2004-09-22

Have you ever lost a friend through blogging?

Warning: 4,359 words. Super long blog entry, make some coffee and sandwiches first.

Once upon a time, there was an average girl studying in a average institution. At her tender age, she has yet to define what she wants in life, and without a drive to propel her to move distances, she was just another girl on the streets. A nobody.

Just like how the average person without goals functions, she lived her life by the day. A day is but a day to pass - and as usual she was entertaining herself by participating in mIRC chats with strangers. That day, normal as it was, had a little treat for her. She was delighted with what, or rather, who, she found on IRC that day.

It was Ian*.

They took off very well. Ian intrigued her with his vast bank of knowledge, and his excellent use of words. By society's definition, Ian was - as she immediately recognized - an intellect.

She loved talking to him, and him she. They discussed ideas, joked, and laughed. All in all, she treated Ian as a mentor, someone who she thought very highly of. Well, Ian was 26, studying in the university she couldn't get into, and he was taking his honours while excelling among his peers. She absorbed in many life lessons during the growth of their friendship, and she was especially delighted when Ian helped her score 83 marks during a take-home assignment she had to do.

Meanwhile, she thought that Ian must be enjoying teaching her as well, for her numerous sincere praises for him should be a nice exchange for his wisdom - though insufficient in contrast.

Slowly and surely, their friendship grew in a peculiar way - a teacher-and-student cum friends relationship if words were forced to describe it. Yet, Ian showed loyalty and protectiveness towards her, and she silently appreciated it. Friendship was of utmost importance to her, and she was grateful that she found Ian. She was that way. She fiercely protects all of her friends. If you are lucky enough to be considered one of them, she will stay loyal forever - sometimes to a silly extent.

In exchange she requests for a fierce loyalty from her friends too, and that they accept her as she is. If she traces any ounce of phoniness, bam! goes the friendship. She is honest, frank, and sometimes to the extent of blunt and tactless - but that's the way she is. In exchange, she welcomes brutal honesty back, without complain.

How lucky she was, to find a dream friend like Ian in this hypocritical era!

Ian also had a website. A simple, white, clean affair where he writes all his thoughts and feelings. Ian told her that this is called a "blog", and that "blog"s are all in the rage now!

She was malleable and impressionable. If Ian says blogs are good, then she should get one as well!

So she started blogging.

She wasn't internet savvy, and it wasn't easy. It was Ian who held her hand all the way. He taught her how to edit her HTMLs; he edited them for her even. What? She never knew that pictures in website needed to be 'hosted'! No problem of course, Prof Ian was there to help her. He hosted her background for her.

And she really started blogging.

How she loved it!

How good it felt, to siphon your thoughts into organized, clear lines of computer fonts! How nice it was, to write whatever she wanted, and be able to view them much later to see how she had once thought!

She discovered her love for writing through blogging.

She loved finding the exact words to describe how she felt, and she loved being able to express her feelings into a clear, concise sentence for others to understand her thoughts. Writing was an easy, natural task for her. If you asked her, she would tell you with her usual blatant tones that she did not understand why anyone would complain about writing being a chore at all.

And she was surprised at how much she enjoyed writing. All her life, writing has never been her forte. Her only means of comparison was her secondary school classmates, and they were the elite! She sincerely believed that the best amongst them could spell out the whole dictionary of words if he wanted to! One close friend even got accused of plagiarism at the age of 15 by a school teacher - how impressive is that?

Her clean, simple style of writing pales in comparison. In school compositions, she comes in second at best. She had begun to think that that was the correct way to write, and it dulls the joy of writing for her if she has to write in a format she dislikes.

But she knew what she was good at, if not writing! It was art - drawing, crafts, paintings! She knew she was good because people praised her every time she picked up a paintbrush.

She did not love art per se, but loved the generous sweet compliments coming after that.

As such, she was conditioned to feel good every time she draw, or painted. Was this also equivalent to the love for painting?

How different it is, she thought. The love for painting stems from being good at it, and the love for writing is there, just there.

She blogged whole-heartedly. Every single day, she put in efforts to make her blog a true reflection of her life. She did not want to look back at her diary and see it full of lies of course. Who cares about blogging for marketing? There were only two people reading her blog - one was a close classmate of hers, and the other was Ian.

These two people would not judge her!

She injects as much colour and humour into her site, because she feels that the world is disgustingly morbid as it is. She cannot understand why some people would chose to wallow in self-depression! Surely being happy is the key to a fulfilling life?

She wanted to get laughter from anyone who happens to read her. It's ok, she told herself, even if they were laughing at her and not with her. It is alright! Her intentions were purely respectable, and if there were people who wanted to mock her, then so be it! They have proven to be beneath her. She has tried to make them smile, at the expense of her own dignity sometimes, but if they remain mirthless she cannot force them to laugh.

