I wrote my first piece for TheGloss in 2010. The site had just recently launched and I wrote about how to rock a short hair cut. It was not my first foray into the blogging world, but the first time that I was given liberty to choose a topic and go with it. Besides the fact that I had that freedom, I was also excited about what the comments would be (I was so unjaded then!) Since it wasn’t a controversial subject in any way, the comments were sweet and without any unnecessary trolling. I felt like Sally Fields: “You like me! You really like me!” Isn’t that what everyone thinks when they don’t get a hate comment?
I eased my way into being a regular on TheGloss. I went from occasionally pitching a piece to Jennifer, to eventually having a daily place on the site. I was home.
TheGloss was the first site that allowed me the freedom to write in my true voice. As in, what you read, my darlings, is pretty much how I speak out loud to my friends and family. In both my personal life and in the online persona, I am candid, perhaps a bit over the top, but always true to my beliefs and myself. I am snarky, I do like to provoke and yes, I’m self-absorbed, but I’m so aware of it, that it’s almost OK, right? I’m saying yes.
Social media has given people the chance to communicate on a whole new level. Although I keep my Facebook account extremely privatized so as to have something for myself (and it’s boring anyway), my Twitter is wide open to the world. And so it began that I, Chatel, started becoming buddies with some of the commenters.
First it was back and forth tweets on Twitter that always ended in one of us just giving the other our email address because 140 characters is lame. I did that with a handful of regular commenters and realized “OMG. These women are ridiculously amazing and JUST. LIKE. ME.” So I became pen pals with a few of them. I’ve always felt you can never have too many smart and funny women in your life, even if they live a continent away.
For example, Sam Escobar was a regular commenter on TheGloss who started following me on Twitter. After a few emails, we realized we had so much in common and voila! When she finally came to NYC to visit, we realized our friendship was legit and not something solely based on email exchanges. The rest is history.
It was when we switched “Dating Hijinks” over to include stories from our readers that the emails really started pouring in, and I don’t mean just stories. People who just wanted to say hello and chitchat. I started getting emails from people with whom I’d engaged with on different articles in the comment section. There they were, in my inbox, with their REAL names attached. You’re not going to believe this, but Breezy’s real name isn’t Breezy. I know; I was baffled, too.
If travel plans hadn’t been messed up, I would have met Ms. Pants in the flesh right before Thanksgiving. Fabel and I are going to do drinks after the holidays, and the next time I’m in Colorado, I’m totally meeting Kjohn for sushi. Then there’s Colleen in Alaska who, well, I’m not going to Alaska, so I’m not sure when we’ll meet. And these are just a few of the commenters with whom I’ve forged these email relationships. But when I stop to think about it, is it OK? Is it weird to become friends with commenters? Can’t I just love them and write to them, or am I crossing some Internet line of etiquette?
As with any budding relationship, there are risks, but even more so with a person you can’t see. It’s difficult to put a whole lot of stock in something that’s purely digital. Even if you email 15 times a day, you’re still not sure who’s on the other end. Ms. Pants could say she’s [insert Ms. Pants details here], but maybe she’s actually an 80-year-old man who keeps posting photos of his granddaughter on Instagram as a means to lure in younger women to be his friends. Either way, Ms. Pants lured me in with great success. Thanks, Ms. Pants.
There’s also this strange intimacy factor. Although I share so much of myself online in my writing, a lot of others don’t feel comfortable doing the same. So when you find yourself in this email friendship with someone whom you all of sudden know so much about, but yet you’ve never met, you can’t help but become emotionally invested in their welfare. If something goes wrong in their life, you want to help them, you want to be a friend, but then you’re also a person who isn’t technically part of their life, their real life that is, so there’s that inner conflict of “Am I caring too much?”
Should you become friends with commenters? I don’t know.
But I do know that TheGloss is the only site in which I’d ever consider it because there is that consistency of the same people and I like to think of it as a little family. But Michael Scott thought of his Dunder Mifflin branch as a little family, too, because that’s all he had. Does that make me Michael Scott? Are all my friendships imaginary? God, I really hope so sometimes, because I always wanted my life to be like A Beautiful Mind so I could brag about how smart I am.
So, dear commenters, with whom I’ve started these email friendships, I love you. I don’t care what the world thinks of us! I don’t care if it’s strange that I wish I could have a tea party and invite each and every one of you over (spiked tea, of course). Let my fellow bloggers be confused by our relationship! Let them!
It’s so rare in this world to find someone who gets you, so when you do, you better hold on tight. That’s what I’m doing: I’m holding on tight to the women I’ve met since writing for TheGloss. And I won’t let go, because I’m creepy like that.