Let’s get real
Roseville’s Damn, Girl and her blog babies take MySpace to a new dimension
It’s not often that a blue, hairy, pear-shaped being with horns gives you a tip on a story. But Sully (the “avatar,” or online identity of my anonymous source who borrowed it freely from the movie Monsters, Inc.) was adamant. When it comes to social networking in real time, Damn, Girl has the goods.
Damn, Girl is the handle of Cara Peralta, 40, a trial attorney and mother of four from “Damn Roseville” who last November began blogging about her disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend on MySpace. The rockier the relationship got, the more people began reading her blog. Pretty soon, she had up to 1,600 blog hits per day and more than 1,000 MySpace friends, or, as she calls them, her “blog babies.” When she finally broke up with the guy, their interest in her blog only increased.
“They suggested that I start dating,” she says via telephone. “I said no, I don’t want to date. My therapist said I don’t do a good job picking people and I should bring them in for him to screen before I start dating them. So they said, ‘Oh, let us do it! We’ll screen ’em.’”
What followed was what Peralta terms a “dating rampage.” There’s a reason she has four children, she notes in her MySpace profile: It’s “the (wonderful) price you pay for being hot.” If the photographs on her site can be trusted, that’s no exaggeration. At any rate, there was no shortage of eligible suitors, who Peralta subsequently ran through the ringer, much to the delight of her blog babies, who reveled in her blow-by-blow descriptions of the latest train wreck.
“It was funny as hell,” she says. “That’s when my readership went through the roof.”
But then an even funnier thing happened. Peralta fell in love with one of her blog babies. So much for the weekly train wrecks! To top it off, someone—no one knows who for sure, but you can proffer an educated guess—deleted her blog from MySpace. With no fresh meat to offer her readers and no blog to speak of, Peralta considered calling it a day. But the blog babies weren’t about to let her off the hook.
“People stared getting antsy. They were addicted to this,” she says. “So I put up the new site and I just kept blogging. People just keep coming. Now we’re back up to 600 people.”
From the beginning, Peralta had laid down ground rules for communication that require girls and boys to behave like ladies and gentlemen. Her blog became a safe haven of sorts for pilots, doctors, attorneys and other professionals, men and women, single and married, to meet and share common interests, which varied from Peralta’s breezy writing style to particle physics.
What happened next was perhaps, in retrospect, inevitable. The members of this tight knit social network known affectionately as the DG community decided it was time to meet in person.
“Did I feel a need to meet these wackos?” Lisa, 48, a blog baby and a hotel chef from Sacramento, asks rhetorically. “I couldn’t resist! After reading the blog for a month or so, I was hooked. I wanted to meet them.”
The first meet-up was held at the Fox & Goose in early January. Blog baby Vinnicus Maximus (of course it’s not his real name!) had such a cool time, he blogged about it on his own MySpace site.
“It took me about 1.2 seconds to immediately recognize everyone,” Maximus blogs. “The entire evening had a surreal flavor. We are crossing a line, I am thinking. Not a bad line, but a line where cyberspace meets reality. Where keystrokes meet handshakes. And where preconceived personal perception meets real life observation. I told the group that it was a little like meeting a bunch of cartoon characters, and wouldn’t you know that everyone was exactly as their pictures promised and their [online] personalities predicted.”
Not everyone’s hunky-dory about meeting up with their Internet acquaintances. Yurad Here, 36, a dedicated online gamer from Rio Linda, frequents Peralta’s blog but has no interest in meeting anyone from the DG community in real time.
“I have never met anyone that I game with or communicate on myspace with in real life with the exception of a co-worker from work that is a myspace buddy also,” she explains, via e-mail of course. “I don’t think it’s important to be face-to-face with people you communicate with online. Being online is almost another dimension if you will. Most people are a bit more outspoken and extroverted online than they are in real life. … I avoid meeting people I know online because my perception of them and likeability for them may change.”
However, that so far has not been the experience of most of the blog babies who’ve attended Peralta’s gatherings. Mark, 45, a search-and-rescue commander who acts as the DG community’s president, flew in all the way from Illinois. Peralta, who says she originally suspected that only “freaks” and “stalkers” would show up for the event, claims that everyone she’s met in person so far has turned out to be at least “100 times nicer” than their online persona. Lisa seconds that notion.
“I was so pleased that everyone was just as I had expected,” she says. “You get to know these folks pretty well based on what they post to the blog. The personalities emerge. I think most people will say what they think online because they can hide behind the screen name. But these guys, it’s all on the table. I like that.”
Although Peralta says she’s no MySpace addict, she’s not willing to spare the blog babies such a diagnosis.
“They’re completely addicted,” she laughs. “In fact, I even put that on my front page: “welcome new blog baby … you are safe here. You have found your way to your new addic … uhmm, I mean home.”
Art, 42-year-old Rancho Cordova resident and “proud DG blog baby,” isn’t ready to leave home just yet, especially if it means quitting cold turkey.
“Quit? Are you insane?” he writes in response to an SN&R questionnaire Peralta posted on her blog. “Though I could anytime. Really! Just because I start twitching if I am away from a machine and internet access for more than 4 hours doesn’t make me an addict, does it?”