29 votes

What's something you're comfortable telling people on the internet that you wouldn't share with people you know in real life?

This is presumably unanswerable for anyone whose handle here is known by anyone in their real life, but I figured I'd ask it anyway, as there are likely a good number of us for whom our Tildes names are fully separate from our real life identitires.

  • What are you willing to share with internet strangers but not people you know in real life?
  • Why is it important to you that it is not shared with people you know in real life?

As noted in the question, I'm looking for stuff you're comfortable sharing. I'm not trying to fish for deep dirt here.

24 comments

  1. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This seems like a wise course of action.

      This seems like a wise course of action.

      6 votes
  2. [4]
    patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    Non-binary gender status. This is something I've known and more-or-less lived publicly all my life, but didn't have the words to convey in anything other than medical terms until recently. I've...
    1. Non-binary gender status. This is something I've known and more-or-less lived publicly all my life, but didn't have the words to convey in anything other than medical terms until recently. I've had the privilege of not discussing it, in a way that trans people haven't. Mostly, I've borne the burdens of presenting "butch" and embarking into traditionally masculine spaces while apparently female, or traditionally feminine spaces while presenting masculine signifiers, mitigated by a superficially cis partnership. These aren't complications that most public conversations invite.

    2. Very long-standing depression. I've been in and out of treatment since my teens. This is something that I really don't discuss publicly at all, and only rarely with intimate friends, for the reasons /u/mrbig mentioned. I've worked in environments where any hint of mental illness would have severe professional repercussions. At the same time, it's such an endemic condition in online discussions that it would be massively dishonest not to participate openly.

    16 votes
    1. [3]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Do you think the two are linked at all? I ask not to pathologize being non-binary, but simply because for me my depression was directly linked to my being queer in a deeply homophobic culture....

      Do you think the two are linked at all?

      I ask not to pathologize being non-binary, but simply because for me my depression was directly linked to my being queer in a deeply homophobic culture. From your description it sounds like you've had to navigate and endure similar identity-based barriers and baggage, and I'm wondering whether or not you think those might be a cause or factor in your depression.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        patience_limited
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I think the depression arose independently; there's a very strong family history, going back at least three generations. But gender conflicts are certainly potent stressors. There was a time when...

        I think the depression arose independently; there's a very strong family history, going back at least three generations.

        But gender conflicts are certainly potent stressors. There was a time when I was deliberately starving myself to avoid being conspicuously female. I wasn't dysphoric with respect to having a female-gendered body, but rather with the constraints of feminine roles and social expectations.

        In retrospect, there were also some mood issues that may have been related to excesses of both estrogen and testosterone. The underlying genetic condition didn't get diagnosed until about 10 years ago; it's part of routine prenatal or birth testing now. NC-CAH is so common (incidence as high as 1:300 generally, 1:100 for my ethnic group) that I'd call it a normal and mainly harmless variation of gender phenotype. The most conspicuous "symptoms" I've had to cope with are a little male-pattern hair loss with advancing age, and heavier musculature than women who don't deliberately train for muscle growth. I don't think of the knack for math as masculine; I just happened to be better at it than my brother.

        Again, though, like most people, I wouldn't discuss my health history openly. It's easier among online groups of people who are gay, trans or non-binary because we've all encountered these gendered and often medicalized conflicts in some fashion.

        In fact, I see a lot of pathology in extreme expressions of masculinity and femininity - it's most alienating to encounter how polar people force each other to be. It was weird to live in a place where so many cis women, and some men, had surgeries or other cosmetic procedures to enhance their apparent genderedness. It's not something I'd be comfortable calling them out on face-to-face, for the most part. I can't dare to conceive how difficult it is to be trans in this world.

        There was a lot of routine daily prejudice against a "girl" who refused to wear dresses and makeup, or insisted on doing both girl and boy things. I was fortunate to grow up near a university town where it was relatively safe to date people of whatever gender. Still, being lesbian or bisexual wasn't as dangerous as failing to conform to gendered expectations. To get along in the world, I've always felt like I'm in drag to some degree, and yes, that has fed suicidal thoughts on occasion.

        6 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Thanks for your thoughtful response. I definitely get what you mean about "pathology in extreme expressions of masculinity and femininity". I've talked before here about growing up gay and while...

