Emo (Internet) Kids Never Die
The internet collectivizes our angst, and it could be the key to fixing this mess
Hey everyone! Jared, here. There’s no podcast this week and on last week’s episode I promised a newsletter and this is just that. I want to thank all of you for dealing with me as I try to produce this show in addition to everything else happening in my life the past couple of months.
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Emo (Internet) Kids Never Die
It’s not a “phase.”
The internet is a conduit for our collective angst. Social media rewards outrage and fear, whether we like it or not; it’s a proven way to keep us clicking and scrolling. Maybe that factored into the popularization of “emo” music on MySpace in the early aughts, or perhaps I just made that up so I could justify writing about music and getting mad online.
The soundtrack to my early internet experience included bands that I encountered thanks to the MySpace account I tried to hide from my parents—Panic! at the Disco, Bullet for My Valentine, The Devil Wears Prada, and more. I often turned to my peers and the internet for cues in understanding and expressing the turmoil and chaos of teenage life in what was then a nothing-town in Arkansas.
Coming to age in Bentonville, Arkansas, in the 2000s was an odd experience, in hindsight. Visitors nowadays can visit a beautiful art museum and a vibrant local business scene (much of which is subsidized by the owners of Walmart) but back then the city was little more than a collection of churches, banks, and little league sports teams. Unlike a place like New York City, a shared experience of “pop culture” for folks who didn’t like church or sports was hard to come by beyond the media we consumed at home, and an “always act pleasant” southern culture frowned upon outward expressions of negative emotions. A lot of my early exposure to the broader world happened online.
At the time, I thought of “emo” music and art as a form of expression that felt a little bit more real than pop music or, god forbid, country gospel music. Even if my parents wouldn’t let me shop at Hot Topic—a blessing, looking back on it now—I was determined to express the angst I felt inside my developing brain.
For many people online, the angst expressed in emo culture embodied a way of expressing the anxiety and anger of the 2000s that still permeates the American psyche today. The country had recently lived through a massive terror attack and was conducting a war in the Middle East. If you didn’t drink the “USA! USA!” Kool-Aid, nothing made any fucking sense at that moment. Even if I didn’t wear the eyeliner or get the piercings, I still felt a sense that I could use the internet to connect to that sentiment, which the people surrounding me could not express.
Picking up our devices and logging on was a cathartic way to express our collective despair and struggle, and it was a quick way of organizing to face those issues. Even in online culture today, a certain degree of nihilism and cynicism pervades. We seem to all understand that this digital world is currently garbage, and we all recognize our roles as cogs in the internet machine. But collective online anger, if manifested into something more tangible, could very well be our ticket out of this moment in time.
Collective online anger is playing an increasing role in dictating our politics. It has never been easier to directly impact the behaviors of our politicians and give voice to our constituency. In this way, getting mad online can be wielded for the greater good.
But the collective anger we share online has manifested itself in horrific ways, too. In 2013, Reddit users channeled their outrage and grief after the Boston Marathon Bombing into attempting to determine the culprit responsible. The site users settled on a young man named Sunil Tripathi, who had been missing for more than a month at the time. He was the wrong person, and he was later found dead in a river. (The man’s death did not appear to be connected to the Reddit vigilantes.)
Redditors channeled their collective rage and grief into a state of paranoid delusion, and as a result they besmirched the name of an innocent man, and wreaked untold suffering on a grieving family.
Unfortunately, this story is one that seems to play out after mass tragedy time after time. Sometimes our shared anger online, though often powerful, can sometimes result in chaos and more suffering.
One of my favorite bands to this day is My Chemical Romance, circa 2002-2006. We’ll close this with a song from their breakout album, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.”
Life is but a dream for the dead,
And well I, I won't go down by myself,
But I'll go down with my friends
”You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” by My Chemical Romance
🤔🤔🤔 Much to Think About!
What happened to “Weezy F. Baby” in Saudi Arabia last month? The world may never know.