I’m here today to show you something that is both awful and awesome. I know this blog isn’t seen by a ton of people and those who see it are mostly family and close friends. But I want you to see this. Go to tumblr or twitter or Instagram and search the tag #familydontendwithblood
Let me explain. First off, for those who don’t know, Supernatural is a much-loved tv show about two guys who hunt monsters and go through a lot of angst. It, like many other shows, movies and books, has a large group of fans known as the ‘fandom’. Some people who read this are going to be like ‘we know this’ but some aren’t so I’m doing my best to explain quickly.
Fandom nerds… we’re a bit strange. I’m not as big a fan as many people are- if you think you’ve seen fangirling from me, you’re wrong. But, as I said, we’re strange. Lots of us take refuge in the media we so avidly consume. We may not have a lot of friends or a solid family life. I’m very lucky in that I do have a family and friends who… put up with my strangeness. Many people find that in their fandom, but not in real life. They confide in their friends on the internet, and sometimes these people have things that they need support in -depression, self-harm and self-esteem issues (who wouldn’t feel a bit down about themselves when they can’t find somewhere to fit in? It’s a common feeling, not fitting in anywhere).
Now, I’ve always found it beautiful that people can do that. I rarely confide in my internet friends, but I’ve seen people receive immense support and encouragement from their fandom buddies and I’ve seen people use the media and stories that they love to encourage people and keep them going. But in the past few days I’ve seen that taken to a whole new level.
People who don’t use social media a lot are more familiar with the idea of cyber bullying than that of internet friends. It’s one of the things we were always warned about in school. And we’ve seen in in action before -we saw it take the life of Amanda Todd. This story is also a story about bullying.
I was going through my usual fandom tags (Supernatural, Doctor Who, and so on) on Boxing Day when I came across an unusual number of pictures of people writing on their arms, and also a few notices about bullying. I only use Instagram, so I had no idea what had been going on all day on tumblr. Curious, I followed the tag #familydontendwithblood. And, through a bit of tumblr-searching and reading, I found out what was happening. A small group of people were sending anonymous hate messages to vulnerable people in the Supernatural fandom. They used their own posts against them- things they had told their friends, issues they had asked for support for. People ended up in hospital because they hurt themselves or tried to kill themselves. From what I can see, people may have died. Whoever was sending these messages was encouraging them to harm themselves, was preying on their insecurities. It was horrifying to come to the realization that this was happening as I watched.
But something gorgeous was happening too. The writing on the arms that I had seen was the tip of the iceberg as to what people in the Supernatural fandom were doing to counter these attacks. “Family don’t end with blood” was what they were writing, on their wrists, some of them over their own self-harm scars. And they were sending each other messages, keeping each other updated about who was being attacked and then sending them a flood of encouragement and love. They were doing their best to keep track of each other and help each other protect themselves. I saw other fandoms jumping in, too- attack one, and you attack them all. People were leaving themselves open to talk online anytime, creating safe spaces. And they were calling each other ‘family’.
It gave me the chills, seeing something that epic (and by ‘epic’ I mean ‘huge’) come together. People from all over the world were reaching out to each other and lifting each other up, working to convince people to live. And it was focussed on themselves, not on their attackers. People were encouraging safety and sending love.
From what I can tell, this is still going on, smaller now but present, and with plans. Of course, with everyone jumping in and everybody trying to figure things out, it’s all a little confused. Still though, people are pulling together, trying to warn and protect each other, loving on each other however they can. The way I see it, this isn’t just a terrible example of cyber bullying or a wonderful example of the internet bringing us together and doing great things. I think it’s more an example of how the internet is real life. There are people who will try to hurt you, and there are people who love you. But now, both sides have some new tactics and weapons. The issues we see on the internet aren’t just something happening in an imaginary non-place, a ‘virtual reality’. They’re having a real-life impact on real-life people to the same degree that offscreen life does. It’s not all bad or all good, just like real life is. The important part is to try to be a part of the good, in any little way that you can.
Family doesn’t end with blood, and it doesn’t have to end at your computer screen, either. Are you communicating? There’s a living, breathing person at the other end.