Recently I read three books that, in one way or another, dealt with the internet. I have also been watching episodes of Catfish: The TV Show. Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a memoir that describes how she became involved in a web series and website. A lot of it is very funny because she had an unusual childhood . Day writes about how she found a community online through gaming and social media. One chapter deals with gamergate. Day was not directly involved but she has faced misogyny online.
Crash Override by Zoe Quinn is directly about gamergate since the author was the main actor in that saga. She had a difficult and unhappy childhood and turned to internet games for a sense of community and identity. A disgruntled ex boyfriend published a screed against which turned into a huge online phenomena at great personal cost to Quinn.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesa Zappia is a novel about a very shy and socially awkward teenage girl who creates a fictional identity for herself through an online webcomic forum. On the internet she is a strong and dynamic creator, Lady Constellation, and she has a large fan base. There are serious consequences when her true identity is revealed
Catfish The TV Show is about people who pose as someone they are not on the internet and then get romantically involved with unsuspecting men or women. Many of the catfishers are people, most often women who are insecure about their looks and weight. Others are scared to reveal their sexual identity to friends and family so they create a fake persona online. Some catfishers are scam artists seeking money.
The three books and the tv show reveal the ways in which we use the internet to find community, define ourselves and or escape reality. The internet can be a free and open space for young people particularly, to try on different ways of being and expressing themselves. It can also help people who do not fit in the real world to feel like they belong.
However it can also be a dangerous and potentially harmful space. The 2016 elections revealed the consequences of fake information and fake personas. The misogyny that Zoe Quin and other women continue to face on the internet remains a serous problem.