I can’t really imagine what it is like to be internet famous or ‘situationally famous’ as Felicia Day (The Guild, Supernatural) puts it in You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) but it seems on par with high school popularity. There are those who worship the ground you walk on, those who try to take you down a peg, and those who have no idea who you are because no one cares about the president of the drama club except the vice president and stagehands making out backstage. Ok, it might not be an exact comparison.
Nerdery is a big business now and Felicia Day is one of the people who has been defining the terms of that business. I’ve followed her nerd-jectery since before I knew what was happening. Once the full geek worship set in there was no chance I would miss out on this book. It’s got the adorable hilarity that I was drawn to in her web series The Guild (Side note: This is honestly one of the funniest web series I’ve ever seen) but also an unexpected sense of nostalgia that is warming in its embarrassing, terrifying, and eye-opening effect.
Being roughly (*cough cough*) the same age as Day the experience she charts of her interaction with the internet paralleled mine. When it comes to life experience, though, the similarities pretty much stop there. She was homeschooled, an early online gamer, a violin prodigy who went to college as a teen, studied dance, karate, singing, and a whole slew of other amazing foundation building jealousy inspiring accomplishments. The way she describes it though feels like any kid stumbling through their weirdly amusing childhood. It’s that sentiment that really stays with me after reading You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost). It’s inspiring without being cheesy. The takeaway being that the internet is a tool to magnify the things you are already doing and that you already think are cool.
Unfortunately, like most of us, all of the wonderful things she found through online media were shadowed by some dark and scary times. Now-a-days being any kind of famous also means being a target for doxxing, which is hacking someone’s personal information like home address and phone number and posting them on the internet. Day describes the events and culture surrounding her doxxing. It’s a terrifying but all too common picture of humanity. Fortunately, she does it in her singularly hilarious, awkward, nerdy way.
When she first learned that she was being attacked with a barrage of negative, and even scary, comments on her blog she says, “I was silent for a second. Then I learned that ‘bathed in horror’ is an actual feeling, not a colorful writing metaphor.” And she manages to find the appealingly raunchy humor in the horror. “I spent a week ripping out pieces of my digital life that I didn’t want people poking around. I’m sure I missed a lot. When you examine your underwear close enough, EVERYTHING looks a little bit suspect.” Plus, she makes a good point about personal hygiene. You can only do so much. Still, on the page she battles with the decision to speak out again by publishing the doxxing chapter in the book, worrying about the fallout that might come.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” -Edmund Burke (1729-1797) (Or maybe not, according to Wikipedia)
Having recently watched a friend begin this same kind of online persona vs. real life person battle and having read this deeply personal book, I have a new perspective on fame and internet culture. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of curbing my posts or changing my image online but I do realize that even in virtual reality, the reward of connection to the world comes with the risks.