Anything can be toxic

So, a while ago, I saw this sketch by Key and Peele where two men were supposed to meet up and they had a bit of a misunderstanding. When talking about when/where to meet up, one was fine with “whatever” which the other took as “they don’t care”. Their messages to each other then were perceived by the first one as friendly and adorable while the other perceived them as hostile and vicious. Either way, I can’t find the sketch anymore in my search history and don’t know what to look for but in essence, it kinda prompted this post…

After all, anything can be toxic… or anything can come across as toxic.

It’s something that I noticed a lot on the internet that happens a lot due to how communication happens.

We all are different people with different experiences, possibly even from different parts of the world. When we come in contact with other people who have their own sets of experiences, feelings and cultural backgrounds that are different from ours, we sometimes clash.

That just happens. It’s not something one can regulate or prevent.

A message that bears no ill will can be perceived as something that is incredibly evil – which then can lead to minor or major misunderstandings, and in the worst case to falling-outs and arguments.

One such example would be the use of emojis or the lack thereof.

When I was younger, I didn’t use any emojis at all in text messages – and even though we spoke the same language and came from the same town and everything, some people thought I was being unfriendly or even rude at times, without me knowing about it.

There is a whole tangent that I could go on here (in fact, I removed the 800-word long tangent here because it didn’t really work for the post, lol) about instant messaging and the evolution I was able to see and experience… but that’s not the point.

The point I’m trying to make with this specific example is that even the friendliest “Congrats!” can come across as ill-willed or mean-spirited or sarcastic without the use of emoji, so when I think that something can be misunderstood, I add some here and there, although I find it slightly embarrassing.

But it’s the norm… So, uh, gotta get used to it, I guess?

Either way, I digress. Different people, different experiences.

You get the idea, right? We may have had different friend groups and experiences, backgrounds, and we may come from different countries. Based on how we lived our lives and based on what decisions we made in our lives, what sort of people we interacted with already, and what experiences we were able to make, it can at times be a bit hard to understand what others mean when they use certain phrases, sentences or even emotes.

On Twitch, people may use “pepe” emotes.

I have negative connotations with those, personally. I associate them with 4chan people and Reddit Trolls as well as memelords that spent their time on Twitter harassing journalists while disregarding gamergate completely… (oops, small rant)

Other people, however, even inclusive and open-minded people that I’d consider to be incredibly friendly and welcoming and not at all toxic… they use those emotes and allow them in their chats… because they want to reclaim them or because they don’t associate that toxic element at all with this set of emotes.

Similarly, the use of “LUL” may spark some controversy.

“LUL” will display a picture of TotalBiscuit laughing in chat, someone who did a lot for Indie Games, I guess, and who I used to watch a lot and that I used to look up to… but he also sparked a lot of controversies while alive.

People that dislike him for some transphobic comments he made, controversial things he said, ways he treated developers, and this whole thing he had with GamerGate and the harm he did… Oops, little rant… All of that adds toxicity to Twitch that some people may not even realise.

I’d argue that most Twitch users don’t know that the picture displayed when one types “LUL” is Total Biscuit. They’d just think that it’s “some guy laughing”, I reckon. Heck, most users of Twitch probably don’t even know who he was… and even if they do know about TB, they probably don’t care or are unaware of the things he did and said.

My point here is that many people may think that it’s a perfectly fine emote that just means something along the lines of “haha, this is funny” but for some people out there, it’s just toxic.

I watched an FTL streamer a while ago who doesn’t allow “Kappa” in his chat since (and I quote) “Anything that needs ‘Kappa’ to be okay to say isn’t okay to say or doesn’t add value to the chat”. Valid point, I reckon, especially with how often some people will say deeply problematic things and then shrug it off with “/j” or “joking” or even “Kappa”.
A streamer I watch often doesn’t like it when people use “F” in chat for similar reasons. It may be a meme but it has some sort of toxicity attached to it that she doesn’t like, which I can understand. I feel the same way about the term “gamer”.

So, uh, just some thoughts and examples of things that may be considered or perceived as toxic… based on one’s experience. I’m not actually sure what to do with this topic at all. Gamergate has already been eight or so years at this point and it still pops up… and whenever that pops up, TB pops up and I have to think about how I like using “LUL” but I also can understand the toxic elements and associations people have with the emote.

And then there’s the question of whether or not people can reclaim elements that are considered toxic and whether they can make it “okay to use” again.

It’s a big topic and I just wanted to share some thoughts on it as I think about this rather often… and I wanted to also see what others have to say about this topic… and maybe I’ll write again about this in the future and see if I come to a conclusion of sorts on how I feel about things and what I think might be a good solution to this.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

2 thoughts on “Anything can be toxic

Add yours

  1. You make some interesting points here. I’ve been in enough chats to see some of this behavior you mention. I think stuff like Kappa is fine when it’s used in a way that doesn’t make you an asshole (like you say, being toxic but hiding behind a “joke”, yeah) but the way I see it, the streamer’s stream is their house, and you have to follow their rules or else get out, seems fair.

    Pepe is a strange case too. I understand the original artist had nothing to do with 4chan or any of the places or things that have given it certain connotations. It used to be easier to wave all this stuff off before six or seven years ago, and that’s not counting Gamergate either. Back then, I get the impression a few right-wing grifters took advantage of annoyance at more left or progressive-leaning criticisms of games that were seen as attempts to invade the hobby. I certainly don’t agree with some of their criticisms, but the whole thing blew up to ridiculous proportions and contributed to a lot of pain that should have been avoided. Maybe my read on the whole thing is off, but it’s interesting at least to see how even emote use is still affected by that (and throw Pogchamp in there too, though that was really just about the man behind the face.)

    The few streams I’ve managed to be in lately have all been VTuber ones, and they have their own unique dynamics. Almost entirely positive and supportive as far as I’ve seen, though each talent has her own different sort of fanbase, and admittedly things can get a little weird sometimes. These are interesting subjects, though, and I’m always up to read more opinions on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a tendency these days to play fast and loose with the meaning of words. Words can then become ambiguous because different people use them to express different things. I hear phrases such as “random”, “literally” and the ubiquitous “like” bandied about all the time, with little or no regard for their respective dictionary definition.

    It is a dangerous precedence to set because if you can not adequately express yourself and those listening cannot decipher your words, it is naturally going to lead to problems. There’s a lot of truth in the old maxim of “you must say what you mean, or else how can you mean what you say”.

    Furthermore, the trivialisation of language is a dangerous political tool and one that can be used to bamboozle and manipulate the electorate. Words are there for everyone. Use them well and they will become your servant. Ignore them and they will be used to master you.

    Liked by 1 person

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