Trusting People on the Internet is Hard

 

Trusting People on the Internet is Hard

I’m Exhausted. I’m Also Angry. I also don’t have much energy to give, let alone trust these days. #TrustNoOne

Every time I go to click the Twitter shortcut link or app, I wonder what fucked up crazy is going to happen. I’ve been on the internet since almost the beginning. I used applications like AOL and CompuServe. I used to hang out in the Flirts’ Nook on AOL. I was once a chat host to get my internet for free.

Way back then, I was naïve. Sometimes, I still am. I have seen so much shit on the internet that some days I’m shocked I’m still using it.

I took people at text value then. Now, I question every fucking thing unless I get the gut-feeling to go ahead and offer the benefit of the doubt*. Sometimes, another person is my gut-feeling. If I’m unsure, I’ll turn to someone I trust for insight. I see people through my own lens and sometimes that lens is clouded with distrust. For many good reasons.

Back then, I felt why would anyone have a reason to lie? The internet is a great place to be yourself or discover who you are. And yet, people lied. Specifically, to hurt others. It’s still happening.

Once upon a time, in a Flirt’s Nook social circle, someone confessed. They had led us all to believe they were disabled and poor until they couldn’t take the guilt any longer. The person told us they were able-bodied and they weren’t poor and, to be honest, I don’t remember many of the details. Many of us were hurt. I was fucking hurt. I had trusted this person. I had been honest with this person and not only did they lie, they cheated actual disabled people. How many people in that group would believe another person stating that they are disabled without proof?

24 years on the internet and not one damn thing feels like it’s changed. People are still lying, cheating, and stealing.

This wasn’t the first time someone did horrible things for whatever the reason (never a good reason) and it won’t be the last.

I used to meet people from the internet all the time, too. Luckily, no one meant me harm. I still meet people from the internet, but now I’m way more cautious.

People have hurt me face to face. Lying, cheating, stealing. It’s one of the many reasons I stay single. It’s one of the many reasons I don’t have many friends. It’s the main reason why I’m private and appear shy when I first meet someone whether online or in real life. How much benefit of the doubt* can I give you? stays in my head.

One thing I love about my Sisters in Smut? We come together and say “hey, do you know this person? Have you communicated with them? What vibes did they give off?” Sometimes, we trust someone enough to communicate and support them, other times we aren’t sure which way to go. Without my group, I wouldn’t have many of the amazing people I do in my online and real life.

Take the lovely Queen of Smut, Jayne Renault for example. When she busted into my Twitter DMs with her pink-hair goddess avatar, I was like ‘is this for real? Who is this pink-haired person? Are they really a female/presenting-female or a cis male pretending to be female?’

Translation: Is this a predator in some variation, and if so, what kind of predator am I dealing with?

Seriously, I had a million questions. Jayne is the best example I can ever give of how little trust I have for the internet any longer. I asked Dr. J. before proceeding to communicate. And now Jayne is forever bonded in my soul, entangled in my roots, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better to pester with stupid questions. Once Dr. J. gave me a green light, I dove in head first. I was tentative but myself.

Everyone knows Mischa Eliot is a pen name I use (same with M. J. Spencer). There are reasons people of all genders use pen names. Erotica and Romance authors who use them tend to do so for safety reasons. This is the sad world we live in. Everyone knows that I’m a white cis female and those who have met me in person can attest to that being true. I don’t hide this about myself because I don’t have to do so.

I no longer trust implicitly. I’ve associated and supported people who have turned out to not be allies at all. Not for women, not for Pride. And it hurts knowing I said ‘yes, support them, yes, talk to them, they are safe.’ When it turned out to be the complete opposite. It’s painful knowing that I may have put people in a position to be harmed.

There are men who write erotica and romance under pen names. Some of those men present themselves as women on social media.

I didn’t know Sorcha Rowan well. We communicated once in a blue moon. Sorcha was one of those people I gave the benefit of the doubt* to and I waited. I always got a little twinge. Something not quite right, but I put it aside and said ‘just sit there and wait’.

And then everything exploded.

We’re all left to pick up the pieces. Many will have therapy sessions to help them process the trauma perpetrated by Sorcha. And then there are those who won’t trust anyone new for a very long time.

Sorcha did these things out of pleasure for himself. This MAN presented as female. This CIS MAN DARED TO PRESENT as a woman who loves women. He took advantage of this persona to humiliate and sexually assault others. As a sex-positive, enthusiastic-consent supporting, author of smutty works – this cannot be slid under the fucking rug. Anyone who supports this MAN is not a friend. They are not to be trusted.

They’re the ones trying to gaslight us into believing it was taken out of context, that we misread the meaning, or any other thing they can come up with to protect the predator. This is not the first time a predator has hidden in the writing community to utilize it as a way to facilitate their needs and it won’t be the last. It’s time to be vigilant. Reach out to your group. Check on your people.

And also, I implore you. Please, if something is happening to you, find someone you trust to talk to. If you know something about someone, find someone you trust who can bring it into the light. How many have suffered alone because of people like Sorcha, thinking they were the only one?

We’re a community and we are stronger together. We can remove these predators together. Find your people. Share your stories. Save the screenshots.

*-enough rope to hang themselves with


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