Between Two Worlds

When I was a kid, the internet was still somewhat new. As soon as I experienced it for myself, it was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

At that time, and for many years afterward, I felt a strong distinction between online and real life. They were two separate and vastly different spaces. One I loved and the other, I hated.

I was an only child who didn't fit in at school, with a lot of free time on my hands. When I discovered the internet and everything you could do on there, my little mind was blown apart at the possibilities.

At some point I gave up on meeting my social needs in real life and started to focus solely on my online adventures.

It felt magical. I discovered so many spaces, met so many people, and for the first time, it felt like I was connected to other people.

I was fifteen when I got my first in-house 24/7 internet-connected PC, and I thought that was when my life would finally open up. I would finally have the chance to be myself and explore the world most of the time. Being online allowed me to 'cope' through my reluctant daily life, especially the tough parts.

I met a lot of people online who also felt empty and alone, in the same suffocating ways. It made me feel relieved to commiserate with others about this.

I also met many people who lived completely online, detached completely from reality in a way I had only dreamt of being.

At that time (and even now) I was bound to societal institutions like going to school and eventually work. Most of my online friends weren't bound to those same constraints, and I felt alienated because they could not relate to my struggles of living halfway between two worlds

I strove to reach this level of complete detachment from reality. In fact, I was incredibly jealous of it, and the freedom that I imagined it brought. Sometimes I tried to 'play along', but it left me feeling detached and resentful. After some time I came to realize these friends were just as unhappy as I was, despite their supposed 'freedom'.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on my unhappiness and especially my alienation. Because I tied so many parts of myself to things and people that exclusively existed on the internet, what was left of me in real life barely felt human.

I felt stuck in the same place for a very long time. I had many 'transformative' experiences online that made me feel different but actually left me in the same exact place I was when I started. I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong.

During college, especially when I started working my first job, I found myself alienated from both the online and the 'real' world and needed something to change. At the same time the internet was the only tool I was really good at using, so I knew I couldn't let it go completely. I pulled back and decided to see if I could use the internet in a different way.

This meant shifting my perspective from seeing the internet as its own space, to seeing it as a subsection of real life. It also meant realizing that, for me, real life was incredibly flawed but opting out of it completely could never bring the healing I needed.

This influenced my entire relationship with the internet - how I see it, how I behave on it, how I use it. It broke down whatever barriers were left between the two.

For me, this meant opening my mind to the thought of meeting new people online with the intention of meeting them in real life. This sounded scary, possibly even dangerous, but also like healthy and social behavior, one that might even result in growth (!).

My experiences have made me realize that even though the internet allows us to feel more connected, rarely does it translate into changing our actual, material reality. And that's the part that needs changing, right?

My journey continues, but it won't be 100% online.

This article was created by Sadness