I was considering a thread about hard truths but that would likely only lead to division and diasporism. Anyway, I was reading some "mature" (read depressing and face-palmable) discussions and it got me to thinking that we all need a cold slap in the danglers some times.
I've been part of Zelda communities on and off for the better part of two decades and I know they've meant a lot to me. There's a level of perceived camaraderie and fellowship since we all share a common interest or even passion. I like interacting with others about common interests; that shared value is what creates tribes and tribes offer benefits that are unavailable to the individual.
But here's that backhand in the grapes I referred to. The internet isn't real. The people you interact with on the internet are actually just representations of people filtered through binary. As much as I've had some great times with people online, it's not the same thing as the relationships I have with real people.
I'm not Hyrulian Hero in real life, that's my persona on ZD. You see what I want you to see when I'm Hyrulian Hero. If you and I had a relationship in real life, you would see my faults, my accomplishments, my indiscretions and failures, my countenance. I don't know what you would find annoying about who I am or what things about me would remind you of your father. In real life, I can only try to filter what I say but I can't filter who I am. There's no fourth wall, there's person to person interaction with all of your and my weaknesses and strengths, all of our beliefs and background.
I'm sure you're thinking that we can get a lot from digital communication now, and we certainly can. Even our in-person relationship is limited by what we can sense and perceive. But digital communication limits that encounter even more than human bodies do. I'm a believer in reality that we cannot sense but even if you're not, you must admit that the facsimiles you encounter via digital or even analogue means are subject to data loss or more likely, intentional subversion.
I don't know myself in the same way that you would if we actually met so even my most truthful telling of myself cannot convey who I am to you, and all the less on an internet forum. Though I'm thankful that ZD offers me some low-level interaction with the thoughts of other Zelda fans, I can never categorize my interactions here in the same bin where my daily human interactions are kept. Reading the travails of others in this very group struggling with their online persona against another person's online persona is heartbreaking.
All adults were at some point teenagers and know what a difficult time that was. To see an unrealized adult take so personally an insult or disagreement is painful because to so many, the approval of others is paramount to their self-worth. Especially in those younger years, before we enter adulthood, we take what others take as an objective measure of our value as humans. And people of low integrity hide behind an internet persona, insulting and degrading the internet personas of kids and teens.
As an adult man, it's become easier to detach and season my internet persona's interactions with pragmatism but it's easy to forget, not everybody places such a low value on digital interaction. Our world has continued to detach from unfiltered community as technology has enabled global communication, opinions are aggregated online, we outsource our personal communication to an impersonal Facebook wall, we isolate physically and cover our faces, we consult a search engine for answers, we live in centers of vast population removing our individual responsibility to people for whom we used to be accountable. This world of ZD is fun, it's useful, and it's not real life.
Maybe real life is terrible. Maybe it's enticing to live in a digital world where you can hide your butt-ugly face, your family problems, or whatever insecurities you have or perceived imperfections you think you have. At the end of the day, you're still you. Your problems still exist, your value is still independent of what anyone in real life or on the internet thinks. If Hyrulian Hero is a boon to me by virtue of allowing me to interact with the internet personas of real people in order to discuss the worlds greatest video game series, then maybe that persona is worth having. But it'll still never be in the same category as actual human interaction, positive or negative.
If Hyrulian Hero causes me distress, I'm completely responsible for how I handle that. If your internet persona is insulted by someone else's internet persona, it's not even an indictment of your value, it's a truly anonymous avatar insulting your anonymous avatar. Don't confuse the pretend entity you've built online with yourself or somebody else's with them. Don't base your value as a person on what somebody says about your internet persona (positive or negative). Real life has enough people with whom you will clash and its confrontations and implications are real enough.