After all the brouhaha surrounding #GamerGate and the controversy surrounding the decision that SXSW made in removing some #GamerGate panels, I wanted to remind my gentle reader — yes, you — that there are warm hugs online and not just slaps, punches, yells, screams, and assaults online. First, here’s a #GamerGate primer. Second, online abuse, bullying, and assault is undeniably a real thing and I am not being an apologist.
Many Online Communities are Friendly
A few months I finally decided to give reddit a go as a user and not as a marketer. I’m a convert — I love it. One of the things I really appreciate is how warm, generous, kind, supportive, and giving my subreddits have been — and not because I am a white male geek, either. I am a heavyset middle-aged man who needs more fitness, more strength, and a running habit. So, subscribed to /r/Fitness and/r/c25k and was amazed as to how compassionate, supportive, and fair “all those awful, bullying, rude bois were.
The most telling series of posts on /r/Fitness are by folks who describe themselves as fat, weak, or skinny, and who are too intimidated to even set foot in a gym. I have yet to see any fat-shaming or any sand being kicked into the faces of pencil-necked geeks, either. All the responses to people who are legitimately scared, afraid, or nervous have been so supportive, even I am amazed.
From The Fat Guy at the Gym, “When I used to go to a gym, whenever I’d see an overweight person, I’d get all kinds of happy inside knowing that this person was actively trying to improve their life.” From Fat guys (and girls) in the gym, “I’ve been watching a really big (maybe 400LB+) guy slowly “shrink” over the past five months that I’ve been going to my gym. I see him working out for over an hour at a time on one of those seated steppers. He doesn’t know it, but he keeps me motivated.”
And, it’s not all hugs, sometimes it’s a little tougher but always from the right spot. From I’m so embarrassed to even go to the gym, “Nobody actually cares what you can or cannot lift, nor what you feel. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of debility and pain based on an egocentric delusion.” And, simple advice over at Gym for the first time tonight. Really nervous, “the only way to truly fail at the gym is not to go.”
It’s funny, the only posters that people shut down are folks who either follow “broscience” or folks who come in without reading the Fitness Wiki (mind you, if someone’s looking for motivation or really being honest and open, this never happens — but if someone asks for something that might well have been done by asking Google, people there have much less patience).
Even better than /r/Fitness is /r/C25K — the reddit Couch to 5k running plan subreddit, or sub. The c25k program was developed by Cool Running It’s such a friendly place that boys, girls, men, women, of all sizes and body types and circumstances eagerly post post-run selfies and screen captures of their runs. There’s a lot insider code on that sub. W1D1 means week one, day one, of the workout.
It’s a 9-week program and so, after nine-weeks of walking, jogging, running, sweating, and collapsing, three-days-a-week, you graduate — some just graduate, most stay on to root on the newbies, some celebrate with a 5k race, and quite a few move on to 10ks, 1/2 marathons, and even marathons, always reporting in to let folks know that they, too, began as a lump: a boy lump, a girl lump, a man lump, or a woman lump, of all body types, races, genders, and all of that. When I started in, I was afraid that especially attractive or young female runners would get some negative attention, but it’s all good.
From W1D1 with my much faster buddy, “Keep it up. I started W1D1 Sunday. Really sore today,” From Completed my first 5K! Only walked a little, and finished under 40min!, “WOO congratulations I love this seriously I am so envious and in awe, you are doing exactly what I wanna be doing.” From Finished my first official 5k! Fastest ever: completed in 38:36! Now on to 10k training!, “Congratulations! Keep on running!” From Today I am a runner. W9d3 complete., “You were a runner the day you decided to run, my son.” And these are all in the titles, 6 months ago I tried Week 1 Day 1 and failed miserably. This morning I ran my first ever 10k without stopping to walk even once! 😀 I’m so grateful for this subreddit – keep it up everyone!“, Moving my C25K tassel to the left today. DONE! I never thought I’d say this: I LIKE RUNNING!, W3D1: Wasn’t expecting the first 3 min run but Darude got me through the second one… So proud right now!!, and On this beautiful (chilly) fall morning, I became a C25K graduate!!! I’m registered for 5K #2 next weekend! 😀.
I am a big, college-educated, white man so I take anything I see with a grain of salt but I have been deeply and emotionally invested in online communities since 1993 and have been online since 1983 and my life would be very different and very much worse without them — I have always just been very careful as to where I put myself and where I put my heart. I really hate to quote the Bible but sometimes wisdom is necessary.
Proverbs 4:23 states “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” I had spent years avoiding Reddit primarily because I had never gone in without an agenda, without a chip on my shoulder. Now that I have gone in to learn more about my passions, my hobbies, my shows, and my interests, and my fitness — honestly and with deep respect and a little reverence — I have found a very intelligent, generous, kind, and understanding community.
Mind you, there’s snark and attitude and a little rough play, but when someone’s in need, they do indeed step up.
I am well impressed. Now, it’s your turn. Go git ’em, Tiger!