By Dillon O’Toole
Isn’t the modern world fantastic? All of the technology available today has brought everyone the ability to be closer to so many more people. Now, even if you have a niche hobby or interest, you can always find like minded others, whereas in the past you may have been lucky if you knew one person who shared that interest. Looking at me, I knew of almost no one outside of my family who actually watched NASCAR. Instead, I have had enough insults thrown my way because of my interest in cars turning left that I’m actually amazed when I hear something original. As such, the access I have to online communities must be a good thing right? I mean, these people also love the things I do so there should be minimum levels of negativity.
If you couldn’t tell because it’s in the form of text, the last two lines of my introduction paragraph should be read with as much sarcasm as you are capable of reading with. While the internet may have brought the world closer together, it most certainly hasn’t been the most positive of places. At least in my experience, when groups of fans gather in one place on the internet, the amount of negativity that spirals from those groups can at times feel very overwhelming. This is not unique to just one of my interests. It seems like every time I try to check up online about something I deem interesting, there are always as many negative comments as there are positive. While you may be thinking, “a 50/50 split isn’t that bad,” remember that it is very easy to focus on only the negativity in a community as that often comes across as more impactful.
Before I get much farther, I want to point out that I’m not talking about people who make constructive criticism. I often find that constructive criticism online actually leads to some good conversations. What I am talking about are the people whose whole internet personality seems to revolve around doom posting about whatever they claim to be interested in. To use an example that for once isn’t NASCAR, imagine your favorite band or artist. Now, if you frequent any sort of fan community of this band or artist, you have likely seen a post similar to this before: “This band is dead, their old music was way better.” If you somehow haven’t been exposed to these people, I envy you. These types of people aren’t exclusive to fandoms of musicians, as their catchphrase can easily be changed to fit the needs of any online community. Even worse, they are always present, unless of course the online community in question is just one big echo chamber that only allows unrequited love for our lord and savior Baxter Bearcat.
So, why do these doomers lurk in online communities if they hate the community they are participating in? An easy answer is that they are trolls looking to stir up trouble and attention. I mean it is the internet after all—people are constantly trying to get attention. But, as far as I can tell, trolls don’t make up the full population of these doomers. While trolls are certainly ever present, I find it hard to believe that they are the sole spreaders of misery across the entire internet. Instead, I think these doomers do—or at least did in the past—care about whatever community they are involved with. It does make sense; it can sometimes be very hard to let go of something that you once loved even if all the signs point to you not actually getting enjoyment from it anymore. To actually give a NASCAR example now (sorry I can’t help myself), a lot of the constant doom-posters on social media tend to be fans who are unhappy with various aspects of the sport today. To generalize their views, NASCAR was only good when Dale Sr. was racing and any and all decisions made by the sanctioning body ever since then have been the worst decisions ever. Now, I’m not saying NASCAR is perfect or has made only good decisions over the last 22 years, but the way this very generalized group of people talk about the sport, you would think that NASCAR was dead and that only 10 people even care about it in the first place.
You may be asking, “Dillon, what the hell was the purpose behind writing this article, you’ve said nothing.” I would actually agree. I haven’t really said anything new or insightful yet. Really, I just wanted to talk about how negativity seems to permeate online communities because I have noticed that it has affected my enjoyment of various things in recent years. I think being aware that this doomer mentality exists serves as a reminder that it’s ok to step away from social media for a time. Don’t let the internet sap your love of something just because some members of an online community can only spread hatred. In general, it’s probably just a good idea to step away from social media every once in a while. I know I’ve been happier since I started taking a break from Instagram and I didn’t even use it that much in the first place.