The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women (Like Me!) Make On The Internet
I was an ugly duckling growing up. Not a movie ugly duckling that is hot if she just takes off her glasses and wears a prom dress, but a certified socially-unaware dork. For girls like me, the Internet was like turn-of-the-century America was to immigrants. We leapt for our computers with visions of a world where the streets are paved with male nerds that had never seen a woman and would crown us queen upon receiving proof of ovaries.
However, just like immigrants were disappointed to find nothing but workhouses and Godfather Part II flashbacks waiting for them, socially awkward females found our hopes dashed by a surprisingly jaded and unenthusiastic Internet. It still happens every day, as new girls hop on the Web, bright-eyed and naive, with a handful of coy webcam close-ups and fragile dreams.
Their journey of disillusionment begins with the most disappointing reality of all:
You Are Not Unique
I mean, yes, every person is unique and valuable as a human being and all that, but not to the Internet, and certainly not just by virtue of being female. One of the first forums I joined was a gaming forum. OK, it was a Final Fantasy forum. I was just looking for some tips on beating Emerald Weapon, OK? That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I ended up using the Lucky 7s trick. If you care, you probably know what it is already.
Anyway, I stuck around, and ended up participating in the forum at large. As I got used to it, I decided to let everyone know I was a girl, because I thought people would find this very surprising, as they were all nerdy gamer guys.
Because I was too subtle to come out and say, "HI EVERYONE I AM A GIRL," I went with something coy like, "I'm applying to schools, oh by the way, this one might give me a scholarship for being a girl," or "What do you think of my new haircut (insert picture)?" or maybe, "Pardon the typos, my boobs keep bouncing off the keyboard." I don't remember exactly, it was a while ago.
"Hello fellow car forum members, here's a picture of the Nissan 350Z I just bought. Isn't it a great car?"
Whatever clue I dropped was apparently plenty clear because about 20 girls replied saying, "Wow, you're a girl? It's so GREAT to have other girls on this forum!"
While it may not have been the response I was looking for, I've seen this happen enough since then to know I dodged a bullet here. If I'd posted my picture, they would have posted their much, much cuter and girlier pictures. Had I gone with the less subtle, "Any other girls here?" I would have been forced to pretend I was happy to see all these other more attractive girls, matching their false enthusiasm with an even more over the top. "Oh my GOD, it is so GREAT to see another GIRL HERE!! ^_^ ;0) We'll all be SUCH great FRIENDS! Kekeke!" Every time I see it happen, some manner of disappointment ensues.
The Internet is even less like The Bachelorette than the real world. Somehow.
So exactly how rare are we delicate flowers of the Internet? A government study shows women have been represented on the Internet in the same percentages as we're represented in the real world since at least 2001. Great.
You Can't Control Men With Sex Appeal
The Hollywood cliche has a pretty girl or made-over ugly duckling walking into a room for the first time, and guys standing speechless, shocked into silence by her beauty and the anomalous gust of slow motion wind that it just caused in the room. Well, if that's not happening to you already in real life, it's not going to start happening on the Internet.
First of all, see the previous point. There's way too much competition. Secondly, a lot of guys may come to the Internet looking for sex, but unfortunately for you, if all you're offering is a virtual, screen based proxy of sex, they've already found plenty of that. There's an abundance of porn and pictures of women who are hotter than you. I mean, they're paid to be. You can't compete with that.
You may be pretty, but are you control-the-wind pretty? Because she's just a Google Image Search Away, and she's wearing a small drape.
It's easy to mistakenly be flattered by requests like "pix plz" or "show us your boobs." While you envision men sitting at their keyboard, desperately drooling over the possibility of seeing your pictures, they used to the very next keystroke to go back to surfing a gallery of anal porn.
As desperate as you may be to read these words, trust me it's not worth it.
Even if you do follow through on giving him a look at what you're wearing or not wearing every five minutes, that's not as fun for him as you may think. There is, after all, a real life equivalent for that:
Yeah, don't expect the online version to turn out any better.
Expecting People To Treat You Better
Or expecting your opinions to count more. I admit I used to think that every topic would benefit from "a fresh female perspective." That might be true if the topic is workplace discrimination or dating. But when someone is talking about Conan O'Brien versus Jay Leno, or whether we should get out of Iraq, there's absolutely no need for me to say, "If I may chime in as a woman..."
If I may offer a different opinion from a woman's perspective, I feel the Icelandic volcano ash is perfectly safe to fly through.
