Can I get a witness?

My longest romantic relationship is not the three-year partnership I just ended. (Though I prefer to say it’s been “rearranged”, because we’re grownups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.)

My longest romantic relationship is with the Internet.

(And I have written it so. many. love letters.)

Something about the way it swept me off my feet and carried me into adulthood, the way it told me I was beautiful and valuable when I’d always been a misfit, and the way it provided me with resources and answers whenever I felt sure that I was completely on my own… the Internet has always been more than just access to other people. It’s been my home, my nourishment, my partner… the thing that showed me understanding and gave me an identity when I was so far away from society’s standards that my own sanity was in question… the thing that gave me what I needed when what I needed didn’t seem to exist.

I realize I am now speaking for the next generation of Crazy Cat Ladies — we are the Crazy Internet People — who rely on non-human replacements for human relationships. I could justify it by saying that the Internet really is all about the People, but it’s not. They’re part of it, sure, but they were always there. The Internet added something to make them better.

The Internet is about the access.

It’s about being able to shout a question to the sky and actually get an answer. It’s about being able to shape our own secret stories so they can be heard and felt by that stranger on the other side of the world who desperately needs to know they’re not alone. It’s about being able to create complete crap and fling it out into a field knowing that no one will care, unless you happened to be wrong about it being crap. It’s about building a brilliant wall of mixed sensory input that feeds you exactly what you asked for, along with everything you didn’t know you needed but it thought you should have anyway.

It’s not perfect. Like any lover, it comes with more baggage than a cross-country flight on Christmas Eve. It has daddy issues, it has a temper, it has weird fetishes that you’re not interested in, and it wakes you up at 3am to say things like, “We need to talk.”

Maybe that’s what makes it okay for us to be messy humans right back at it.

I knew this year would have me nose-to-the-grindstone building and rebuilding my foundations. It was time to stop thinking about what I wanted to do, and to just push myself to get it done. A new full-time contract. A new startup. The closure of six years worth of freelance clients. A relationship breaking down. Mix in two speaking engagements at universities on the East Coast and a meeting in Canada, and yeah, that’s a full plate.

No one would fault me for shutting up, disengaging from Facebook and Twitter except for basic updates, and not blogging for awhile.

But I do.

Not just because its professionally important for me to keep building a community, an audience, a constituency, a position in the greater conversation, and (ugh) a personal brand. Yeah, I’m a social media kid, and those things are all my life blood. And when I’m not blogging, I’m not keeping it up. (Actually, I decided that none of that mattered this year. I’ve already got all the fuel I need to build what’s next, and what’s next is for my people, so it’ll all work out in the end.)

I’m kicking myself for being quiet because I am less happy when I’m not interacting with the Internet. I could go on a long anthropomorphizing rant about how you’d be unhappy, too, if you weren’t talking to your lover of 14 years. Or I could just quote gapingvoid and make it simple:

“Sharing makes us happy. Not sharing makes us unhappy. Like I said, [it's] a fundamental human drive.” -Hugh MacLeod

Or, to expand: The Internet is about access, and access matters because it allows us to bear witness.

That’s it. That’s what we’re showing up for.

Tonight I’m listening to Lady Gaga’s latest album, Born This Way, in which she sings her heart out, making direct eye contact with every young person who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t like her style of dance mixes, or that I think her bridges are trite. She’s singing, and she’s connecting, and she’s telling people they’re not alone, and I love her madly for it. Tonight, she is my Internet. She’s standing up in that role that I treasure — the one that saved me, and the one I stand in whenever I can handle the weight of it because it matters so damn much. The one where we reach out to sad strangers and say, “It’s okay, I’ll hold your hand. Now walk.

I have no conclusion. I’m just hitting publish because that’s better than not. And because if we censor our impulses out of fear of what future opportunities might think, we’re as good as having forgotten our dreams.

(And also because I promised myself no sex until I started blogging again.)