          Thanks for your thoughtful response. I definitely get what you mean about "pathology in extreme expressions of masculinity and femininity". I've talked before here about growing up gay and while I've given a lot of attention to the friction my sexual orientation caused me, I haven't really adequately delved into how much of it (most of it, for a while) was really about gendered expectations rather than romantic interest.

          Long before I felt any kind of interest in anyone, I learned that being gay (and its associated slurs) were essentially societal shorthand for a "a guy who acts like a girl." My first understanding of the terminology had nothing to do with guys who liked guys but instead had to do with guys who did effeminate things. Think of the "mincing gay man" stereotype -- one who's flamboyant and into "girly" things. That was all I knew of what it meant to be gay for the longest time, and there weren't any role models or examples around to counteract that narrative. I wasn't exactly familiar with examples of the former either, as the "mincing gay man" was more of an implicit threat than a realized being. He was a caricature that existed in the fears and prejudices of men's minds far more than an actual person they'd encountered or met.

          Of course, being "gay" (i.e. effeminate) was viewed entirely negatively, and as a result, much of my childhood was subjected to policing, both external and eventually internalized, of what I should or shouldn't do as a guy, lest I become one of "them". I think I've shared on here how I learned the word "fag" because my grandfather said I was going to become one for riding a "girl bike". Six-year-old me had no idea that bikes had anything to do with gender, but based on the way he talked to me, I learned very quickly that being a "fag", whatever that meant, was a bad thing and that I should, unquestioningly, only ride "boy bikes" from then on. In hindsight, I believe one of the key roots of homophobia, particularly towards gay men in the area I grew up in, is misogyny. I was continually met with the message that men shouldn't "stoop" to certain "womanly" things. Part of the reason that those who did so were treated as pariahs was because they'd willfully given up their manly status and privilege.

          The gendered expectations put on me were pretty severe, and I'm a cis guy, who definitely had it easier than everyone else in that regard. While I had to pay attention to things like how long my fingernails were and how much I moved my hands when I talked, my sisters learned that, as women, they were supposed to micromanage and scrutinize every minor facet of their appearance, as well as that their worth as individuals was tied to how successfully they emulated conventional beauty standards. Meanwhile, the trans people from my area had to deal with all of this bullshit in bodies that were out of alignment with their very identities. Being pressured to conform to an extreme and detailed form of masculinity was troubling enough for me, and I'm someone who can wear the marker of "man" comfortably. Like you, I can't imagine how difficult it was for others for whom the bullshit had layers that pressed on them at their very core.

          If you'll permit me one more question (totally fine if you don't want to answer it!), do you find that you've found peace with your gender identity, gender expression, and/or depression, or are you still subject to frictions and frustrations from them?

  3. krg
    Link
    I don't know that I necessarily talk about stuff online that I'm unwilling to talk about offline, but I sure have more opportunities to talk about stuff online.

    I don't know that I necessarily talk about stuff online that I'm unwilling to talk about offline, but I sure have more opportunities to talk about stuff online.

    14 votes
  4. jcdl
    Link
    For me, there's "online" like reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and here. And then there's online like Grindr, Tinder, and co. And then there's fetish sites. There's tons of naughty and deeply personal...

    For me, there's "online" like reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and here. And then there's online like Grindr, Tinder, and co. And then there's fetish sites. There's tons of naughty and deeply personal stuff that I'm more than happy to volunteer on a dating app or website that I have no need to post elsewhere. There's definitely a hierarchy of information that I'm willing to divulge on any given handle. Sure, I'll out myself as gay here (and in real life, to almost everyone), but won't reveal much more. Whereas on Grindr my profile has a surprising amount of detail about what I'm into, and I often share my face. There are other places online that I'll say much more than on Grindr, albeit without my face and with a unique username.

    I'm fully aware that I expose enough information on each tier that someone who cared enough could "dox" me. I feel I am private enough to keep most creeps and trolls at bay. Truth be told it's more about reducing the chances of this kind of shit than being recognized IRL.

    My grandparents and schoolmates don't need to know about my sex life, or even that I'm gay, but it would not be (and has not been) the end of my world if they were to find out. I'm lucky enough to be comfortable in my own skin and live in a safe place to be who I am that it just doesn't matter very much.

    12 votes
  5. [9]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Many things. And not necessarily super-personal stuff. Groups geographically closer to me lack many cultural references and carry many prejudices that my anonymized online communities do not...

