I have an easier time hanging out with digital people than I do with real people. Digital people are easy to understand. Their motives are clear. If they like me, they tell me. If they don’t like me, they tell me that as well, usually accompanied by a laundry list of reasons.

I know which people I’m supposed to dislike in games. If they gaslight me, they gaslight me in such a way that even I, thick as I am, understand that they’re manipulating me.

Likewise, people made of bytes make it very clear to me when they like me or love me. It’s not unusual for their love, like or dislike, to be accompanied by a gauge or progress bar, stating that, yes, this person does love you.

In real life I struggle with understanding cues. I’ve been told I’m “brutal”, “contrary” and “difficult”, most of it without explanation as to why that was. It bugs me. If I had a progress bar or a gauge together with that laundry list of faults that I am without a doubt in possession of, I could change. I could fix my behavior.

If people I’ve chosen to have relationships with hadn’t been set on manipulating me to thing that most things, maybe all the things were my own fault, maybe I could have defended myself better.

But people are people with their subtle hints and minor indications and total lack of progress bars and laundry lists, which is why I feel much safer in a digital world.

If things get to be too much, if I feel awkward or if emotional roller coasters are too intense, I can just turn them all off, like a lamp. One moment they’re too bright, the next I feel safe in the dark. Real people don’t work that way.