Firefly isn’t really one of my favorite shows (don’t get me wrong, it’s good) and you won’t often find me quoting Joss Whedon, but the sentiment there is something I really understand; though in my case there’s a different reason behind the whole thing.
The internet has been a cruel place for some time now. The trolls and the cliques with the forceful ways have been a part of the net since I hopped on in the mid-nineties. Back then my browser of choice was AOL and I could only have a set number of favorites. A lot of people actually typed the web addresses in by hand (and they weren’t that long). I didn’t go many places online, but I remember the first time I witnessed what would become known as trolling and recognized it as such.
A user named Angry Kirby was upset at the moderators of the an online bulletin board over a deleted post. What he proceeded to do is something that I will never forget: he had dozens of pictures of babies covered in their own shit mid-diaper change and he posted them all over while the moderators were sleep. The site was run in the states by a small team and no one was typically on after midnight. The shit streaked infants stayed up until well into the next morning.
That might have offended people and seemed like something so disruptive back then, but the internet has become a place where posting pictures isn’t even something that is hard to do (I remember thinking it was so difficult to just get a jpeg into a post and how most bitmaps wouldn’t even fit—I haven’t even used a bitmap in probably ten years).
We didn’t know what the internet was going to become back then. We didn’t have the idea for something like Google or Amazon quite down to the science that it is now…and we didn’t really understand the way communication would change.
Despite all of the tubgirl, goatse (don’t look these things up, please), and shitty babies I really loved logging on to Zelda forums back in the day. I loved going over to the old Nintendo of America boards and posting about games that we read about in the magazines or sharing tips. I was still a kid and I hadn’t really discovered girls yet. My writing was a small hobby and I loved to draw comics. I talked about these things and when my family got their first scanner I shared them on our slow dial up connection.
I didn’t think that there was much to fight about between fans back then. Almost twenty years the fans of things only seem to gather online for the purpose of bitching. Comic books are something that I’m fairly new to, but the feeling I get when I log onto a site to try and get information about a character or where to find a specific plot point is very similar. And sure, there used to be fighting about which two characters belong together or who would win in a fight, these things go all the way back to before the internet, but there seems to be a war going on right now.
People are so worried about feminism in media or forced diversity in the media that they’re willing to form little online lynch mobs with their own buzz words and ideological rhetoric to do something about it. The changes in television shows have even been enough to prompt one site to write this piece about too much diversity on shows.
Let’s do an experiment: open a browser window about something related to a pass time that’s considered nerdy. Read up on a character from Harry Potter or check in with the Avengers from the comic books and let’s see what’s happening. How long is it before you run across someone making racist comments or sexist comments? How long can you browser a video game news site without someone getting utterly upset that a game isn’t made to their specifications or someone else getting utterly upset that things are so political?
How many pages can you get through without seeing the phrase ‘Cultural Marxism’ or ‘SJW’ or hearing someone wish for the good ol’ days?
This might seem like more complaining, but I’ve been a fan of some of these things, video games in particular, for a long time. I grew up in that second set of NES kids. I watched Captain N on Saturday mornings and remember when Nintendo Power was the best magazine ever. I remember how it used to be with movies and television shows and I like these changes. I don’t feel that they hurt the integrity or story in these things. And I like being able to talk about the things I like online without having to sort through pages and pages of complaining about everything.
Doctor Who, I feel, is the worst. I’ve stopped reading anything related to the show online just because I feel like it’s all negative press and I’ve enjoyed the show more than ever these last three seasons or so. I’m a firm believer in not complaining about media I don’t like (mostly because I don’t subject themselves to them) and unless asked I don’t really bother talking about them. I stopped watching Game of Thrones because I didn’t like it and peer pressure and popularity aren’t going to make me stick with something.
There was a moment when we looked online to discuss things, intelligent, polite discussions and theory-crafting. Perhaps we read into things too far, but the people that grew up doing this are the same ones who went on to make some of the most artistic games ever designed and wrote books filled with ideas gathered from discussions typed out on clunk mechanical keyboard of an i686 powered computer.
It seems like everything, the trolling, the discussion, the cliques, has become more malicious online. Now, this isn’t some post about how technology is evil or how the internet is bad. It’s a post about squandered potential and making up lost time. The new ways of doing things and the changes made to media aren’t going to always be easy, but they’re the way a thing grows and develops. And one of the reason we have grown and developed as a species over the last couple of decades is because of the global reach of the internet.
We don’t need to have creative growth stunted because of our inability for civil discourse.