What lengths are we willing to go to, to hurt each other?
It doesn't matter what kind of group it is anymore, there seems to infighting everywhere. It is in places you would expect like politics and religion, to places you would think it would happen less, like in groups of nerds and geeks who like superheroes and anime. It saddens me that what used to bring a lot of us together seems to be ripping us apart. We used to have such solidarity in one another. We, the geeks, nerds, gamers, and otaku used to be the group who were harassed by the sports people, and regular people alike, but now, we are fighting each other. It breaks my heart. We have put too much emphasis on what makes "a real [fill in specific subculture here.]" Who cares as long as we can come together and talk about what we enjoy? Are people who play mobile games hurting anyone when they say they're a gamer? No. They're stating proudly that they are a sub-genre of a sub-culture. Do you understand what I'm saying? We need to think of what we label as a "Not real [fill in the blank]" as a type of sub-genre to the sub-culture we believe ourselves to be a part of.
One of the first sub-cultures I really identified with and put myself in was the reader sub-culture, ya know I told people that "I am a reader. I love to read." Then I put myself in the gamer sub-culture when I was playing video games a lot with my cousin at his house. "Yeah, I'd say I'm a gamer, I enjoy video games, even though I can't play them much." Then, when I started getting into the deeper parts of being a geek, I classified myself as a geek. "Oh! I am such a geek! I love chess, reading Harry Potter, playing video games, playing Dungeons and Dragons, reading fantasy books, watching fantasy TV shows, reading a manga, board games, watching cartoons that have to do with Superheros, watching superhero movies, watching fantasy movies, and so much more!" I would crow with pride when I was identifying who I was. These things became a part of the very fabric of my being like my eyes are brown, I'm a girl, I have brown hair, I come from an English and German background et cetera. These are just the basic examples of my interests for the sake of time, and ease. I could really go into my interests, but then we'd be here all day.
As these things became a part of who I am, I became defensive against others who would belittle me for even enjoying them, to begin with. I would fight against their mean words. I know others did too, when I finally found friends with the same interests I had, it was nice and I felt like I could be myself, but when someone new would come along I would wonder, since our group was so close, if this new person would fit in, did they really like what we did? The answer sooner or later would be yes, we would acclimate and they would be our new friend. There would be times where they would challenge me on my knowledge, and I on theirs but it was in a friendly way. Sometimes it would get a bit more passionate than necessary, and things wouldn't be so friendly and things would be said to hurt, rather than to have a friendly debate, but that is something you have to learn to curb, and when to stop the debate.
In the world of the internet, especially the contemporary internet, it seems to have been forgotten. We do it with our friends, but when we have the anonymity of the internet behind us, we all become keyboard warriors. If we have something we believe in, or a subject we think we know a lot about we try to prove ourselves to others, but we go too far. On the internet, we have the safety blanket of knowing our opponent doesn't know who we are, where we live, or what we do for a living so we throw all normal social conventions out the window. We become the two boys in the middle of the school parking lot about to fight because we know we have an audience and we, word-wise are stronger than our opponent in our own minds and we set out to search and destroy.
We don't end up destroying our opponent though. We end up destroying our selves, and our sub-cultures. The structure and strength of our sub-cultures whether they be a fandom, a country, a religion, a passion anything we're passionate about really, we destroy it, and the relationships we built around that shared interest. That thing we love so much, and possibly the friends or partners we could have gotten out of a shared interested are now sabotaged because we took a toxic route to prove that we are right.
It's not always debating the knowledge of a certain subject either that divides a sub-culture. It can be moral and ethical dilemmas. It can be debating those dilemmas and how we see that other person's point of view. It can be a simple misunderstanding about how something is said. It can be using toxic behavior to support your moral or ethical point of view that divides a sub-culture. Misunderstandings happen on a daily basis, those are normal and usually when they are identified, either at the point, it happens or later, its a pretty simple thing to fix. The other three, that have to do with morals and ethics can be way muddier. They are nuanced and complicated. What one person finds perfectly moral, another person can find perfectly immoral. These things can divide you and your peers quicker than anything because we are ingrained with our moral codes since we were children by our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other authority figures.
My point is that when I scroll through fan pages, groups about fandoms, about actors, voice actors, comics, anime, video games, et cetera I always find some sort of infighting. When I look up news about certain fandoms I have or scroll through youtube and facebook I find stories about infighting. Since January I have seen stories about Vic Mignogna and the controversy around him and the other voice actors. It's a moral judgment type of dilemma rather than, who is the bigger otaku who can remember how many anime characters he has voiced. I have followed this since the beginning as I know a friend that knows him, and am genuinely curious about how it is unfolding.
One side says guilty until proven innocent, the other side says innocent until proven guilty. I am watching all of this and seeing people who would normally bond with each other over their shared love of anime, split right down the middle. It's a very polarizing issue that is going on, but because some people can't leave the nasty-ness out of it things have gotten ugly. People are harassing one another, harassing the voice actors involved, are making threats, and other such things. I do support one side over the other, but that is not what this article is about, so I will not go into how I believe in this article. If you want to know my opinion please follow me on twitter. I will not discuss it in this article. Anyway, back to the point. The other voice actors, spouses of voice actors, and social media influences have gotten involved and its all getting very ugly. This issue is what inspired me to write this piece in the first place. I encourage you, before making a decision on what side you are on look at both sides evenly. Watch youtube videos that cover the issue on both sides and make a decision for yourself.
The other examples I can give of group infighting are also all over social media, with social media influencers and professionals alike getting in on the action. The one thing that bugs me about any group of people who are passionate about something (and I admit to being guilty of it too) are the people that say "You aren't a real [instert adjective here] if you don't/do/know [fill in the blank with a verb]" is that it makes this group so exclusive. It especially bugs me when it has to do with geeks, nerds, and gamers. We have enough prejudice coming at us from the outside we don't need it coming from the inside too.
I've seen people say stuff like "You aren't really a gamer if you play mobile games." Well I have a rebuttal to that: Yes they are, mobile games are getting more and more complex and technical all of the time, for instance, Kingdom Hearts: Union χ which utilizes the players of the mobile game in Kingdom Hearts III, I played Union χ, and my brother played Kingdom Hearts III he didn't believe me, but there is a scene where you are trying to beat the heartless Xehanort, and the keyblade holders of the pasts keyblades rise from the Keyblade Cemetary and help you beat Ansem in that portion of the story. The screen names of the mobile players fly up the screen on the left-hand side as you thrash Xehanort around the screen. Mobile games are getting closer to the looks and even the playability of console or computer games. I find this is enough to argue my point.
This attitude is hurting these groups. Saying that you're more superior because you play on a console rather than a cell phone is alienating these people, some of these people, like myself, love video games and are hardcore gamers when they get a controller in their hands, but at the moment I don't have a console, and I only have mobile games that I can play because a cell phone is what I have. I love playing video games, and in order to play something, I use my cell phone. This state of mind excludes me, even though when I finally get to play on a console I am a gamer. It makes no sense to me. We should include these people in our community and accept that they are one of us.
Most people will say I am wrong, and that I have a bleeding heart, maybe I do, but its because I know I want to know that I can be accepted. I want to know that my geekdom and gamer identity is safe. I want to know whatever I love, and whatever I choose to be the hobbies that I share with others will be safe, and not challenged. It's not fun or enjoyable to me to try to prove my "geek cred" to other such geeks. It's not fun. I don't want to be belittled by who I should see as my peers. I don't want to be belittled for my opinions. I am 100 percent sure that there are others that feel the way I do too. Check yourself, check your ego, check your own feelings before you put someone down for what they love.