How to Find Your People - Not the Goblins and Gatekeepers
The Internet is, for lack of a better phrase, a minefield of dirty bombs filled with scorpions, and the scorpions are also racist. This isn’t news to anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of being Online with an opinion, or just Online in general. And it’s been this way for as long as I can remember in my 25 years of living (as of this posting I’ll be 26 in October [and then 27 in the next October, 28 the October after that, you know how years work]).
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of somehow being Online in circles that were for the most part actually pretty good! And it was in the wrestling community, which had always had this aura of hostility. But thanks to the wonderful podcast that calls this website home (which you should listen to if you somehow haven’t yet) I’d managed to interact with people who were chill as hell about wrestling. Here was an oasis of people who wanted to Photoshop sunglasses on Luke Harper, people who would turn a single Facebook post about Rusev into a huge thread of just heart eye emojis, people who ultimately just wanted to have a nice time.
I was stunned that this existed! I still am! There were other weirdos out there who also were super into the juxtaposition of Minoru Suzuki slapping the souls out of people and his massive sock collection that he showcases on Instagram! Why was it so hard to find a community for this long based in this VERY specific niche that wasn’t ready to toss out death threats at a minor disagreement?
The web is awful, for reasons stated earlier in this article. But here’s the theory I’ve come up with: wrestling is, and has been for the most part, a thing that’s typically enjoyed in isolation. Even though on TV the arenas are packed, it’s very rare in 2018 to find more than one or two people in the wild who are fans (in my experience at least).
This is only aided by the sentiment that I’ve carried and seen expressed in others, where people are afraid of wearing wrestling merchandise in public out of the fear of another wrestling fan actually talking to them about it. This fear of the unknown fan, who’ll come for you like a thief in the night while you’re waiting in line at the deli for your sandwich, and they’ll notice your Kevin Owens shirt, and, oh god, what if they try to Too Sweet you in front of all of these strangers, what if your boss sees and you get fired because they think that wrestling is for children, and what if your new wrestling pal hates women wrestlers??
And like, this is a valid concern. As a person who hates unexpected social interactions, my skeleton tried to escape my body three times while typing that last paragraph. And I’m saying all of that as a cis straight white male; there are people who worry for their own personal wellbeing whenever a stranger approaches them in public. That’s not something that’s lost on me.
But I think about 10 Year Old Lloyd, not really having anyone to talk to about Goldberg showing up out of nowhere and spearing The Rock. I think about 18 Year Old Lloyd showing up to college and having to make new friends for the first time. I think about 25 Year Old Lloyd moving to The Big City and having to make new friends with even less structure. And it’s a weird feeling! It kinda sucks! And I remember how good it feels when you discover that someone suddenly has the same common interest as you. The person you’re on a Tinder date with is in to the same weird graphic novel as you. The guy who goes to the same coffee shop that you do every week is listening to the same podcast as you. You feel that bridge being built in real time, and it’s great. It’s a link that you share, a common experience that you both have, and you didn’t think anyone else did. Someone else thinks that Jerry Lynn was rad as fuck.
And in the way the Internet goes, sometimes people go too far with it. Instead of welcoming people across the bridge, they become a weird bridge-goblin that refuses to let anyone pass unless they can tell you the exact date of when Dusty Rhodes teamed with Adrian Street to take on Kevin Sullivan and Buzz Sawyer in an Odd Couple Match (April 20th 1984 [nice]). Like, it’s 2018; it’s okay to cut out the gatekeepers. This is your formal permission to ignore those people.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s always gonna be shit-heads. There’s always gonna be people who want to protect their precious wrestling that exists only in a vacuum, and heaven forbid if anyone else tries to enjoy it in a way that’s different from them. That’s fine. It’s weird and shitty but it’s ultimately fine. But there are people out there who enjoy the same things you do and want to share it with you. There are people who want to send you gifs of Timothy Thatcher looking like an angry owl at 1 AM. Your people are out there.
You just gotta make sure you don’t step on any racist scorpions.