Finding a community for your interests
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Recently, I read You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day. It was the first time I had read an autobiography, and I found myself surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. But that wasn’t what struck me as strange. The book itself works along a timeline that examines the rise of the Internet and Internet community, as well as Internet gaming culture. It forced me to consider the fact that the majority of modern relationships, be they romantic or platonic, are either established or maintained, in some way or another, by the Internet.
As a relative introvert (not antisocial, there is a difference), I had never thought of the possibility of what I would do if I didn’t have the Internet to fall back on. That sounds a little sad, but it is true. Due to the fact that Felicia Day is a little older than me, reading this book acted as a “what if” scenario: “What if I was already in college by the time I discovered the Internet?” Feelings of isolation, high social anxiety, gaming addiction—the topics covered are quite broad, but they’re also extremely relevant to our generation.
As people who have grown up with the Internet in what has been termed the “digital age,” we’ve never really had to learn what it is to be completely “offline.” The worst we have to deal with is a couple days of boredom when freak windstorms hit the Lower Mainland.
This is both good and bad. I mean, the number of social relationships we have has grown exponentially, and generally our friend pool is extremely diverse, featuring people from many different cultures—unless you’re a bigot or a racist. If that’s the case, you should probably not have the Internet in the first place. However, due to the fact that we are all social creatures, we still require face-to-face interaction, and having a lot of friends online doesn’t always translate to being socially adept in person. This can often lead to feelings of isolation, which in turn forces you to seek out further online interaction despite the fact it doesn’t fill that need.
I struggled a lot with this when I was in my early teens, because I was physically isolated from my friends due to where I lived. My only social outlets were the Internet and school.
Inversely, this is also why the Internet works as well as it does. Going back to the book, Felicia Day presents us with a picture of two siblings who were raised in relative isolation due to circumstance. Because of this, they began developing interests that were outside the norm. I mean, admit it, you always thought homeschooled kids were weird too.
Having uncommon interests can also make you feel isolated from your physical community. But, on the Internet, it isn’t hard to find a website or a forum devoted to whatever you like. For me, I was raised to never be ashamed of my love of comics and superheroes. My mom loves sci-fi and Batman, and one of my older sisters is still obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (so yes, it is genetic). But when I was in grade school it wasn’t cool for girls to be into that sort of thing like it is now. How I got my comic fix was online forums and chatrooms specifically devoted to comic book fans. Having that allowed me to recognize that there were other women and girls who loved the same thing I did, and, yes, maybe I was a little strange because of it, but I wasn’t a freak of nature. Having that affirmation put me on the right track to accepting what I love, and embracing it as an element of my character that others can use to approach me—I have resting bitch face, so this is important. In the autobiography I found that Felicia Day presented a similar evolution of herself, though hers was slightly more amusing and ended with an awkward backseat kiss.
What I liked most about You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is that it acknowledged the good and bad of the Internet community, and emphasized that little ray of hope we all have that we can make our personal experience of it better. The novel ends with a look back on Gamer Gate, probably one of the worst things that have come out of the Internet community since the Internet’s public release. But, instead of dwelling on fear, it moves past the situation, treating Gamer Gate as an experience to be learned from.