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07 March, 2012

I Troll You So

My Internet persona is a more amplified, polarising version of my real-life self. There are many schools of thought on people's behaviours online and what they're like in the flesh and I'm under no illusions - I'm different online than I am in the flesh. People who say they are the same are bullshit artists.

My Mum used the term social media the other day while on the phone talking about me. It's getting to that stage where it's universally recognised as a channel. Here's a digital media prediction - in twenty years social media will be bigger than TV, but then, the two might be indistinguishable from each other in twenty years time. Shut up Marshwah, you're not at work at the moment anyway.

To people that meet me casually, and then are exposed to my online persona, it can be a bit of a surprise. I'm a bit more seasoned than most of these neophytes. And happily tell the few that listen that I had an online diary before they were called blogs, and I'll be damned if I'm changing my style now. Then The Webslinger blows the barrel of his gun, and rides off into sunset. A keyboard hero.

Heroes have enemies. And my online persona has netted its fair share. These are trolls.

At Primary school I vaguely remember the tale of the Billy Goat's Gruff. It had something to do with some goats, crossing a bridge, and a pesky creature called a troll that lived under the bridge. I doubt this was the first time a troll was coined in the English language, but the thought of a loathsome creature, thriving in the dark, and feeding on fear seems to be a pretty accurate rendition of the online equivalent.

Can you see the bastard?

In this ongoing tale, I've clearly taken up the mantle of keyboard hero. Sure, my persona is parts of my personality that I choose to accentuate. But I put myself out there and put a face to it. It's a conscious decision I make every time I post a public piece of information on the Internet. And often its confronting. That's the way I like it and have lived.

The complete opposite of this approach is enshrouding one's self in anonymity. I have no problem with this, and respect people who aren't quite as open as I am online. But unfortunately, anonymity is often the chosen stomping ground of your garden-variety troll. I say garden-variety, because this is pretty standard stuff. I've been acting and carrying on online for over a decade, and I'm not that easily shocked any more.

A blogger I like, Sam De Brito, wrote a tweet the other day about the best way to handle them: it's to ignore them. He's writing on a scale I can only imagine, and must encounter some truly messed-up online trolls. And that's still his approach.

As I ramp up my social media efforts in an attempt to promote my upcoming book, I'm taking on this advice. As announced in my latest YouTube video, I'll be seeding out the opening segment of the book, Being Bi-Bi. I'm looking forward to seeing my attempts escalating and learning along the way.

My experiences thus far have been a lesson, and unlike trolls, the quality of my work will only continue to improve.

03 March, 2012

Write of Flight

I'm sitting on a plane headed to Chiang Mai for the fourth time. I'm more elated than I've been in a while. A few things cross my mind, like 'what witty line am I going to open with when I see two of my best friends?' I briefly think of worst-case-scenarios, and very briefly turnover the idea in my head that this elation is unnatural.

That comes with bipolar a lot. If it's not coming from me, it's coming from my concerned mother when we converse.

I paint it as a nuisance when its a necessity, you don't get through something I went through unscathed. Surviving a psychotic episode leaves scars that can't be seen, and just like the versions you see on skin, they're very hard to remove. Not that I want to remove what I've been through. Well, not quite.

I was talking to a close friend visiting me a while ago, and the topic was surrounding his  upcoming marriage proposal. I admired his balls. We were not 10m away from his sleeping future wife and he confidently told me of his plans and showed me the ring.
"Don't cry you poof."

I couldn't help it. I was touched that he was letting me into a moment in his life that was huge, and I guess this unlocked some emotion. It also unlocked further questions that we wouldn't normally address. I put the kids question to him. His answer was 'of course' and then he flipped it back on me. My answer was:
"Bipolar's hereditary. I'm not prepared to put somebody through what I went through."
He was a bit taken aback by that. He'd never thought of it that way.

It's something I still throw about from time-to-time. I don't want to trade in what I've been through, but at the same time, what if I did want to have kids? Would I be able to overcome my reservations?

But I'm pretty sure this elation is of the natural variety. This has been the longest time away from the place since moving to Singapore, and I was overdue. I'm not going to wax lyrical with flowery adjectives about why it's such a beautiful place for me. It just is, and I needed my refill.