    Many things. And not necessarily super-personal stuff. Groups geographically closer to me lack many cultural references and carry many prejudices that my anonymized online communities do not share. Besides, the exact same sentence can have different meanings when uttered under different personas and in different contexts.

    People closer to you tend to draw wider and graver interpretations from the things you say. If I say on Tildes that I'm feeling a bit depressed, I'll probably get some encouragement and useful advice. If I told the same to a family member or posted it on Facebook, the whole thing would blow out of proportion. Some people might call or even come to my house to check up on me.

    There are also interests that, while entirely harmless and not shameful in any sense, are better pursued quietly. I don't want my grandma to know I once asked what was the taste of human meant (answer: pork), or how long would I live if I ate myself starting from the big tow.

    11 votes
    1. [6]
      Keegan
      Link Parent
      Imma need some context for this. I think many people have wondered, but where the hell did you get an answer?

      I don't want my grandma to know I once asked what was the taste of human meant (answer: pork), or how long wold I live if I ate myself starting from the big tow.

      Imma need some context for this. I think many people have wondered, but where the hell did you get an answer?

      5 votes
      1. [5]
        mrbig
        Link Parent
        /r/morbiquestions has all the answers you need.

        /r/morbiquestions has all the answers you need.

        7 votes
        1. [4]
          Keegan
          Link Parent
          Oh cool. (Did you set the link to old reddit or does Tildes do that automatically?) Also, I have the same experience with my online life as you as far as telling family when I'm sad vs telling...

          Oh cool. (Did you set the link to old reddit or does Tildes do that automatically?)

          Also, I have the same experience with my online life as you as far as telling family when I'm sad vs telling people online.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            mrbig
            Link Parent
            Yes, I did set the link to Old Reddit. It's a matter of principle.

            Yes, I did set the link to Old Reddit. It's a matter of principle.

            12 votes
            1. [2]
              Keegan
              Link Parent
              Good good. I much prefer old reddit over the redesign.

              Good good. I much prefer old reddit over the redesign.

              3 votes
    2. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      Have you watched Survivor Type?

      how long wold I live if I ate myself starting from the big tow.

      Have you watched Survivor Type?

      3 votes
      1. mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Nope. But I'm seeing here it's based on a Stephen King short story. Have you read it?

        Nope. But I'm seeing here it's based on a Stephen King short story. Have you read it?

        2 votes
  6. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I sat down and thought about this for at least 10 minutes, but I can't think of anything I would rather tell internet strangers instead of real-life people. I'm a fairly open book in real life....

    I sat down and thought about this for at least 10 minutes, but I can't think of anything I would rather tell internet strangers instead of real-life people.

    I'm a fairly open book in real life. What you see is what you get - to the point that my boss has literally said to people that she thinks I'm not capable of telling a lie. That isn't quite correct, but I will usually default to telling the bald blunt truth, even when it's not appropriate for me or the person I'm talking to. My boss's opinion is informed by situations such as when a colleague walked into our office and asked what we thought of her new shoes. I was caught off-guard: I turned round, looked at them, and, without thinking, said they didn't look good. I just tend not to filter myself. I've had friends tell me similar things: they come to me for truth, if they think other friends will just tell them what they want to hear, or not tell them what they need to hear. Lying and evasion don't come naturally to me. I'm also a natural sharer. If something interesting, happy, or sad happens to me, I'm going to tell someone. I might pick and choose which person to tell, but I will share it somehow.

    In fact, it's the other way around for me: there are things I actively avoid sharing with internet strangers, that I do discuss with real-life people. I trust people I know. I don't trust random usernames on the internet. When I write any comment on the internet, I'm always hyper-aware it can be read by millions of people, and I don't know who's reading it. That makes me very cautious about what I share. I also know that anything posted on the internet is potentially there forever.

    And, if I did have a deep, dark secret (or two, or three...) to share, there's no way I'm putting that secret in writing on a server owned by someone else and accessible by law enforcement authorities. Nuh-uh. I ain't that stupid. (Sorry, AFP, ASIS, ASIO, and everyone else reading this! You're not getting the evidence this way!)

    I can choose my audience in real life, so I'm more likely to share things with real people. I can't choose my audience on the internet, so I'm less likely to share things with online strangers.

