@kinfirms tagged me in a post talking about how internet “mom” culture is toxic, (I saw your tags, dont worry <3) and wanted to talk about it a little, but without the queer phobic language it was giving off.
For the most part, I fully and readily agreed with parts of the post detailing how adults can and do behave inappropriately in online spaces towards minors, and how the parental name thing can be a power move.
I grew up with a lot of fandom “mom” types, who with hindsight, turned out to be rather toxic and predatory. One of them actually took great joy in being a “corrupting” force, and would make lewd jokes and inappropriate comments towards us. And us being vulnerable kids who wanted to fit in and belong went along with it, because it made us feel special to be talked to like we were fellow adults.
Except we weren’t fellow adults and nor were we being treated as such. We were impressionable youths being treated like toys to stroke an older person’s ego, and that was 110% not okay, and those adults should have known better not to engage with us on those topics.
I’m hyper aware of being an older person in certain groups now, and try to act accordingly. I try to distance myself while managing to remain encouraging and supportive and hopefully, a positive signifier that people like me can and do grow up into happy (semi-)functional adults. I know there were times growing up when I feared I would not.
I will also never insist that anyone call me “mom”. It’s not a name I picked for myself. It’s an honorific deserving of great respect and mindfulness towards those who gave it to me, not the other way around. People can use it if they want to, and I will respond to it if people use it, but it’s not a role or title or sign of authority, and it’s 100% up to others if they want to use it or not, I don’t mind either way. And just for the record, I also respond to Aunt, Sister, Cousin, Bib, or even my rarely used actual name, Joy :)
I work very hard to respect the boundaries of others, and adhere to my own rules of interaction. I don’t follow back anyone under the age of 18 (with very few exceptions), and I always try to ensure the age of someone when they start talking to me about certain things.
Most of the people calling me “mom”? Seem to be in their early 20s, chronically ill or queer like me, and or at college age and going through that weird panicked stage of “help, I need an adultier adult how the heck do you make a food budget” so it’s not too much of a problem, but I still take those extra steps anyway.
I tag my work, I put it under cuts and generally make it known that I don’t want anyone under the age of 18 to read my 18+ work, because it’s the responsible adult thing to do—and it’s my responsibility to lay down those terms. Not the minor.
If a minor ignores my requests, my tags and the numerous other steps I put in the way to keep my NSFW work hidden? That’s on them, and I can only hope they find it positive and maybe possibly affirming as well—just don’t tell me about it. (I speak from experience, as a minor who went onto 18+ forums looking for something that would show I wasn’t alone with my thoughts and feelings. I found acceptance in queer fanfic that society and family otherwise denied. I wasn’t awful for liking both Superman and Louise Lane, I wasn’t awful and wrong or alone for not being sure if I wanted to be Princess Leia or be with her. And that was very important for 15 year old me, even if it would take another 15 years for me to feel safe enough to tell others.)
When people started calling me “mom” of their own volition, I had a real internal debate over how I felt over using that same moniker others had used before me, and done so in a harmful manner. I wasn’t too keen on it at first, it felt weird, but when people kept on using it without me prompting them to, I came to the decision that hey, it’s just a fun nickname poking fun at my personality, so I just kinda rolled with it. But I also made the conscious decision that if I was going to allow for that nickname, I would strive very hard to be worthy of it and be the adult I needed as a young person, and not like the people I had known.
But that all said? Not all adults take this mindset, and do not behave appropriately towards teenagers and young adults, and you should absolutely be wary of anyone who puts themselves in that position of authority.* It makes me extremely uncomfortable when I see other adults talk about younger people as their “minions” or pets.
They are not.
They are people who are deserving of your fundamental respect and often looking for some sort of help or guidance from a role model they lack in real life, or even just want friendly people to talk to about the things they love. They are not there to prop up your ego. Don’t do that shit. Reflect on your own behavior and say “if this was my child, would I be happy about the way I am interacting with them?”
If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure”, that’s also a no, and you need to back the fuck off and reevaluate how you interact with others as a whole.
If you are in a fandom or online forum space where the adults are not behaving mindfully of your age, undermine you, or insist on inserting themselves in your life as an authoritarian parental figure? Go with your gut instinct and get the fuck out of dodge.
You are no one’s minion. You are you, with your own boundaries and levels of comfort. Don’t let anyone try to take them from you or make you feel bad for being uncomfortable with their behavior. That’s a common tactic used by abusers, and if you say to someone “what you are doing makes me uncomfortable” and their response isn’t “I’m sorry, how can I change that?”, but defensive anger or guilt tripping you? Fuck ‘em. There are other groups, other people to talk to. Make your own if you have to. Block anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to put up with that bullshit to prove your own maturity or worth.
*And just because I feel this is important to say: please question me. Challenge me, point out when I say or do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. I won’t be mad or offended. I welcome corrective feedback. Tell me if I use an out dated term or if I word something poorly so I can apologize, reevaluate my behavior and try to change for the better. I’m human and therefore always learning and making mistakes, but they come from a place of ignorance, never malice. Take care of yourselves out there <333