So what do you say. Does this count as showing up for you, Internet?

Can I get a witness?

If you like this post and would like to receive updates from this blog, please subscribe to the feed. Subscribe via RSS

28 Responses to “Can I get a witness?”

  1. Samson Says:

    *flicks lighter on, holds up*

  2. sarah Says:

    Samson, you’ve been my hero in eighty thousand ways this year.

  3. A Strange Boy Says:

    For all the filler on the Internet, it really is a lifeline for so many people like myself, and it gives so many people the chance to connect with awesome people.

  4. D@n Shick Says:

    Witness borne! Up has been shown. I counter your Gaga with this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FxS9nOuGA4

  5. fzy Says:

    Yeah, what she said.

    Also,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f72CTDe4-0

  6. sarah Says:

    omg <3 you all.

  7. Samson Says:

    Back at you, sunshine.

  8. Manda Says:

    Right here, friend!

  9. Yoz Says:

    *knock knock*

    Hi, I’m here for the party? I’m a friend of, um… *looks past you down the hallway, then back at you, decides far too late to try and sound confident* … uh…

    … I’m a friend of the internet? You know? Um, Internet… Jones. Yeah, Internet Jones.

    I brought chocolate!

    (Which is my long way of saying: TESTI-FUCKING-FY)

  10. Dana Says:

    Witnessed with <3.

  11. Will Says:

    preach it. *witnessed* much love.

  12. Jeff Miller Says:

    Right, that vision thing. Hold it high.

    Oh, yes, and I think this counts as your blog quota for your promise.

  13. MeganE Says:

    *witnessed* Sounds like you’re back :) — and that you know how to motivate yourself LOL

  14. Sannse Says:

    This.

  15. Jake von Slatt Says:

    Sing it sister! *smoosh* I love the internet too for all of those reasons and more!

  16. elkit Says:

    AAMEN!!! I be-LIEVE.

  17. Schmutzie Says:

    Witness!

  18. Emma Says:

    You were one of the folks who showed me how the Internet is a doorway and a magic carpet and a picnic and a party and a friend and a handy representation for the Universal Net.

    Which you know.

    Also you know I adore you.

    And the rest of you, too.

    I adore you all.

  19. Just in time for a blog push « Web Theologian Says:

    [...] Hugh also sent me on to Sarah Dopp, “Can I have a witness?” Enjoy. [...]

  20. Virginia Says:

    Those of us out here in Internet-land who feel lucky and privileged to know you because of your blog are so happy you do what you do. What you do and share is impressive, important, generous, and just damn fabulous. You truly are what I always call you: “the fabulous Sarah Dopp.”

  21. Sidney Says:

    Now this. This spoke to me in a way I haven’t been spoken to in a good long while.

    Nicely.

    Sorry. Have to go. Reread it.

    But I’ll be back.

    Thank you very much for sharing you.

  22. Carrie Says:

    here here

  23. whittlesjh Says:

    *SMOOOOCH*

  24. Christina Says:

    I have met some great people on line. It really can be a support and reading other’s blogs knowing you are not alone. I took a break from facebook, twitter, and blogging for a while. The break was nice but I knew I would eventually go back to blogging.

  25. Suebob Says:

    All of my favorite people are on the internet, all the time. Including you.

  26. Emma McCreary Says:

    Hell yeah! Turn it up!

  27. lizriz Says:

    Love this SO MUCH.

  28. Andy Says:

    I’m glad you wrote this, but I connect to it. Granted, the Internet has only been my lover for 5 years, but I understand. I’m happiest when I’m doing something that involves the Internet at least some times. I am happiest when I’m learning more about it and coming to love it more.

    I also wanted to thank you for something else. You and Genderfork are helping me to accept my own gender variance. I shaved my hair down to an inch last week, I practice layering on a daily basis as a form of binding, and I’ve never loved myself more. Thank you for being part of the people who help me see that it’s okay to be what I am.