Amidst all the ugly in the world today, there is a common statement that finds its way into every comments section: if something online makes you this upset, you should get offline. Just unplug. Because the internet is awful. There’s a reason most website comment sections should be avoided at all costs and one must be careful in social media searches. Harassment, abuse, misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia, all casually tossed around like weather and sports stats. People are terrible, therefore the internet is terrible.
And while all that is very true, today, I want to take a moment to celebrate it. Because as bad as it can be, it’s also incredible.
When I was a kid, I had a hard time making friends. Real friends. I was both too quiet and too loud, I read a lot, other kids didn’t get me. I liked stuff they didn’t like. I preferred imaginary worlds. I cried easily. I just didn’t fit.
Then I found the internet.
First it was the Sci-Fi Channel Dominion BBoard. That was where I found MST3K fans like me, people deeply excited about every detail of a show, knowledgable about trivia and facts and as familiar with the names of the crew members as they were of the stars. For the first time, I felt understood.
For the first time in my life, I found my people.
Over the years I found them at Rifftrax, the South Park Studios forum, Best Week Ever. And then, most importantly, Pajiba. People excited by the same things I am, people who understand the same references I make, people who care so much about what I care about and by, some weird extension, me. The people that I met on these sites? They’re my friends. They’re not simply internet strangers. They’re real. My internet friends have been realer friends than any “real” friends any day.
When supposed real life is awful, the internet has always been my place.
The internet can be awful too. Really awful. But overwhelmingly it’s the place that makes me feel loved and most of all understood. Got.
I think about this because of the DNC, and the way the speakers talk about America. America. There’s an ugliness to this country. Hatred. Ignorance. Inhumanity so seemingly impossible that it still shocks you. But it can be beautiful, too. The America these speakers talk about is so hopeful and wonderful. And that’s the internet to me. I’ve seen the worst in humanity online, but also the best, best, best humans telling their stories, being heard, being understood.
Thanks for being my people.