel this constant pressure to perform for said audience, to structure posts so that they'll look good when submitted to Hacker News and similar places, to regurgitate the same opinions that I know are acceptable on there so I won't wake up one morning to hundreds of emails in my inbox from people telling me off.
And every few days, I still get a hit with
news.ycombinator.com (no subpages, just the front page) in the referer header. And my heart rate kicks up: what if I'm on the front page? And I go to the front page, and, much to my relief, I'm nowhere to be seen. I've dodged the Cathedral for another day.
But why do I get anxious? Why do I even bother to have a reaction anymore? None of this internet shit is real. At the end of the day, I'm just some asshole on the internet, and you are too. Just like the video games raging on right now in the background, we've accomplished almost nothing other than eye strain when we log off and shut down our computers for the night. (Well, I have stories and poems in my pocket, but those don't count since I wrote them offline.) There's no point in me trying to chase someone else's approval or work towards someone else's edification. My happiness is the only one I know for sure I can change, commenters be damned.
So for those who come from Hacker News or some other social discussion site in the future, please know: I am not your friend. But I am not your enemy, either. This website doesn't exist for me to regurgitate the same opinions or tutorials or whatever as any of the other tech-related sites you like to pin up on your technological walls. This site doesn't exist to fill some kind of niche, or to earn revenue for me. I'll never run or allow ads on this site- or any other site I run- ever again. It doesn't exist for you to debate over, or moral-grandstand about yourself. It doesn't exist to vindicate you, or validate your preconceived notions of who I am, of who I could become.
It doesn't exist for you.
It exists for me.