When I was in college (undergrad), I took several courses on sociology. I remember coming across the class listing for Microsociology in freshman year. As a freshly minted Chemical Engineer, I didn’t have a whole lot of leeway in terms of course selection. I had to take a Humanities class and a Social Science class…but the rest of it was just math and science for four years. The Microsociology class seemed to be a good way to meet people, learn something, and fulfill a requirement. I didn’t do fantastic in it. Granted, I was, unbeknownst to me, suffering from major depression after going back to college from spending a winter break home. That aside, I still didn’t do well. I was young, naive, and stupid. I think I got a C+ in the class and then promptly put it behind me. Senior year I had a Social Science requirement that needed to be filled and the professor had opened up a 205 version of the course. I decided to rectify my transgressions of three years earlier. While I was still naive and stupid, I was older. I had also gotten a lot better at being in groups. The professor not only instilled in me a love of group dynamics and interaction…but also a good taste in scotch. If there were two things that man lived for they were ties and scotch. I got an A+.
Group dynamics have always interested me. Partially thanks to Professor Smith, partially because I have always seen watched people. When you spend as much time in hospitals as I have, watching people interact is all you have sometimes. And, in hospitals, people are either always at their best or their worst. Never really a middle ground when life sometimes is very much on the line. On the internet, things usually aren’t so dire…although some may make it out to be that way. And in this, social interactions on the internet get a bad rap. The most vocal and most extreme are usually the example given for a group solely because they’re loud, visible, and so radically different from common thought and parlance that it’s easy to differentiate and display. On Twitter, these representations are often found in figureheads of opinion and discourse. Well…”discourse” being used in a very loose and rough way. It’s not really a lot of discourse so much as it’s 140 characters of lambasting and shouting from the mountaintops. So you see the extremes of sociology, the all-or-nothings, as representation of EVERYTHING going on online.
As should be obvious, this isn’t actually what’s happening in every social interaction.
Lately, I’ve been chatting with a lot of people on Twitter. I find no shame in admitting that I enjoy the satirical work of BroTeamPill. He’s crude, and insensitive, and non-PC…and a beautiful example of internet culture and sociology. At least in my eyes. And I don’t have a degree in sociology or psychology. So, a community based on the personality of a man with game videos solely comprised of a guy laughing and a Ukrainian guy making fun of everyone while playing a terrible MMO surely would bring in the scourge of society…right?
The community surrounding BroTeam, I’ve found, is one of the NICEST, COOLEST, MOST UNDERSTANDING groups online I have ever seen. Sure, it may look harsh on the exterior. But it is a group of people who have positive interactions encased in the most delicious coating of satire and self-deprecating humor. Some examples:
The internet, and everything related to it, is pretty weird. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t consider talking to ANYONE on the internet a form of social interaction. Even VoIP isn’t considered a social interaction by many, let alone “talking” to people on Twitter. And when you do say that you’re actively engaging others on the internet…people always assume it’s combative, derogatory, or hurtful. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The internet, for many, is a place of acceptance….even if it may not seem like it. You are judged and accepted not by how you look or sound…but rather by who you are as a person and your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. This is such a liberating thing for people with problems, either physical or mental. It is a freedom that comes with anonymity and being able to have all the traditional social deciding factors be put aside; to be who you mentally, not physically. And to be able to connect with others that know what you’re going through and support each other. Like an online support group.
And boy…do I like studying groups.