    That said, there are things I'm more likely to talk about online than in real life, but that's only because I don't want to bore people, or I can't find people interested in some good intellectual discussion about life, the universe, and everything. I can't sit down and discuss the nature of reality with my friends, but there are always some internet strangers who are willing to thrash it out with me. That doesn't mean I wouldn't discuss philosophy (or whatever) in real life, only that I can't find people who are interested in it.

    11 votes
  7. jacoblambda
    Link
    Ooh this is an interesting one because with a handle like this one it is exceptionally easy to find out who I am. There are things I am willing to talk about here but not in person just due to...

    Ooh this is an interesting one because with a handle like this one it is exceptionally easy to find out who I am. There are things I am willing to talk about here but not in person just due to lack of confidence to talk about or lack of assurance that such comments about myself (that would be somewhat of a shock to some people) would hold true with time. With the risk that they come to light I rarely out right state them(like in a "tell me the things you don't want people in real life to know about you" type discussions) just because I don't want to deal with the hassle of somebody stumbling across them however I mention them in relevant discussions and don't make any real effort to hide them. Some of these are also ideas that are just "unique" and would earn me some strange looks.

    The only one of these that I would be willing to actually share would be that I have a completely irrational belief/fantasy that if I die young or even possibly when I die of old age that I may be reborn as somebody else during or near my current lifetime retaining my memory up to that point. Because of this and also partially just due to the utility of it, I have been putting in place a procedure to completely recover my digital presence without any access or reliance on my current self. Yes it is a dumb belief but it has a side effect of some utility and it can be a fun fantasy at times and helps to cope with the reality that we all die some day and what comes after. It is much easier to take risks when the worst thing that could happen in your mind is that you just start your life over as somebody else with all the knowledge and experience from before as well as having a shot at recovering some semblance of your old self through your digital footprint.

    Now there are also things I would never post with this handle due to the risk of them coming to light. These are the things that I am actually insecure about rather than the things that I just don't want to deal with the minor hassle of them becoming public. This includes some weird or unusual thoughts as well as being able to vent about the more actually not OK thoughts. I should also make it a point to mention that these are the type that people would otherwise write into a journal and then toss or shout into the void about with nobody around. These are the ones that I only talk about with properly anonymised accounts where I actually make an effort to follow decent opsec.

    In both of these cases it really is rather liberating just because I can be myself and I don't have to second guess how something will effect somebodies perception of me.

    7 votes
  8. Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    The short and direct answer is not much, because, like @krg I don't really talk to people outside the Internet and when I do it's usually to my parents who already know me well, although if I had...

    The short and direct answer is not much, because, like @krg I don't really talk to people outside the Internet and when I do it's usually to my parents who already know me well, although if I had to give an answer its autism.

    The rest will be a long text about my personal life to explain why.

    My childhood was mostly me suffering from not being normal, so I took to the Internet for refuge and practically divorced myself from the physical world around me.

    Here's the story about my childhood if you feel like reading it.

    It was probably on the first day of school, if not earlier. I'm autistic and was intensely so as a toddler (to the point of actually banging my head on the walls at home) and in school, I was the odd one out. I was great at math, but I was always quiet in school, still used diapers up to when I was around 8, always made a fuss when I lost something, and I was favorited by the 'direc-tress', who also had an autistic kid. I received a medal on first grade, an astronomy book, and her good grace in general,and I was notably gullible and impatient which singled me out as the main target to do stupid shit to and prank, meaning I was incredibly fucked up from 2nd grade and onwards, I remember when break started, I walked aimlessly around the courtyard until it ended. In 3rd grade two people took my pencil case and threw it around and I made a huge fuss. It only really stopped when I stopped crying and making noise about it, which was only on 6th-7th grade.

    Thing is, when I was a toddler my mother wanted me to learn English (or maybe it was just so I can watch something to soothen the pain of being the mother of a very detrimentally autistic son who's still a toddler, my mother's not a strategist) and so she put me to watching English cartoons and more importantly, YouTube videos and because of this, I learned how to use a searchbar by 3, before I even spoke. This meant that I had a place to go to when the antagonism began and so, my entertainment sources was nearly solely English content on the computer my parents, meaning that if anyone came to visit me and asked me what I liked, I would need to talk about something that isn't in their language and rarely in their interest, since if someone is willing to go visit someone like me, they're probably an outdoors person looking to make friends to play soccer with. Because of this, my social skills practically ceased to exist and eventually my entire 'social' life became watching videos and playing flash games on my computer and eventually commenting on said videos when I made a YouTube account 3 years ago and then reddit a year later and now Tildes and Discord accounts. Thankfully the problems from the text in the details box are past me and I'm not plagued by this today.

