Why I had to take a break from one of my online communities

It’s pretty cool that we live in an age where you can develop friendship with people you may never share a physical space with. I remember when it was all new, using dial-up to connect to AOL chatrooms — when your parents (and ok, everyone else) gave you weird looks when you talked about meeting people online or your online friends.

Since all of that, I have made some seriously good friendship thanks to the internet. It’s been in two main realms: blogging and gaming. There’s been some crossover in that, and even some crossover into my non-internet life (since “real life” has become passé in regards to talking about your offline life). Anyway. There are some amazing people in my life whom I really only interact with via the internet, and I value them tremendously.

But these relationships, these communities don’t always work out. I’ve been struggling with that over the last month or two. This community, one of my gaming communities, just felt more stressful and caused more anxiety than joy. With 20SB, I just sort of faded out of it. While I missed what the community was, and do miss being close to some of those people, it wasn’t some big shocking departure. This one? I was a major active person in this community and all of a sudden, parts of it didn’t feel good any more.

The part that made this really hard, is that this community is filled with some of the most supportive and caring people. And that was sort of the problem for me. It was too supportive. Which feels like one of the worse criticism you can give of a group. But I felt all this pressure to be so uber supportive of every single person in this community all the time. That I needed to be this good, caring person 24/7. It was so draining. And some of the things, well, I was just like, do we really need to group hug over every single little problem any one has?

When I couldn’t be that ultra positive, supportive person they expected you to be… well, it was like you were some horrible scum of a person. If you said anything about not enjoying every part of the community: horrible scum. It would be one thing to manage if it was just limited to the stream chat. But it went beyond that into other areas of my online life. And that’s when I felt suffocated.

I consider myself a kind person, but I don’t want to be BFFs with every. single. person in this community. And for that, I also felt like a horrible scum. But the thing is… I’m not. I’m not a terrible person. Not everyone can or should be best friends. Being kind to others, yes. But you don’t owe anyone that sort of relationship. That’s why we have things like colleagues or acquaintances.

So while I do miss some people of this community — and do sort of* feel guilt that I’m more active in another stream — none of this makes me a bad person or a bad friend. I pop in from time to time to see what’s going on, what games are being played, whisper to a few people to say hi and catch up with them (or just talk with them via other means), but I pretty much stay in lurk mode. The overwhelming personalities are still a little too present for me, and still stings too much. I’m not letting myself feel bad about taking a break.

*Only a teeny tiny bit, because I also won’t feel guilt for enjoying friendships.