And she was shocked. When she put up a guestbook on the third day the blog was set up, a few comments popped up - from complete strangers - telling her that her blog was funny and well-written.

Perhaps "pleasantly surprised" would be too mild to describe her feelings. She was delighted to see people telling her she is a good writer, because she has rarely heard that compliment before. Did she discover one new talent?

Meanwhile, the one person whom she could talk to regarding blogging would be Ian. Ian, being the friend he was, told her he agreed she was doing a good job and gave her encouragements.

Her readership grew.

Within 1 month, her readership reached two, three hundred visitors a day. Clearly, people loved her writings, or at least they were interested enough to have a look. If a blog's success if judged by popularity, then hers is a successful blog.

He gave her advice on how to write her blog (for instance her blog entries were ridiculously long and she should keep it to his length) and she took some, and left some.

She felt a change in Ian gradually. In his compliments, if there were any, was a tinge of him being slightly incredulous about her blogging. Sure, he still said she is funny, but merely in a manner reminiscent of the teacher-student relationship they had. Just like a teacher praising a student, it suggests that no matter how well the student scored, the teacher could always be better - because a teacher is always better.

When she expressed that this blog could really become a big thing, he was skeptical.

She was disappointed.

But she understood how he would have felt. His writing was much better than hers, supposedly. Why should she get so many readers? Is society's judgement of "good writing" wrong, or are all the readers deluded?

It became clear what Ian thought.

One day, Ian called her up. In a solemn voice, he told that her blog was read by all his peers in his college.

Honour students they were, he said, and nice, smart people. Ian told her that his peers, around 20 of them, had a gathering, and her blog was talked about.

It wasn't good news.

These friends of his believed sincerely that the online entity portrayed in her blog, the real, true her, was totally phony. In other words - they said with disgust - this blog was written by someone with the sole purpose of wanting to get attention, and all that are written are fictitious. If such a person were to exist, they said, then she must be a total bitch anyway.

She was used to being misunderstood by now. That's the price of being a writer. To write and let no one misinterpret even a small paragraph of text is almost impossible. It is inevitable! If each individual interprets the same meaning from a story, then surely Literature is not a subject to discuss at all?

She brushed off his serious tones and told him that she doesn't mind the misunderstanding by his friends, and it is no problem with her at all.

The solution was simple to her: He was to tell his friend they were wrong! She is not a fictitious creature, and she did not lie in her blog, and she was most certainly not a bitch to him.

At least, that would be what she would have done for Ian. Without second thoughts. She would have defended him - if not for loyalty as friend, then for simple JUSTICE.

But no. Disappointedly, Ian merely nodded along with his friends. He did not try to convince them that she was totally not the person they were talking about.

Why? Because they look down on her, and he is afraid to contradict them. Prima donnas do not respect such writing. She is funny, crude, and sometimes committing big fallacies in her blog. Why not anyway, it's her blog and her freedom!

But Ian's friends, regimented by society's reins, will never appreciate a person like her. Just because they are being regarded as intellects, or the "highs" of society, they take it that they can look down on people who are different from them.

They chide, they jeer, and they think they are the best - but they fail to realize one simple cliche often used: -

They laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at them because they are all the same.

She thought Ian had accepted her for who she is, but she was clearly mistaken. Why, why wasn't he defending her? She would have done that for him!

He masked this motive of his by giving her an ultimatum - that she should change and stop behaving in this "childish" and distasteful manner FOR HER OWN GOOD, or ...

He didn't exactly say or what, but when she said there is no way she is going to close down her blog as it is her sweat, blood and pride, he then requested for her to take down his web link from her blog.

That link was the one that he put in himself - the one link that was there since the start of her blog. His decision to put it in, and now he wants to take it out.

She cried. She was so hurt that a friend would be ashamed of her, and so shocked.

He said that they could still be friends, don't cry! It is just that he ... he ... is scared that his future boss might see that he is associated with her, and he doesn't want that. Nor does he want his friends to know that he knows her.

That's NOT the way friends function! This is not correct at all!

"If," she enquired angrily of him. "One day, your friend decides to become a prostitute, will you fail to acknowledge her too?"

His answer was a yes.

She said, between sobs, that that was not what she would have done. If her friend became a prostitute, she would never be ashamed of her friend just because of the occupation she has. If anyone were to insult her friend, she would stand by her friend and tell the "insulter" that although she is a whore, she is a lovely person.

He argued otherwise and said that no! People judge you by the company you keep, and he is not taking chances.

Scum like this, she thought, it's no pity losing him at all. And what's more, the indignant part of it all lies in the fact that she was NOT WHAT THE FRIENDS SAID SHE IS! One simple clarification from him would have done the trick, but did he bother?

