The following is a bit of a ramble, and a bit of processing, about the threads of my various online social environments (the ship, usenet, and LJ) so I'm putting it behind a cut to preserve your choice.
I remember that it was during the weekend I pretty much hit rock bottom during the Biblical bleeding (forty days and forty nights) and it proved to be a lifeline during the long slow recovery. It kept my mind going; I remember watching the then-running threads about the California recall process and the ECUSA convention's actions about Gene Robinson with great interest, even though I was too fogged to speak up on my own. (And given what a dyed-in-the-wool California political junkie I am, that was saying something.) And it provided a spiritual refuge at a time when I was way too exhausted to drag my ass to church for Episcopal Pew Aerobics. (Although in hindsight I may have been just able to handle 8 am at St. Mark's at some point.) It was a Seriously Good Thing to have people praying for me.
Because I had crazy people cyberstalking me at the time, who were looking for any info on me and posting it in a distorted way on one of my newsgroups, I adopted a nom de guerre, for the first time in my Internet history. This turned out to be very, very freeing. I was still Being a Grownup (in other words, I wasn't taking my crap out on people online, which is something I see all the time and respect very little), but I could drop the Stiff Upper Lip. I could get some support.
It was incredibly refreshing to see a place that had basic and fair rules and, what is more important, a mechanism for enforcing them. Break the rule, get warned. Keep going after an official warning, get booted, either temporarily or permanently. Getting personal with someone was tolerated, but only in one small section of the board. What a relief after Usenet. I am, like, sooooo not surprised that web-based forums of some kind (including blog comments, which are often editable by the blog owner) are What It Is on the net right now.
As I got more comfortable with the environment (dragged myself out in August for a meet-and-greet with the locals) and started getting ever so slightly better physically, I came to appreciate just what a relief it was, and just how much I had been Putting Up With that was just utterly bullshit, and how many of my cycles I had been expending on the defense.
Not-quite-a-year later, when I was more or less physically better and back on Usenet, one of the other groups sort of blew up in my direction. I had done something that was Not A Good Thing For Me To Do, but it was magnified by a couple of people who were carrying axes, and had a history of Fighting-By-Screaming-The-House-Down, and a whole bunch of people fighting a big nasty proxy battle with M. by dumping all over me.
I had to ask him to stop because it was kicking me in the gut.
I went away from the computer for about a week (my birthday weekend visit to Sandy Eggo and my brother) and took some time Away. In some ways I felt like 1995, when ba.singles imploded and I felt betrayed by people I had opened up to, but in other ways I was in much better shape because I had the Alternative Online Social Outlet at the ready. I did find out who my real pals were from that group. (Which is always a tough lesson, but makes me appreciate those people even more.)
Not too long after I got back from SoCal, I wandered into St. Mark's for early service, and the rest was history. I say that the Ship was one of the major things pushing me back into more involvement with a worship community; I know that I had been exploring the issue of getting more involved, SOMEWHERE, beforehand, but I was really hungry for a real life community to complement the online one I was experiencing. And LJ provided a quite unexpected boost to that (wave at Susan and Dave) - hey, I just signed up so I could read my best friend's protected entries!
It was a lot of work to keep it going. It was work to not get sucked into the spirals of people who were just spoiling for a fight. It was temptation, to be sure, but in my moral (or whatever you want to call it) code, the fact that I *can* control myself obligates me to *do so* given a body of evidence that the other party *can't*.
I decided to try to give up online negativity for Lent, so unsubscribed from a couple of Usenet groups, and basically haven't been pulled back much into usenet since. When I get the time to try to catch up (which is increasingly rare these days as I am Busy Doing Other Things), little or nothing floats my boat in the exploded group (it's more or less the same old, same old), so I drift off again. I do try to keep up in a couple other groups, but they're high volume so it's mostly "clean up".
I know that I am carrying scars around from the whole blowup episode (it's one of those things where I knew there were kooks in one group, but I wasn't expecting that kind of behaviour from people in the other) and am exploring my options for Getting Over It, because It's High Time and it is The Right Thing To Do (forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us). Turns out (as someone else from that group added herself to my flist, and I popped over and read her journal) there was a big discussion about why the group was a shadow of its former self on a journal I normally read, but it was when I was Out of Pocket in New and Improved Mexico (with the Ship people) so I didn't see it. Probably just as well, all things considered. Since some of the people involved were a lot of the reason I left, it may have been too much for me in my pre-vacation state. (The vacation was nice and helped re-align my brain cells.)
The other thing I need to work on is building relationships back up with the people I have lost touch with who are not in my blog pocket and who I would really like to keep up with. Because I have a bad habit of letting people drop and drift away and that's not a good thing.