I’m INFJ, which means I like to read people. I’m also opinionated, stubborn, judgemental,  and I think I’m always right. I have all these intuitive ideas and gut feelings that make me like or hate people on sight, and once I’ve made my mind up, it’s really hard to change.

I spend a lot of time online. I’m one of the ‘ancients’ of Twitter, having joined in 2007 (even though I’ve had five different accounts and periodically delete them over beef). I also know a lot of bloggers from 2005 BT – Before Twitter. The thing with online interactions is you (and by you, I mean me) form virtual images of people. You look at their avatars, read their blogs, review their tweets, and decide the kind of person you think they are.

If you’re like me, you build up mental composites based on those ideas. And if you’re like me, the composites lead to imaginary friendships, crushes, and ostracism. There are people I’ve talked to and even dated based on who I thought they were. There are others I have refused to meet on the same criteria.

The thing about instinct is it’s awesome when it’s right. It’s a vindicating feeling when your secret hunch pays off. But it’s painfully disorienting when you’re wrong. In the course of my online life, I’ve met people who sounded awesome in the virtual world, but ended up being something else completely. It screwed me up so badly that I gave up on tweet-ups entirely. (Also, I’m not much good with crowds. Utterly asocial.)

But what really messes my head is when I accidentally meet someone that I had sworn to hate. I’ve bumped into people at work, in the hospital, and even at family gatherings. We got along great and totally hit it off until they said, ‘Oh, you’re on Twitter? I’m @xyz. What’s your handle?’ My general response is ‘Aw fuck’.

I’ve been immensely disappointed to find that the deep, beautiful poet is an ordinary, rather boring guy; the charmingly hot adonis is all looks and no conversational skills; the bubbly socialite is cold, distant and aloof; the resident ice maiden is the sweetest girl in the world; the online bad-mouth is an absolute gentleman; the big-wig is the most down-to-earth person I’ve ever met; the irreverent trouble-maker has zero charisma; the #KOT heart-throb is too shy to look me in the eye; the online intellectual is dumb as a brick; and worst of all, the king of stupid, tasteless jokes has a genius-level IQ.

Totally unrelated, Nick Mutuma. Because, eye candy. Sigh. Moving on swiftly.

Of course you could claim they were acting when they met you, and that their online persona is the true self they hide from the world. Anything’s possible. But it still leaves me confused and distressed. For me, everything is connected, so if I’m wrong about one thing, what else could I be wrong about? It feels like the entire fabric of my existence has been shaken.

When I end up liking someone I had virtually sworn to hate, it makes me wonder how many more awesome people I’ve missed out on. I end up wondering whether I’m vain and shallow, like some people say I am. But worst of all, I end up doubting every subsequent instinct, including the ones that could save my life.

The other extreme is distaste by association. For example, if I’ve been friends with Jackie all my life, and Jackie tells me she hates George, then I automatically take her side. So when I finally meet George in person and adore him, then I question a whole lot of things.

Am I betraying Jackie by liking someone she hates? Am I too blind or stupid to see George’s nasty habits? And what if Jackie is wrong about George? What else is she wrong about? Maybe she misinformed me on purpose. What else has she lied to me about?

For me, when I decide someone is unlike-able then end up liking them, it disturbs me on lots of different levels. I question the very foundation of my thought process and have headaches for days. Conversely, when someone I thought was a friend ends up being an asshole, I wonder how I could have been so wrong.

When the latter happens, I crawl into a cocoon and just avoid people for months. I’m shit scared of being hurt like that again. But in the end, the fear passes. If I cared about the person enough, I unconsciously pretend it never happened. But every word they speak is laced with unseen grams of doubt, and I never quite treat them – or myself – in the same way.

Maybe growing up is about being open minded and slow to judge. Maybe I should accept that some of the coolest people have flaws, and some of the meanest people like puppies. I know I take myself too seriously, and maybe what I really need to do is let go of that part of me that is so terrified of not being right.

♫ Incomplete ♫ Alanis Morissette


135 thoughts on “Better The Devil You Don’t Know?

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