We see both the good and the bad with the Internet. The positive aspect is that we have the ability to interact with people from all over the world. In years past, the BDSM connections were limited to local munches that were advertised in some of the non-mainstream publications. The society was much more closed at that time with an invite often being required. People commonly referred single people to others in an effort to help facilitate connections. In short, it was a difficult road to travel.
At the same time, the standard was higher in the sense that one knew whomever was involved was genuine to this way of life. People were truly 'lifestyle' in the sense that this was not something they played with. The difficulty in meeting and interacting with others meant that few were playing games. One's approach was that of sincerity and openness since the need to protect oneself was not as great. Certainly, safety in scenes was always a concern. However, one did not question the validity of a dom or sub that was encountered at a munch.
The Internet radically altered that landscape. Today, we are more visible. This enabled many more people to find this way of life who previously would be precluded. A distinct advantage was gained by everyone in the community by this widespread acceptance. The anonymity of this medium enables people to be open about who they are without jeopardizing their 'vanilla' situations. We are opening the minds of many people who are now realizing the wonderful benefits to this life.
Sadly, this came with a major price. It is a simple fact that one has no clue who he or she is dealing with when interacting online. The same anonymity which protects one from the outside world also enables one to hide from those of us inside the lifestyle. Many create facades which in no way resemble who they are. A persona can be created in a matter of minutes. It is that easy. Of course, those who are experienced often are able to see through these games. However, the newer people do not have the same advantage. The bottom line is that everyone needs to be approached with a degree of suspicion because it is truly impossible to know who is on the other end of the World Wide Web.
Another drawback to the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice. Of course, on the surface this is a terrific thing to have happen. Today, we are exposed to the opinions and viewpoints of many people. This can be most helpful to those seeking knowledge. The experience of others is invaluable to a newer person first approaching this lifestyle. For that reason, we welcome all input.
Nevertheless, there is a price to be paid. The online world does not discriminate. By that I mean that nobody is screened regarding their credentials. Anyone can express their opinions in open forums. Many are skilled at making it appear to be experience. However, just because one states it, that does not make it correct. There is a great deal of misinformation that is transmitted out there. And, sadly, people take it as fact.
A big part of the problem is the 'online know-it-alls'. There are those who are regulars on forums and posting sites who pass their knowledge off as gospel. While much of the information might be accurate, the truth is that oftentimes these individuals are nothing more than parrots. The Internet is full of people who do nothing more than read what is posted on other sites and transmit this to others. I, personally, have seen my posts cut and pasted under the name of another. While this is helpful in a text book fashion, in an ongoing dialogue it is worthless since the individual is expressing no experience.
As was mentioned before, just because one states it, that does not make it true. I see so many who call themselves 'slaves'. They proclaim to be living in a M/s relationship. However, this might not be accurate. Some believe that it is up to an individual(s) to live as they see fit. I agree with that idea. But, I do not agree that everything is open to interpretation. For example, to be a M/s relationship, there needs to be a Master and a slave. In my opinion, to qualify as a slave, one must be submissive. This simple fact seems to elude many of those online. If you read what they write, it appears they are the ones in control of their relationship. This is not what submission is about. Yet these same 'slaves' will spend hours online counseling others. Absurdity at its finest.
Another situation we encounter is the 20 something crowd who states they have a ton of experience. Seriously, how many people find this lifestyle at the age of 14 or 15. While I acknowledge there are a few, most do not find it until their late 20s or 30s. We simply do not start the search until we have enough realization that the traditional path doesn't work. This takes time. A decade of experience cannot be smashed into a year or two. It is impossible.
Nevertheless, the online world has the know-it-alls who are barely out of college stating what is fact and fiction. They espouse all their wonderful experience. Of course, their present relationship is referred to continually as what the standard is. There are never any problems with them. Everything is peaches and cream. This is the first sign that these people are not dealing in reality. Relationships of any kind are difficult. A BDSM relationship is no exception. Sadly, these people do not point this fact out.
The bottom line is that any information you encounter needs to be cross-referenced with other ideas that are out there. Whenever you are interacting with someone, search out all he or she wrote. Read the words and concepts espoused over a period of months or years. Is there consistency or not? Does what this person says make sense? Do not overlook the value of commonsense in filtering out the crap. If one says she is 23 yet has a decade of BDSM experience, how likely is that? Ask yourself these questions. They will save you a lot of emotional turmoil.
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