The Good and the Bad of Online support

The good and the bad of DS...



So I\'m back into the world of online support after some much needed time away. One of the biggest problems I\'ve seen with it, in myself and others (not mentioning any names!), is that once you get going and start pouring out all your struggles in a place like this, it can very easily become all-consuming and start sucking time and energy away from all the other areas of your life. Being away for a few months was GREAT for me in that it set me free to spend much less time online, and therefore much more time doing things in my life that are more important. Now, I\'m realizing that DS still has (and has always had) some good things to offer for me... so we\'ll see if I can do a better job of using it in moderation this time. :)

Just a couple of thoughts on some of both the good and the bad of finding support on sites like this...

ANONYMITY is good... and also bad. It\'s good because it sets you free to open up about things you could never be open about in \"real life\"... and to find others who share your struggles that might be too embarrassiing for you to talk about face to face. The bad part of this is that it also gives you the ability to be a little TOO open... meaning to dump a bunch of intimate personal information on a complete stranger, often before any kind of meaningful friendship or even acquaintance is established. This can lead to awkwardness at best, and seriously uncomfortable (or downright inappropriate) situations at worst.

In particular, I really wish that there were a blanket ban on \"dating\" relationships or propositions on sites like this. It really makes me uncomfortable to see umpteen profiles saying things like \"I\'m a single guy with xxxx problem, looking to meet a woman with the same problem.\" If I were female, I don\'t think I could stand it (oddly enough, it doesn\'t seem to happen very often the other way around!) I\'m sure there will be one or two \"success stories\" where people have actually met online, hooked up in real life, and gotten together and remained happy. But for every one story like that, there have to be at least a thousand cases of inappropriate \"advances\" of the kind that make my stomach turn... so much that I know of several women who have stopped coming to places like this because they are sick of guys hitting on them all the time. Really... I get that it is hard to find a romantic relationship when you have a difficult \"secret\" personal issue (I know, I did not date until I was 27 years old because of some issues in my life!) but combining dating and support, in my experience, just does not work -- and actually prevents many people from being able to share as freely as they should.

BEING ABLE TO SHARE \"EMBARRASSING\" INFORMATION of a personal nature is a good thing... and can also be bad, in that once you get started, it can be difficult to stop. I remember it being such a relief when I first came online and found out that many other people like me (college-age males, at the time) struggled with the same embarrassing condition that I did, when I had been sure that I was the only one, was some sort of freak, etc. The problem was that, once I got started talking about it... it just seemed like getting it out there was never enough... I had to keep talking, and talking, and talking... about the same things, over and over and over again. For a long time I didn\'t even realize how off-putting this was to others until I came to notice others doing exactly the same thing with me... which caused me to re-examine my own behavior.

With any kind of difficult personal struggle, it\'s easy to lapse into a \"woe is me\" mentality where you love to talk about how much your life sucks because of the problem... and to commiserate with others who have the same frustrations. The problem is, I don\'t want my life to suck -- I want to get the most out of my life in spite of whatever problems I have. So when I get into a chat with someone who just keeps on saying \"My life sucks because...\" and just REFUSES to hear you say anything at all of a positive nature to help them see the bright side of things... that is really frustrating and depressing for me. If you want to vent a little about how much you think your life sucks, fine, but if you really refuse to see any bright side of things, don\'t drag me down with you! I\'m not blaming anyone for this because I know I used to fall into exactly that pattern way too often. But it\'s worth remembering that they call this Daily STRENGTH for a reason... you\'re supposed to get positive strength and energy to face the day, not get into endless conversations about how miserable you are and how nothing anyone can do can ever make it better.

MAKING ONLINE FRIENDS is good... a tremendous blessing, really (and I will be the first to say I have made some GREAT friends here!)... but it can also lead to some bad things, if you allow your online friends to become a substitute for \"real-life\" friends, or if you expect them to fill some sort of void in your life that your real-life friends are currently lacking. Attaching that sort of expectation to an online friendship is not fair to your online friend or to yourself. Nothing against any of my online friends -- as I said, I have some excellent ones here! -- but an online friendship is just not the same as a friendship where you can actually see and spend time with a person face to face. Because of the anonymity and distance of online friendships -- the very things that make it easier to \"break the ice\" and form the friendship in the first place -- online friendships simply can never develop the same level of trust, intimacy, and depth of support that only real-life friendships can provide.

An important reality to remember about online friendships is that until you have actually met a person face to face... you can never be 100% sure that they actually are who you think they are. I have found this out the hard way too many times to list... although thankfully nothing that ever developed into a serious crisis, because I have always taken enough precautions to keep my identity and location a secret from online contacts. Still, it can be pretty disheartening to have poured out yout heart and soul to a person who you thought was a peer of your own age in similar circumstances... and then to find out that they are actually many years older, or younger, or a different gender or profession, than what you thought they were.

That\'s not a complete list by any means but it is some of my reflections during my time away from DS (and other forms of online support). If you\'ve read this far, I hope it was thought-provoking for you, and I would love to hear your comments (pro or con) on anything I\'ve written here, or on any of your own experiences with online support in general that I haven\'t covered here. Thanks for reading, and stay strong!! :)

i was browsing to add some people who may have struggles or interest i share, and maybe we do or dont. But your journal entry caught my eye. and it definetly serves a purpose and is thought provoking.there are Definate Pros and Cons to using a online support group whether people want to hear it or not, in some situations it can make things worse for the person by replacing so many real life aspects with ds, like you said dont get me wrong DS has helped me Tremendously, with so many circumstances , with not feeling so alone with my disorder and receiving advice and support from people i couldnt get else where. like you said, someone can suddenly become hooked and make this more a priority than what may be good for you. I was once Guilty of this. just like you i started to notice that it started to get unhealthy in words just relying on ds and not so much on building on the relationships with friends i have in real life. i took like i guess a timeout i stepped back and decided i had found some strength and that i needed to spend more time on something else maybe more productive, im not saying ds is not productive becasue it is VERY MUCH, but i was using it with no moderation like so many i beleive. Im happy somone else noticed and decided to write and share their thoughts on this issue, Hope to talk sometime:) and hope all is well:)