Once I went into a debate about something indirectly gender related and proceeded to educate everyone in a know-it-all fashion with some stuff I vaguely remembered reading in a Time magazine sidebar graphic, assuming everyone else would be completely ignorant on the subject since they were mostly male. Then a guy came along and corrected me with links to actual facts and information on the subject.
Which do you think the people in that argument found more valuable: My female perspective which just happened to be fresh because I was making it up, or some guy having actual facts and sources? I know, right? But for some reason everyone sided with the guy.
Anyway, it's going to be especially tempting for anyone who hasn't spent a lot of time in real world social settings to think she has an automatic bonus somewhere due to being born with breasts. I used to expect people to go, "Wow, she is very funny/artistic/whatever I was trying to impress people with. AND she's a woman!"
OK, so first of all, that goes against this whole equality thing us women have been aspiring to ever since the concept of feminism was invented by the Spice Girls in the early 90s. If I write a good article, make a good argument, or draw a good picture, why should it count more than a male doing the same thing?
Not only is it not morally fair, the world just doesn't work like that, online and off. There are too many females on the Internet for anyone to think you are the rare one that can draw or play video games while simultaneously having female anatomy. Now if you got drafted into the NFL or got a girl pregnant (or both), that might be something.
And not this NFL either.
Expecting People To Treat You Worse
There was a point in time where many people were surprised to find out women had opinions. At that point in time, women dressed like this.
Conventional wisdom has not been surprised at women having opinions since at least the 1970s.
While mistake #3 and #2 may seem like an either/or situation, women who expect to be treated better on the Web are often more likely to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being afraid of a "strong opinionated woman." Not only is this as bad as playing the race card, it insults all the other ladies in that online community who haven't been bashed, since it implies that they're not intelligent enough to be persecuted by your imaginary conspiracy.
You are not Rosie The Riveter.
If you're really insecure, you might catch yourself doing numbers two, three and four almost at the same time--basically ascribing any response you get, positive or negative, to your gender. If you find yourself doing that, just take a step back and consider if it might not have anything to do with you at all, but the content of what you said. Maybe, just maybe, people praised you for something because it was actually done well, or criticized you because you said something very stupid.
Or no one likes your weird boat drawings.
And if not, do you really want to care about what those people think anyway? I mean, anyone who likes you better just because you're female - where are they going to be when you have your sex change operation, hm?
Distancing Yourself from Women Who Do 2-5
Those are all pretty embarrassing behaviors but how many of us have really never done them or been tempted to? Which of us hasn't made some kind of avatar designed to hint that we are sexy, sexy people who think about sex (and happen to be female), or one that shows just a little part of our body like our lips or one eye, because we are not camwhores or anything, oh no, we are very dignified and secure women who are certainly not seeking compliments. We just want people to know what our left eye looks like and then a week later, our pouty, moist lips. I certainly have never done anything like that.
And which of us hasn't tried to drop some kind of hint about our femaleness in a comment about something completely unrelated? "I loved 300! Even though I was the only girl in the theater!" "Those are all very clever T-shirts. Do you think the ironic LOLcat one would look good on me, a girl? It would have to go over my boobs."
One of my earliest topics on the PWOT (now Cracked) forums was called, "Do you think I'm fat?" with a picture of me attempting to look cute. See, it wasn't attention whoring because it was a joke, get it? Because girls always ask if they're fat. I was totally just being ironic, right? I think everyone's forgotten about it by now, but I'm still living that down in my head.
Rough approximation of that photo give or take 50-pounds.
And what woman hasn't gotten upset when someone referred to her as a "he" and then went overboard correcting it? "I'm a `he'? Well my boobs, vagina, ovaries, higher risk of osteoporosis and potential ability to bear children all seem to disagree with you! I just checked, and all of those things are still there! Hell, I am scanning in a birth certificate and my passport as we speak. You sexist dumb shit."
If we don't do it now, I'm sure we all did something like it when we were younger. Everybody's got self-esteem issues, everyone needs attention. validation and to feel special. It's hypocritical to pretend women who screw up and make fools of themselves online are a separate species completely disconnected from you. In fact, the worst way to get stuck in those behaviors is to pretend you're completely past it or never experienced it.
Sure, some people do these things way too much, and need to be reminded to rein it in. But when we start acting like we're above it and forget that's where we all come from, we're going to end up as self-righteous bitches. And that's worse than any attention whore.
Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.
To further understand denizens of the Internet, check out 5 Ways to Stop Trolls From Killing the Internet and The 11 Most Common (And Sad) Internet Argument Techniques.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 04.23.2010) to see see an actual woman. On the Internet! Shit!