what you can’t get away from online

One of the principles that I believe in, but struggle to adhere to myself, is simply letting other people like what they like and acknowledging that differing tastes are what makes life worth living. That has nothing to do with not giving things critical evaluation– I’m perfectly happy to write a vicious review of something that I think is bad. But nowadays it seems like people don’t just have differing opinions about what’s good, culturally and aesthetically, but deep annoyance that other tastes exists. It’s a weird phenomenon I hope to publish something about. I never shy away from saying when I don’t like something, or why, but I hope to be an advocate for the principle that we should pursue greater diversity in cultural and artistic opinion, not less.

What makes it hard is when you just can’t get away from something you don’t like. So when Game of Thrones is in season (and often when it isn’t), I find it simply unavoidable. It’s not just that it is all over sites and publications devoted to fantasy or sci fi or just television or pop culture, or in the general press, which I expect. It’s that it pops up on sports websites and technology websites and video game websites (outside of the context of GoT video games) and food websites and science websites and even Weather.com. This is, I’m sure, an example of what Alex Pareene is talking about when he says that the insatiable need for clicks makes every site and blog and vertical online seem the same. Game of Thrones drives traffic, particularly on social media, and so every site under the sun finds some pretext for forcing out some CONTENT about the show. That, in turn, shrinks the online world in a deeply depressing way. The internet astounds in its potential for diversity, but both commercial and cultural factors seem to be working relentlessly to make everything look and feel and sound the same.

Et tu, Cat Fancy?

I’m not even talking about behaviors, idioms, or codes, here. The professional internet, for me, is defined in large measure by two of the worst aspects of modern elite culture — the assumption that a satisfied adult life means sitting around in a virtual Central Perk, zinging one-liners at each other until the end of time, and the notion that being perpetually, showily unimpressed is how we should all act all the time. But that’s a separate discussion. Here, I’m just lamenting the fact that, however much we might create sites and communities oriented around a particular theme or subject, those walls blur in the rush to be part of “the conversation,” whether that rush is due to financial or social pressures. It’s certainly true that there are dangers associated with living in too much of a bubble, particularly when it comes to treating people who are outside of that bubble the right way. But there’s also something to be said for promoting diversity through maintaining distinct online spaces.