I know I’ve made a lot of posts recently about disturbing dynamics on this website but I really feel that I’ve narrowed down three big factors that have corrupted the way we interact, and can lead to anything from ineffective annoying conversations, to actual abuse. those factors are:
-pain and trauma being reconceptualized as currency for credibility or social capital (and how this takes away from genuine interaction and replaces it with performativity)
-pain and trauma being reconceptualized as a bargaining chip to get one out of accountability (ditto with what I said in the parenthesis in the first one)
-the above two factors leading to a normalization invasiveness on a level that would otherwise be disturbing / being encouraged to disclose painfully private information.
for a lot of bloggers who talk about marginalization and social issues, whether you have a “discourse sideblog” or a Serious Leftist Blog or a fandom blog, patterns have come up on here that over time have encouraged people to play up their already present fatigue and anger, because they’ll be awarded with popularity and credibility for making public displays out of very personal pain. with frequency over time, these displays become less about genuine sharing and helping situations, and more about subconscious (or conscious depending on the blogger) manipulation in a way: “what will I get from sharing this”. whether or not that manipulation is intentional, when this stuff is normalized people start to do it almost mindlessly, and it compromises any chance for compassion and trust and genuineness.
when we discuss oppression and power, we are often already bitter and tired from whatever contexts we have. and that comes out normally in justifiable situations - the bitterness in and of itself isn’t what I’m criticizing. this isn’t gonna turn into some “we have to be graceful and tone police ourselves for the comfort of people who hurt us” post. the problem I’m putting my finger on is when, on top of our original bitterness and tiredness that we already have to shoulder, marginalized people are also being egged on to perform MORE of it as a show of “look at how mean and jaded I am, that makes me more credible and likable than you because I act more visibly mean and jaded at all times”. it’s also the invasiveness. it’s also the detachment from reality. it’s a lot and I’m just gonna try and list a few examples I’ve seen in the past couple of months that have not changed or gotten much better from the way things were on here in 2014 or 2012:
-I’ve seen popular bloggers respond one way to another adult with genuinely abusive politics, and then turn around and respond the exact same way to a 13 year old with a silly question that seemed obvious/embarrassing. and then act confused when told that there should have been a difference in their responses for it to remain appropriate.
-I know people who feel uncomfortable posting on here when they’re genuinely hurting and in need of support, but who have learned to almost nonchalantly pull out a laundry list of grotesquely detailed stories of trauma in order to prove a point in a stupid argument, because they’ve been taught that’s necessary in order for them to be listened to.
-at one point I was convinced that if I ever decided to have patience with someone who asked an ignorant question, or stick it out through the conversation to try to change someone’s mind, it wouldn’t be half as radical as just throwing out some over the top “go fuck yourself in the ass” and making 6 posts about how I blocked them and “did you SEE that idiot??? they must hate everyone in group x”. and honestly that’s. ridiculous and is only “effective” if we just wanna stay in an insular little circle laughing at everyone without a gender studies degree. like again, it’s normal to be bitter and tired and choose not to deal with someone, or deal with someone unkindly if they aren’t listening or are evoking oppressive rhetoric, but the idea that I feel like some of us have learned that we ALWAYS have to interact like that in order to prove your politics are radical (it truly is our version of 3dgy blogging lmao) is exhausting.
-I’ve seen people who have suggested that they are trying to heal mentally or emotionally in some way, and have been accused of selling out. like somehow “not everyone can achieve recovery” turned into “anyone who talks about recovery for their own self is a sellout” - I had to leave certain mental health related blogging circles because of this.
-re: pain/trauma being used as bargaining tool for getting let off the hook for genuinely abusive interactions: again referring to some mental health related activist communities, in some circles, “don’t associate mentally ill people as being inherently abusive” somehow turned into “if someone is mentally ill they can never be called on abusive or even slightly harmful interactions.” similarly, this has happened in other “leftist” conversations along identity politics lines of “well, seeing as I have this marginalized experience, I can’t be touched with critique”. this is defensiveness taken too far and stagnates our ability to grow and actually promote healthy treatment of others (something we all claim we are trying to do)
-things that have been encouraged by self proclaimed activists include: publicizing your mental health record and whether or not you have been raped, or whether or not you have a confusing relationship with sex, or whether or not you have been a victim of familial abuse, seems just as par for the course in some circles as publicizing your astrological sign. obviously choosing to share this is an option, but I and others have been pressured before to include such information beyond reason in order to be granted access to a discussion or to have a set of ideas/concerns listened to.
none of these things should seem normal or healthy. I’ve gotten caught up in some of those mentalities multiple times and am still struggling to stay away from them. obviously in some conversations, a little indication that you aren’t a preachy outsider can be good, but rhetoric that tries to narrow down who we should listen to to “only people who have this identity and experienced this exact thing at 8 am on a tuesday and are willing to yell it into a megaphone” will not accomplish anything except for telling strangers on the internet that they are morally deplorable and unreliable if they do not allow you to invade their space and their private life.
and the consequence of this is that even though we become used to talking about personal grief in a detached, non-genuine way, when we have to engage with the complexities of people’s realities, including their grief and suffering, on a real level, we flounder. pain should never be reduced to a bargaining token the way it has been on here. a lot of us have enough anger and fatigue already, we don’t need to be egged on by peers to constantly flaunt it as a show even when we aren’t actively feeling it, or be pushed to the point where we feel foolish or less credible or relatable for wanting to heal even a bit. I’m first and foremost sad that this is some young people’s first exposure to communities and dialogues that are supposed to be overcoming some form of liberation.
all of these issues made more complex by a mix of ages and experiences and blogging styles, sometimes that complexity is dangerous (re: the age thing, like imagine growing into politics and adult social friendships on this forum. there are young teenagers whose primary source of growing into those things is here.) and sometimes it’s just annoying, but either way it’s beyond time to try to address and change some of these behaviors on a large scale. I’ve seen some individual bloggers come to similar realizations and grow and change, and those are the mutuals and friends that I’ve kept on here.
and maybe it’s a losing battle, and maybe a website where social capital / notes is a central feature will always create disconnect and divisiveness, like I know this could never be the Perfect Safe Revolutionary Space for holding conversations, but still I want to see more people realizing that some of the shit on here is not exactly something we want to be getting used to especially if we ever want to advertise leftist blogging spheres here as moral examples.