Fandoms And The Segregation Of The Internet
We haven’t really talked about this topic yet but it needs to be discussed. There’s a number of us with multiple accounts online. This can skew numbers of actual people online as I even I have a personal Facebook account and one for all my publishing work. These are the same me, one is filled with libertarian memes and my favourite whiskey brands, of conservative political arguments and anti-abortion posts. The other is almost exclusively reserved for what I do online for my writing career. I post upcoming chapters there and videos on projects I’m working on.
But the two people both named Mike van Goch are the same person IRL. That’s in part by design and in part by me wanting to look like a professional in my social media presence.
I have two LinkedIn profiles too, and two Twitter handles.
When used for the ideas of professionalism and organization these make sense and I really can’t find a reason to say yay or nay on the practice and that’s not just because I do this myself. It’s like a pen name for ironically an author, not wrong just not the first one he was or she was given.
But then the sock puppet accounts show up and this becomes a problem. Like so many things online false and disposable accounts are a part of the ecosystem. The current internet iteration of this real-life online meme, (That hurt to write) is that no one can tell if you’re a horse online.
And that’s true, you can easily set up a sock puppet account to agree with you so you look like a boss in online arguments. You can also anonymously tear down a pastor who disagrees with you with his Bible and you don’t want to be dealt with via said Bible.
The line between anonymity and lies is so thin it can’t be reckoned with, a pen-name is micrometres close to hiding behind an alter ego that is an affront to God. Your username doesn’t fool Jesus. So you might be a grade A jerk on Reddit but an angel at your Christian high school, God still knows you’re a jerk he just knows you’re a liar too.
Honesty is not something the internet values. In fact, it pushes for something quite different in its natural habitat. The internet values and praises fandoms.
Fandoms show off one of the biggest parts of internet culture, and there’s something with them that the church will have to come to grips with sooner or later.
That’s their segregation.
I know that doesn’t exactly conjure images in your head of any kind of separation online. Your keyboard doesn’t care if you’re Black. Your smartphone doesn’t care if you’re Jewish. Your IP address couldn’t care less if you’re a CIS-gendered Caucasian Christian Male.
But God himself help you should you be one of those last ones on the wrong Tumblr, and that’s where the segregation shows itself. Not Just on Tumblr and not in a hateful person discriminating against another. But in the unquestioning love of the Fandom towards its members.
For a fandom to thrive on the web it first needs something to focus around. Popular television and video games will suffice for a starting point but it’s what happens next that differs from reality so much. More importantly how. They thrive on a lack of opposition. It’s never viewed as such but it’s true. For a dedicated group of Potterheads to thrive online, the fandom needs to be focused around Harry Potter. Some would say even obsessed about it. But without opposition, the hobby becomes that obsession because it can.
This is the very real and very dangerous ecosystem that the internet is, by its very nature. Unfettered social contact means that ideological boundaries are the only boundaries you’ll find. Neighbours need to be agreeable in real life because of the very real differences that real-life problems exhibit in people. When someone flies a confederate flag in support of his or her political ideals it’s going to have a very real and noticeable impact on an African American neighbour next door, and probably a bad one at that. People move to different neighbourhoods, call the police or scream at each other across a fence, when opposing worldviews and lifestyles collide IRL.
But you simply get banned or blocked online. A simple, non-aggressive, hardly emotionally charged click of a mouse button, and you can dehumanize the complaints and conflicts of another human being. Then proceed to remove them from your life. Then it’s back to normal inside the fandom.
It’s this casual application of conflict that allows for entire subcultures of segregated sin to arise. A transsexual community meeting house would have never publically flown in 1920’s New York, with one iota of the audacity you’ll find on any number of online communities focused around the same lifestyle. To be sure there would have been men and women wanting to be women and men respectively in the ’20s. But the culture did not have room for their particular sexual deviance. With limited numbers in any one area, these people would have no doubt felt alone and ostracized and confined by a culture that did not approve of their lifestyle. In the best of circumstances, loving people could help them out of their lifestyles into mainstream culture. In the worst, persecution, bullying and hatred might have driven them into hiding or worse. By themselves, any individual doesn’t have the clout socially that a group does and questionable or controversial lifestyles get shunted to the sidelines of mainstream culture.
We don’t have that now, we have people living in different cities, towns and countries, but participating in online communities with none of the barriers seen in real life. A community can give validation to any truth claim, whether it who’s your favourite fictional book character or what you identify as sexually.
Online there is no such thing as next door or the wrong side of the tracks. There is no bad side of town or down the street. There are no long drives and no long distance call charges. There is only an abundance of connections. People don’t see their neighbourhood around them and how they fit in or not, or if they should fit in or not. They search for where they fit in and only have to go where they want. There is little to no opposition to any idea you have because if you’ve had it you can search the entirety of the internet for comments, forums, videos and posts about it, for support.
When opposed by people doing the exact same thing as they are (searching for their preference) they simply block, unsubscribe, un-friend or unfollow the same humans that could very well make up the neighbours of their neighbourhood. People who could shelter them if their house burned down or feed them if they were sick or poor. But only if they lived next door. They are also welcomed back every time, with no descent, into online communities that have very little or no opposing discourse to their preferences and very little or no actual support in real life.
This is dangerous because it allows for worldviews that are objectively harmful or wrong to become righteous cannon to people unwilling to suffer the real-life consequences of living in actual communities. Cultures that glorify hatred towards ethnic or religious groups, ones that promote suicide or even murder, can exist online so long as someone is willing to host the website. And once bolstered by those numbers, users, legitimately entire countries away from them in some instances, people enter these online worlds as individuals thinking they are the normal and that offline culture is backwards.
Being where the people are matters, because Tumblr blogs don’t do much for the real world but they allow for great expressions of the mind. But when it comes down to it our minds count for only what we think and care about. They are as empty in the real world as changing our Facebook status to “Thoughts and Prayers” when a tragedy happens. Empty words but hey they make us feel good right?
Maybe it’s just wrong?
I know that was a bit of a rant, sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled chapters.