"So," she asked, "If we meet on the streets one day you are going to pretend not to know me?"

He answered in the affirmative.

She thought about this the whole night. Was it worth it, her blog, to make her lose friends in this manner?

She really wanted to take his advice to shut down her blog, and reclaim his friendship.

She very almost did it.


But she made up her mind. He was just an asshole only thinking of himself. If that is the way he treats friends, then she shall not need him. He can, she thought angrily to herself, jolly well work under a BOSS for the rest of his life, that rigid little rag.

He can remain superficial friends with the "company" that he has chosen specially for others to judge him by.

How saddening it is, she thought, that society molds humans into this certain form that they should be? Why let social norms force you to make decisions you do not want?

She told herself she is NEVER gonna become a person like him. These people are precisely those that will stab a friend in the back if the friend is in his way of being promoted. She is not like that, and will never be.

*

That was 1 year ago.

Now, her blog is famous. The very same blog that Ian had been skeptical about, the very same writing that he said was disgraceful, had made it.

It was now the most popular Singapore blog, and she, as no other person as done, has been interviewed on the Straits Times as a blogger. If anyone were to say "Singaporean Blogger", then surely her name will surface.

Though many beg to differ, one has to admit that mass appeal IS power. Many dislike her, but so what? Many love her too. And besides, to be able to create emotions with writing is formidable as it is.

If that day, she had taken his advice to close down her blog, she would still be a nothing now. An absolute nothing.

She thought back a little:

She was chosen to intern at Today because her lecturers saw her blog, and that's where she learnt so much.

She is now working for a comfortable salary because her boss saw talents through her musings.

If she had taken his advice, she would be an average Jane slogging away in an admin job now, most likely.

She would not be earning money for doing photo-editing freelance because she would not have even bothered to learn photoshop - or even if she did would have no platform to showcase her talents.

She would not have many numerous valuable friends, and gotten so many good suggestions and encouragements.

She would not have grown to be indifferent to selfish comments directed to her by bitter, cynical people. She foresees herself as being far more juvenile and naive as she is right now.

Her writing would not have improved and she would not be writing freelance for newspapers.

IF SHE HAD TOOK HIS ADVICE. But she didn't.

She chewed on her nail and thought to herself - at least now she is somebody.


*


Ian was gone from her life for one whole year. Suddenly, with regards to her one entry on how she regrets going to JC instead of poly, he resurfaced.

His mail went like this:

Saturday, September 18, 2004
I've screwed up my life
i dunno if it's cos i read it at 6am but i thought this has GOT to be the best thing i've seen on your blog ever since u set it up... (with my help of cos, on that fateful night, altho i've perpetually failed to see any mention and/or credit to dear old me)

not cos it's self-slamming, but because it was so fuckin brutally HONEST i swear to god i'm just abt to cry (but i didnt) countless nights i've sat with my ex-nus-classmates at zouk's wine bar, nursing drinks. all of us are corporate whores now, discussin the newest industry trends, stock options, who's gettin married, who just bought a new house, who just bought a new car, and all that inane crap.
just as often, in those occasional solemn moments, we talk about how fuckin lucky we are, that we are on the right side of the system, the cold unforgivin singapore education system. cos we made single digit points at O lvls, and made it to nus, and graduated with honors. that's why we're sittin here havin the drinks, not behind the bar mixing it

and i read this entry.

and for the first time, i'm seeing this from the perspective of one who's on the other side of the system. i cannot claim to be holy or that i feel your pain, but it was introspective, and it was real,and it was fuckin painfully brutally honest. and i felt it.

i dunno if u'd think much of this at all, but i personally felt this one single post re-defined your website, your blog, your life. but heck, what do i know? maybe all that obnoxcious bullshit that was on there all along was merely a second persona or a false front. i dunno, i remember a conversation once between me and a friend that went like this

friend (A) : hey dya read
xiaxue.com?
me : yeah, it's kinda entertaining
A : fuckin funny man,
that chick's sucha loser
me : errr ok
A: comon!! it's really quite
funny!! she has no fuckin idea people are laughing AT her and not WITH her!!
me : i dunno, i kinda know her, i read her blog and i thought it's kinda
sad, that everythin on that website, is her tryin to be sumthin she's not..
A: duh, watever, i jus think it's funny
me: ...

then i read this entry, and i just SO felt it, that this was a real person who was writin somethin, pourin her heart out, albeit on a publicly-accessible forum, and everything that entry encompassed was a TRUE reflection of an actual human being. my shrink told me once, he said "Admittin u have a problem is the 1st step to recovery" i dunno if that statement by Dr. Ang is appropriate in these circumstances, but i do hope things work out for ya.

u don't have to reply this email if u choose not to, it's aight. i understand, sum things work out, some things don't.

and with this, i wish you the best, in all your future endavours. and in your life.

yours,
Ian*
(Prof Ian)

ps: i'd really appreciate it if this email was not reproduced in any form on the blog. this is a personal thing btw 2 human beings, Ian and wendy.



