Forums and fandom

You know that horrible fascination where you don’t want to look at a car wreck, but you keep staring at it? How you don’t want to see someone twisted and maimed and bloody and torn and dying, but that’s exactly what you’re looking for anyway?

That’s how I feel about Internet forums.

Sometimes I just get so tired of them. I’ve just witnessed yet another situation in which a group of regulars pounced upon someone for offering up an alternate view, and then spoke among themselves knowingly that there was no point in having a discussion with her because she never changed her mind. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites; they’ve been on the Internet for awhile and they’re in their mid to late twenties, so they believe they know everything. This girl they’re marginalizing is older than they are, and not a native speaker of English, so her viewpoint is different and it’s sometimes difficult to understand what she’s saying. But the others don’t care; all they care about is the fact that she is disagreeing with them or bringing up points that make them uncomfortable. And so they’ll go out of their way, in long, perfectly-written (and boring, I might add) posts, to turn up their noses at her.

I used to think that the Internet would lead to a greater, more open, and more diverse set of interconnected communities…but I see now that the ‘net is just like any other medium, any other place. Grand cliques arise before you even know it, and soon if you’re not in agreement, you’re obviously just being difficult, and why don’t you just stop bothering us with your ideas?

And yet I am not sure I can stop reading that forum. I don’t even know why; it’s not like it’s based on anything that I spend my days thinking about. It’s based on a television show I happen to like, that’s all. Unlike many of the regulars there, though, I don’t make cookies in the shapes of my favorite characters, or build elaborate dioramas that fill my room. I just enjoy the show.

Perhaps fans are by their very nature obsessively attached to their own ways of thinking, but I’d like to believe that you can be a fan of something without going ‘exclusive’. T. Campbell’s Fans! feel more inclusive than exclusive to me–though, going directly against my point here, one of the characters would have survived the current war storyline and become a better person if he’d been excluded in the first place. (He would have learned that he has to stop being a bigot, or people aren’t going to like him.) Maybe I would just prefer, if there is a best way to be and to think, that the people who have already attained that way would stop mocking the people who haven’t, stop telling them that they have no right to voice their thoughts. All the popular wisdom I’ve ever gleaned indicates that those who put down others are unsure of themselves, and those who speak as if they know everything are fools. But maybe that’s just one of those maxims meant to keep the common man quiet. Who knows.

But even so, cliques do the same thing–keep people quiet. If we say “Stop bothering us with that; go elsewhere to discuss it” then we are effectively cutting ourselves off from ways of thinking that are different from our own. And thought-incest leads to very bad things: hatred, malice, disdain.

No matter how I look at it, I can’t see this is being good or fair.

If the forum moderator had rules against it, that would be one thing. But she doesn’t; the forum is effectively self-moderated. And thus the Great Clique reigns supreme.

I’m tired of playing by their rules. I hope I don’t go back.