    6 votes
  9. [3]
    Leonidas
    Link
    The fact that I'm gay is a big one, which seems to be a common theme in responses to this post with all the LGBT stuff. To clarify, though, it's not that I wouldn't share it per se and more that I...

    The fact that I'm gay is a big one, which seems to be a common theme in responses to this post with all the LGBT stuff. To clarify, though, it's not that I wouldn't share it per se and more that I don't really feel inclined to share it with someone unless I know them well already, which is much less about homophobia and more that I don't want to be known in social circles primarily by my sexual orientation. Plenty of people are comfortable with that; it's just not me. I'm also not particularly flamboyant or anything, so I don't feel any obligation to "tell people what they already know," so to speak. Coming out to people IRL is just mentally exhausting. However, online it's much more common to have spaces which are geared towards LGBT people so it's much less of a minority status. I think a big part of being online is that social media creates the inverse of physical relationships--we're more open with parts of ourselves which aren't immediately apparent to others, while we hide personally identifying info like real names, family members, locations, etc.

    The other major thing I'm way more open about is my political beliefs, though this can vary. I'm pretty far on the left side of the spectrum, so I don't want to alienate other people IRL by constantly preaching about the "evils of capitalism" and stuff like that. Personally, I don't think this is even an uncommon mentality; people who try to bring up politics at every opportunity and express controversial opinions to spark a debate are generally regarded as rude. However, I'm certainly open to discussions with people I know well when we're all willing to engage constructively, although even then, I don't just go out and say "hey, I think we should expropriate billionaires' wealth and give every homeless person housing;" it's much less controversial to discuss specific policy ideas without making the entire conversation into a clash of ideologies as a whole. So that's based more on etiquette and a desire for constructive conversation. Of course, the same truth applies with regards to finding spaces with a left-wing bent, and many people would say many online platforms tend to lean liberal (if not left-wing).

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Staross
      Link Parent
      That's exactly me IRL, never had much issues with it. That said there's probably some cultural differences here (assuming you are American), plus I often go about it in a jokingly manner.

      hey, I think we should expropriate billionaires' wealth and give every homeless person housing;"

      That's exactly me IRL, never had much issues with it. That said there's probably some cultural differences here (assuming you are American), plus I often go about it in a jokingly manner.

      4 votes
      1. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        Political position on the left is a pretty sensitive social topic in the U.S. these days. I can recall when, maybe 15 years ago, people openly and equably discussed their political preferences...

        Political position on the left is a pretty sensitive social topic in the U.S. these days. I can recall when, maybe 15 years ago, people openly and equably discussed their political preferences with strangers at dinner, but were reticent about their faith.

        I was just at a dinner event this evening where exactly the opposite was true, with people gleefully proclaiming their prayers and amens, and otherwise politely skirting political issues when they might have been appropriate to discuss in contexts like healthcare, economics, or strange (climate change!) weather.

        5 votes
  10. Staross
    (edited )
    Link
    I think the main one is that I'm making music, I actually spent a lot of my time over the years doing stuff and pretty much nobody in real life knows about it. I'm not sure why I do this exactly,...

    I think the main one is that I'm making music, I actually spent a lot of my time over the years doing stuff and pretty much nobody in real life knows about it. I'm not sure why I do this exactly, but I don't really like what I do most of the time. I also I like to keep some hobbies for myself, I often feel like socializing them brings a kind of "degradation" (e.g. you start to anticipate what people you know might think about it, etc). Fear of judgment too probably.

    I also avoid talking too much about my mental state or really personal issues in real life, I prefer to keep shit for myself and not bother people with it.

    6 votes
  11. leigh
    Link
    I'm far more open online about many things (chiefly my gender identity, as a transfeminine non-binary person, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and neurodiversity stuff like...

    I'm far more open online about many things (chiefly my gender identity, as a transfeminine non-binary person, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and neurodiversity stuff like ADHD) than I am in person, even though my online identity is my real name.

    I'm not sure why, but I think it's audience: even though in theory my coworkers could find my Twitter they won't, whereas my Twitter followers are mostly a combination of Internet randos and folks from the PyCon AU and Linux.conf.au communities, who are generally pretty respectful around those sort of things and open about it themselves.

    4 votes