*

Here is her response to him:

Dear Ian,

I feel very happy for you that you spend your weekends wasted, thinking about how lucky you are to be able to spend your corporate cash on drinks which will spoil your liver and, amazingly, while doing that, add some money to the (pitiful) bartender's wallet.

No doubt, you are living a fulfilling life - I say, good for you.

However, I would have to correct you on your point that it is "painful" to be on my side of the system - if there were sides to begin with.

I do not seem to feel the 'pain' that you are talking about. Maybe you have misunderstood me, but I did not say that I am upset because I failed, due to my incompetence, to enter the "right side of the system". I am here, on this side, because I chose to be. I merely expressed regrets that my full potential (which is so huge it will engulf you!) is not realized because regimented bastards like you judge according to papers.

It was a nice little snippet of conversation you showed me between that twerp of a friend you have and yourself.

BUT I AM NOT INTERESTED.

Who is your friend? I don't know him. Does he know me? Oh, he does! But he is a nobody to me and I do not care what he says. *polite smile*

I would say that it was a nice little internet friendship that we had, but I would not say we were exactly close.

Therefore, when you mentioned that I am trying to be someone I am not, I hope an intellectual person like you will realize that that statement in itself is impossible. If I am always someone I am not, then you will not know who I really am. If you do not know who I really am, then how do you know that I am not who I am portraying myself to be?


Ah, a little confusing, but surely someone with an honours degree, which definitely (no doubt about it!) equates to brilliance, will manage to untangle?

Please do not speak as if you know me very well, because you clearly do not. I feel it's an insult to my mother, because she knows me the best, and at times when I am acting like I am not very smart, but in fact I really am, she doesn't even say that statement to me.

While we are at the topic of acting phony - I profusely apologize that, well, I AM that "obnoxcious" bullshit that you are talking about. That's totally me. Weird how you didn't say it is "obnoxcious" until your preppy friends started saying so huh?

Regarding the non-existent problem you were speaking of ... what is it? Oops, I forgot - it doesn't exist. Shrinks are often like that aren't they? Coming up with weird stuff. Oh but how would I know? I cannot afford to do to shrinks, no sir! Only the elites, the bureaucrats, like yourself sir!, would go to psychiatrists. The rest of us insignificant humans will swallow our problems. =(

Thank you for nothing, Ian. Your email, a loosely-masked attempt to try to tell me that you feeeeeeeel PAINFUL for my miserable life because I am not doing as well as you (how's your BOSS?), was truly a remarkable insight. I will take your advice!

Meanwhile, let me tell you something:

Shove that sympathy of yours up your boss' tight virgin ass.

If you ask me, in ten years' time you will be, to your credit, one of the higher ranking government workers. You will still be a nobody, unfortunately.

I quote Shianux: "He's the sort of people who will push paper till he is 45, after which he'll be retrenched by the Government. He has no skills to survive in the private sector". Shianux also cruelly added, may I inform you since you also nicely informed me what your friend said, "it is all the more noble and glorious to have fought and failed in the battleground of private enterprise than to have a mediocre existence being a slave to the state."

Oh no, I don't know whether what Shianux said is appropriate to the topic at hand.

Ask me, Ian, whether I would love to trade places with you now. Of course I would jump at the chance! I'd love to have people to all think I am smart and well-educated for once. But only as smart as the average graduate! Eh? That's it? Then no thanks.

Can you make 3,000 people read you a day? Try as you might, you cannot. Can I take your course in University, excel in it and finally replace you at your job? Yes, I can.

MUAHAHHAHA DO YOU FEEL MY POWER NOW? I can link you up (the horrors, what if your boss sees it?!) and there is nothing you can do about it but be fired! Oh no! What if everyone associates you with scum like me? Let's hope your boss is not as judgmental as you are, and that I am kind (which lucky for you I am).

(Isn't it weird how some people want to pay me to link them up, but some people pee in their ironed pants at the very thought?)

No way am I being conceited sir, that's not my intentions! I know I have a long way to go, and I will learn, sir, yes I will. But sir, I am different from you and the rest of the contented crowd at the right side of the system sir! I want to be the best at what I do!

All the best for your future "endavours" too!

Oh yeah. I cannot understand why you have the cheek to claim "credit" for my blog's success since you were the oNE WHO ASKED TO ME SHUT IT DOWN YOU MUTHAFUCKING BASTARD.

I'm so glad I didn't.

Love,
Her

p/s: oops, I already published it! Sorry! But I changed your name see?


*

The End.

*Names have been changed to protect the bastard.

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