Words of Warning About Obsession

I suffered a number or irritations this weekend, which of course is never fun. But if it must happen, it becomes somewhat easier to bare when there is a lesson in it. Or at least a lesson parked nearby.

My two biggest irritations may not seem connected at first. They didn’t even to me, until I got to thinking about it. Then I realized that both incidents may have something to do with my aversion to obsession, and the ease with which people can pursue it in this internet age.

The first source or irritation has been an annual source of irritation for me over the last few years. Yesterday was the fourth of May, and if you were on the internet at all, you know that that day has been made into a beacon of obsessive juvenile behavior, by way of an infantile pun. I won’t stain this post by mentioning it, though I will refer you to a previous post I have made on the subject. I can’t articulate my feelings today any better than I did back then on the subject anyway.

The second source of irritation, (and to some degree concern for my possible well being) also happened yesterday.

I had, until then, frequented a baseball fan forum. I had for about a year used it as a place to vent some frustrations about a frustrating team, in hopes of finding like minded fans. I also hoped somebody involved in same would be able to assuage said frustrations with some degree of facts. Really, the exact opposite happened, and this is where we get into the obsession part.

So obsessed with “good news” were the fans on the forum, that the slightest negative comments about the team usually elicited accusations of being a “troll” or not being a real “fan” or not understanding baseball. Now, whether it be a baseball team, a movie franchise or a collection of books, an unwillingness to accept criticisms about the subject of a fandom is to me the first sign of obsession. I don’t want to make this a baseball post, but let’s just say I find it silly to look only on bright sides when a team is doing terribly. I’m not their coach, after all. I mean I’m all for trying to find the positive in general but that can be over done. I find the large number of strike outs in a game far more pertinent to a discussion of a team’s chances than the fact that each player exhibited a gorgeous swing when the did so much striking out. Doesn’t make me less of a fan, as I want the team to do well, but in the end, being a fan is to me getting pissed at the team when they play like buffoons, and celebrating when they do well.

The forum didn’t see it this way, and I was always barraged with insults because of it. Yes I could and probably should have left the forum. I guess I was stubborn in thinking somebody would view things in the same sort of frank manner I did, eventually. Or at least have something intelligent to say to counter it, or talk me down from climbing the walls about a floundering team.

In fact I’d already started to drift from the place, the smell of obsession and its subsequent lack of reality already growing old. But when the team really bombed, I said so still.

Keep in mind, I followed all rules on this silly forum. I didn’t threaten anybody, no commercial links or whatever. No profanity. But I committed the grave sin of expressing I was getting annoyed with the ineptitude of my own team. And for this, yesterday, I was finally given a warning; be more “constructive” in my posts, or leave. I opted to use one final post to tell the whole group to bite me.

And I literally told them to bite me. If I was going to be banned for being frank, might as well go out being really frank. So I did. Mature? No. But satisfying after dealing with yet another group of immature forum dwellers and power hungry moderators? Yeah, a bit.

But that wasn’t enough for them, and this is where the story goes from annoying to somewhat worrisome.

I tweeted that I’d been thrown out of a “third rate sports forum” or something like that. Didn’t name the forum, or anybody in it. But the forum owner shows up on Twitter and harasses me. After warning and  blocking him, a minion of his showed up and started harassing me as well. (Having set up a new account to do so.) They were also warned and blocked. I then tweeted that I would take any and all appropriate action if the harassment continued, because I was not going to be bullied by a group of people whom had already gotten rid of me from their little community anyway. So far, no further harassment or threats from them, but who knows if it is truly over. Part of me is concerned that their harassment has only just begun.

I say this because at first I was amused that the owner of the third rate forum actually outed himself by contacting me on Twitter. (I hadn’t followed them on Twitter.) Meaning they sought me out just to harass me about my typos. (Yes, my typos.) They could have been anonymous and forgotten on my feed, but they let the world know who they are, and proved just how ridiculous they are be taking the time to look me up to send nasty tweets. But then when the harassment continued, I was, and still am, somewhat concerned for my safety. It may take a while to see just how far these people are willing to go to get back at me for telling them to “bite me”, or for my expressed irritation and anger at a major league ball team that they seem to be obsessed with.

The point I’m coming to is, I sign my name to such things. My tweets, this post, and all of my posts on the forum. Even the “bite me” kiss off post before being banned had my name on it. The tweet I received from the owner of said forum? An avatar of a guy in a mask, with no name in the tweet. Which is why I am both annoyed and concerned.

It’s all a bit pathetic and a bit scary. The internet did not invent obsession, and it did not invent anonymity. The pack mentality was in place long before internet forums came along. I realize that. But an age where it can be dangerous to tell a few sports fans to “bite me” after they banned me from their silly  forum because they didn’t like my frank sarcasm about the performance of some millionaires who will never know anything I have said? That’s a whole other thing. A whole other thing that I suppose we all need to be aware of not just when we post political or religious thoughts on line, but when we post anything that somebody with a computer doesn’t like. When we post anything under our own name, I suppose we subject ourselves to the possibility of rubbing certain obsessive, (and possibly dangerous) people the wrong way.

Gone are the days when we can basically tell other sports fans they are full of it, without wondering if they will track us down and harass us. I’ve learned that the hard way, and I will think twice about joining any other sports forums, even those supporting the teams I like.

Yet even after all of this, I don’t regret having my name assigned to my comments. Call them unnecessary, rude, or immature, (though I wouldn’t totally agree with that), but at least I have my name on what is mine in this matter. Have I paid a price for that? Will I suffer some kind of unpleasant consequences, online or offline because my name appeared on what I wrote? Frankly I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe it’s all just over. Who can say? But I can say that whether it be a movie franchise, a ball team or a Twitter feed, we must in this digital age be ever cognizant of the human propensity to obsess. To dominate. To draw our guns quickly and take names later. To not be satisfied with banning a person, but going after them later and I suppose seeing if they even mention anything in passing we don’t like.

I’m a writer and I am going to need an online presence. I need my name to be attached to what I do, and that won’t change. Yet I must proceed with more, not less caution as time goes on, it seems. It may be that in the end, I have to do less online, so long as I do it with my own name.

Obsession thrives online. We have to stay vigilant to make sure it remains just an obsession.

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