Am I Trapped By Human Communication?
It all started when I was casually browsing Twitter, as many things do. I saw a post from the Metroid Database account, announcing a Figma of the Metroid Prime version of Samus Aran in her Varia suit. That's cool and all, but they framed it in the context of how long Nintendo waited to create a Figma with that design, which is a rather negative way to frame the announcement. That's not really a big deal - I'm sure they're happy to have it and are just noting how long they anticipated such a release. What stuck out to me is that how often Metroid fans frame their discussion of the brand in a negative way regarding its owners, Nintendo. The obvious retort is that this isn't unique to Metroid fans, and my response in turn is to agree, point out that this doesn't nullify the problem, and move on to my real topic. The takeaway was that some fans will be negative and some will stay positive. That's to be expected - there different people. The problem comes with the label "fan" and what it means in people's minds. I asked some close friends in a group chat to help me understand what they think "fan" means, and the main response I got was that it means something softer than "fanatic", the word from which it was derived. I more or less expected this, but I also acknowledge that many people may not define it that way. Those who define it differently probably do so because they don't share my demographics, and that's no surprise, either. This highlights a problem many have spoken about before, that of labels being often unhelpful for understanding people socially. I won't go into that, since that's a whole separate issue. My immediate concern is communicating clearly. The problem is that if I count on "fan" to mean what I think it means within my demographics, I cannot properly express what that means to people outside them. They may associate me with people who have shrines to Samus in their basement, just because I enjoy about half the games in the Metroid franchise, despite the wide gap between those two mindsets. This isn't unique to the term "fan" either. This reaches into simple turns of phrase, mannerisms, and mindsets. It's a self-perpetuating system of people participating in this subset of communication, getting a response from others in kind, and being reinforced by this to keep participating. However, this participation can also be described as affirmation. Participating in the subculture with the knowledge that doing so will perpetuate it, is affirming it. At least in a sense. By participating in this subset of communication, I find myself pushing it toward even greater exclusion. It's like a club with secret handshakes. This eventually leads to a kind of echo chamber of people who only think a certain way (like the "fan" terminology example), and I do not wish to contribute to any echo chamber. I want to be understood, not categorized, either by the in-group or the out-group. That all being said, I wonder how much I should worry about this. Yes, I run the risk of being misunderstood by people outside my demographics, but so does everyone else from other demographics. This doesn't even account for barriers like language and nationality. These are all a problem for everyone and many, many people seem happy about their lives anyway. Why should I care? Why do those barriers exist in the first place? I don't want a historical answer - I understand that already. I mean why do these barriers persist, and more importantly, why do new ones form? Isn't that because of echo chambers? Isn't that because of people affirming the self-perpetuating system? But again, why should I care? Isn't this just a normal part of human communication? Aren't we wired to form communities, and isn't it statistically expected that, over time, those communities would diverge? Is it really immoral to affirm something that happens so naturally? Natural does not mean bad, and it does not mean good. It means natural. "Good" and "bad" are terms we assign to things, natural or not, for our own reasons. But the question stands - is this likely natural phenomenon something I should expend the energy to disdain and overcome? Or is it something I can't hope to fight, and can be forgiven for just accepting as-is and living my life irrespective of it? Perhaps more pointedly - is this all in my head? Have I simply projected this conflict onto given communication in general, or is this something specific to me (maybe other people who happen to think like me, as well), but not a problem in general? This is why I worded the title as I did. It's not about whether we are trapped by human communication, but whether I am trapped. Maybe I am, or maybe I'm overreacting. I can say that sometimes I feel trapped. I often feel like no matter what I say, there's a faceless cloud of people looking into the subculture I occupy, and regardless of my best efforts to make myself clear, they just hear "things a typical [label] would say". On the other hand, am I really trapped? How much of an impact would those people have on my life anyway? Will I every be in any kind of reciprocal relationship with them? Probably not for the vast majority of them. Statistically, my reciprocal relationships will stay within my demographics. Maybe that's the way it should be, and I should be happy with it. There's plenty to enjoy, even within that subset. Maybe my friends and family will be who they will be, and whoever they are, that's the people I'm meant to benefit. On the other hand, maybe I'm part of humanity's biggest problem, and the only thing I will have to say for my life is that I kept the psychosocial wheels turning. Don't come away from this thinking that I claim to be the savior of humanity. I'd just prefer to, at the very least, not make things worse. I hope all that made sense. Sure is a lot of fundamental stuff to come from a tweet about a plastic video game character, huh? Thanks for reading, and have a great whatever!