Deal With the Misnomer
I know a "vomitorium" isn't actually a place where the Roman elite would go to puke so they could then eat more food, but I'm going to use that false definition anyway for this piece.
Cuz I'm talkin' about parts of the internet that give me the heebie-jeebies. Eeek and such.
It won't come as a shock to you that I've done my fair share of delving into the various cesspools of the internet. I haven't really done anything like that in a long time; middle school and early high school was primetime for that sort of thing; but I was reminded about that time in my life recently and wanted to talk about it.
Because, on reflection, it's not a time in my life I'm particularly proud of. I don't really like the person I was in middle school/early high school and reflecting on the sorts of opinions I held and what internet hangouts I chilled at is a pretty good explanation of why.
Did you... did you... 4Chan?
No. God no. I mean, I've been there once or twice, but frankly, I was skived out by it even with my warped middle school mind. Didn't like it one bit. Not merely because of the reputation, but also because every time I got curious and entered a thread, there would be a banner at the top reminding people that pictures of jailbait were illegal.
So I dipped out of 4Chan adventures pretty quickly.
Nah, I got my internet education in the halls of Newgrounds' hayaday sometime around 2008. I can say with hindsight that Newgrounds was a really strange community that I shouldn'tve wanted to be apart of, but little loner Drew needed to belong and so he ate up the grotesque flash animations and games.
There were a lot of great creations on Newgrounds to be sure; I discovered Egoraptor there for myself and I have been a damn devoted fan ever since. There was another series of animations that I think were called "Madness," and those were some gosh-darn entertaining bloodbaths. Surprisingly well animated in the later ones.
Now, I've mentioned before that I've always been wary about talking with strangers on the internet, so participating in online forums has never really been my thing. Even still, I would embark into such territory every now and then. Not that much with Newgrounds, but there were a few places... I just can't quite remember.
Convenient for me because I know I said some stuff that I am not proud of.
Before you jump to conclusions - no, I never ever EVER harassed anyone online. That's not me, that's never been me, that never will be me, even with the veil of anonymity.
But still. Shitty opinions barfed onto the keyboard aren't great either.
There's a lot of dumb anger that comes from being an outcast without an outlet. Eventually, I figured out how to channel that stuff into other parts of my life - acting, writing, music, etc. - but in those early teenage years I was inept at exorcising the demons in a healthy way.
You know what doesn't help anger? Constantly seeking out things that fuel your anger and getting worked up into a frenzy because you know there's nothing you can do to make the world conform to the ways you want, no way to make people less stupid.
This is getting into a different topic I want to talk about some other time - anger, that is - but here's what I have to say about anger and outrage in relation to my early teens on the internet.
At the time, I'd recently come to the realization I was an atheist. I still am, though I go back and forth between classifying myself as atheist and agnostic. It doesn't matter that much to me any more, but at the time, the questions about god, religion, spirituality and so on were the things that kept me up at night. I call these my "angry atheist" days. I used to read stories about Christian preachers committing atrocities in the name of God to fuel my wrath, confirming the bias I was forming about the evils of not just Christianity, but all religion. I used to read think-pieces that gave compelling reasons as to why these thoughts I was having were right. I used to bash on anything bible-belt for being so ludicrously closed-minded, ignorant to the fact I was becoming closed-minded myself by lumping all Christians in the same category as the Westboro Baptist Church.
Most damningly, I read story after story about how atheists have been rejected and persecuted throughout all history for having differing opinions and I would be filled with righteous fury at the injustices of the world. I was making myself more angry, poisoning myself and justifying my vitriolic opinions because my "group" was victimized. Around every corner, I would expect persecution and that I would be forced to defend myself and my own.
That's not a healthy way to live.
I try not to judge beliefs anymore - unless harm is being done.
One last thing about anger - a lot of people say that it's a sort of fuel that really helps them get shit done. Maybe it is, but I'm always struck more by how myopic anger has made me. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
At some point, I let go of my angry atheist days. Probably around the time I was making friends again and was forced to - gasp - contend with people who didn't 100% agree with me all the time, but I liked just the same.
So. I ended up on Reddit after a while, and that turned into a much more positive place for me to have interactions online. I eventually stopped going on Reddit after the Ellen Pao lynch mob. I know there are many sub-communities on Reddit that had nothing to do with that debacle, but it really soured my opinion of the whole site. Perhaps unfairly.
Reminders of the Past
All of this long-untended field of memory came rushing back to me recently when I unwittingly visited an old stomping ground of mine; Encyclopedia Dramatica.
Put simply, Encyclopedia Dramatica is a haven for internet trolls, the sort that hang around 4Chan and the like. Back in the day, it was pretty key in forming some of the shittier opinions I've held in life and some of the shittier senses of humor I used to cultivate.
Coming to it now, I'm struck by how toxic and vitriolic the site is.
It's not funny. It's just mean. "Don't feed the trolls, yada yada," I know. But still, it bothers me.
The whole REAL INTERNET PEOPLE (tm) vs the SJW's thing didn't exist when I was an early teen. All that shit came about sometime recently. I feel like I can't even say anything about it since I actively avoid anything in the vein of Trolls vs. SJW's.
It's really easy to disregard someone's argument when you throw a label at them. "You're too PC, I don't have to listen to your shit," "You're a troll, I don't have to listen to yours."
"You're an atheist. You're an unethical heathen."
"You're a Christian. You're dumb for believing in an invisible skyman. AND ALSO JESUS WASN'T WHITE."
Nothing gets accomplished. Nobody talks to each other. Speeches are said without the intention of hearing contention in rebuttal. The perfect argument is crafted with little black symbols on a white background that you can post smugly somewhere without ever having to deal with what anyone else says.
There is no hope.
Drink the wine.
Side note: I wanted to briefly mention something about Anonymous, but as I was writing I couldn't figure out a great place to slip it in. So here I am, tacking on what I have to say at the end. All I have to say is: I think the idea of Anonymous is badass. The reality of ego-inflated neckbeards dispensing "justice" is less badass.