This post comes about as a result of watching three people who I sincerely love and respect – Patrick Stafford, Lance McDonald, and James Pinnell — discussing stuff on Twitter, so I want to be clear that this is not aimed at any of you three specifically but rather something that has been sticking in the ol’ craw for ages and needs to be put down in words.
I absolutely hate the idea that one internet community is objectively better than another.
(Or to put it another way, I hate the subtext here: the idea that one place where Humans Exchange Opinions somehow either creates, or is automatically populated, by Better Humans.)
I’m so over it. Honestly. Everyone on Something Awful thinks they are better than everyone on Reddit. Everyone on Reddit thinks they are better than everyone on 4chan. Everyone on 4chan thinks they are better than everyone on Something Awful.
Everyone on Google Plus thinks they are better than everyone on Facebook. Everyone on Facebook thinks they are better than everyone on Twitter. Everyone on Twitter thinks they are better than everyone on Google Plus.
You know what’s actually true? Garbage people post everywhere online. Everywhere. And the more insular a community, or the more exclusive, is the more convinced they become that it is The Only Good Place. This happens all the time. Garbage people post everywhere online, sometimes including in the places you do.
We build our identity into our choices we make in life and we hold tightly onto the idea that the choices we made must be the correct ones (especially if there’s a financial cost involved, like with buying entertainment products, for example) because otherwise we will have wasted our time, our money, and our emotional energy.
This isn’t exactly a new concept: it’s the sunk cost fallacy having horrible, sweaty sex with confirmation bias. We are all humans and this is how your brain is wired. It’s not your fault! But it’s happening anyway. To me too. All the time.
It’s easier to believe that you made Good Choices and everyone else made Bad Choices than it is to admit that all the choices we make in life result in the same thing: Regular Humans. The result of the great equation is, both wonderfully and terrifyingly, Regular Humans.
Ultimately, we hate and fear the realisation that something we’ve built our identity on makes no difference to whether we are a good person or not. That’s a whole different kettle of fish.
With the obvious exception of dedicated, explicitly white nationalist forums or whatever, choosing to share your opinion in one place over another doesn’t make it a Good Opinion any more than writing your opinion in pen makes it more meaningful than writing it in pencil.
Addendum: While I’m more than willing to talk about how the direction and administration of some communication platforms — like Reddit and 4chan for example — either currently are, or have been in the past, ethically rancid, there is a further discussion to be had about whether using that platform makes you ethically culpable. I don’t believe, for the most part, that it does.
I want to be clear about this: I don’t think that someone who uses Reddit to talk about fitness is a bad person because other, different people use Reddit to share upskirt shots. I don’t think someone who uses 4chan to talk about Space Marines is a bad person because other, different people use 4chan to post pictures of gore porn.
I do strongly believe that many online communities often foster or create a culture that is questionable and deserving of condemnation, especially when that culture basically boils down to the insanely childish and naive “free speech lol, stop censoring me“. This isn’t limited to explicitly online communities either: for example I am highly critical of “gamer culture” and its insidious gatekeeping and entitlement.
But I don’t believe in guilt by association and I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to suggest otherwise — it would make as much sense as me deleting my Facebook account because other subhuman garbage scum use Facebook to harass women, or deleting my Twitter account because people like this exist. It’s a line I’m not willing to cross.
That said, 8chan — which was founded because 4chan had ‘too many rules’, explicitly refuses to ban child pornography, and proudly supports Gamergate — is beyond disgusting.