Truly there are people in this world far too invested in the media they consume -- I should know, I've been there. On more than one occasion I've found myself fuming with a pathologically stupid rage at a review -- but I happen to be an idiot, and I'm of the crazy opinion that reasonable human beings should know better.
This story was originally published in July 2012.
I used to wonder if the shitstorms that follow negative reviews were a phenomenon exclusive to video games -- the result of console tribalism, a byproduct of the money we invest in them. But thanks to the release of The Dark Knight Rises, we have proof that is not the case. It's simply the end result of collective stupidity, and every form of entertainment is susceptible. It doesn't matter if the product is interactive, it doesn't matter if it's played on a costly device. If people are passionately invested in something, they will react badly to criticism of that product. If that passion is lathered to a dense, frothy fervour, it can become destructive and innocent people get hurt.
On Rotten Tomatoes today, Editor in Chief Matt Atchity was forced to make this post, a short address to those who had bombarded the first negative review of The Dark Knight Rises with threats, hate speech, all the good stuff. The whole situation, as someone who used to write reviews for a living, was completely painful to watch -- it's this sort of silliness that contributed heavily to my decision to not review games on Kotaku Australia. I want no part of this mob, and I have no interest in adding my own voice to that pointless drone of white noise.
But I do have a little suggestion -- maybe we should start caring a little less about the media we consume?
As a teenager, and even into my early 20s, I was utterly guilty of allowing the movies I watched, the music I listened to and the video games I played, to define me. In a sense I think that is -- if not the endgame -- definitely a touching point for the complicated process of fandom. It is for this reason that, as a 19 year old I, without a single shred of irony, believed that The Phantom Menace was a decent movie.
But at some point I -- sensibly -- decided to stop giving a shit about someone else's opinion of the things I loved.
At its base root, extreme fandom -- the kind that motivates a normally lucid human being to verbally attack another person over the internet -- is the end result of insecurity. Is this thing that I am so heavily invested in truly worth that investment? Am I secure in my own opinions about this thing? These are the questions you ask yourself and for some weird reason the answers are important to you. Your opinions must be reaffirmed in others. You must target the strange rage you feel towards those with dissenting opinions. And it must be done en masse, alongside those who feel the same way as you.
Why not save yourself that angst? Why not simply care less?
Just care less. Matt Atchity correctly stated there are more important things to get angry about; shouting down reviewers who didn't like the thing you love is petty in the grand scheme of things. But I say that's just a symptom; the root-cause is far deeper. It's the end result of allowing the products you consume, or the hobby you engage with, to define you.
I've been there, and it felt good to just let it go. It's pretty painful to continue taking negativity personally, and it's exhausting to continue being an 'angry person on the internet'. You are more than the video games you play; the movies you watch and the music you listen to should be of little consequence to others, and you shouldn't take it personally when others feel differently about the things you love.
Just let it go. Kill your darlings. We should simply care less about the media we are invested in. The internet, and the world, will be a much nicer place as a result.