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Beware the Rabbit Holes of the Internet

I have always had an addictive personality, as far back as I can remember. My father called it an obsessive personality, and my mother suspected that I may have a light case of autism or Aspergers. I’ve gone through periods in my life when I wondered if I really was lightweight autistic but have since abandoned the idea; It was a crutch for years.

Psychiatrists never seemed to know what was wrong with me. I’ve been formally diagnosed as being bi-polar, as having ADD, and, somehow, a diagnosis of ‘borderline personality disorder’ as an edgy teenager.

While I acknowledge the fact that there is most likely some sort of chemical imbalance that could be corrected by the right combination of psychiatric medications, most days I choose to believe that I am simply an addict.

One of the earliest manifestations of my addictive personality was when I was first introduced to the internet. As a preteen, obsessions in my daily life, such as Gopeds and paintball, carried over into my online browsing habits, and I would find myself staying up until my parents fell asleep and sneaking on the computer to browse forums such as “Gopednation” and “PBNation” until 4 in the morning- even on school nights.

Drugs eventually entered the equation, and what started out as a harmless bowl session here and there developed into a life of insanity, with copious amounts of different substances passing through my hands, buying and selling. I dropped out of school to pursue the disease of drug addiction full-time.

When I turned twenty-six, with the help of an opiate-replacement medication called ‘methadone,’ I stepped away from the needle for a few years. I met the girl of my dreams and we were going to college together. I had everything I thought I’d ever want in life, but there was this nagging impulse to destroy everything and go back to hustling in order to support us. Before I could think about what I was doing, I was selling dope again — despite my girlfriend’s objections.

Anonymous Platforms I began to slide into one of the most intense depressions I’ve ever experienced.For many like myself, depression can manifest itself in ways that cause them to isolate to the point where even an online handle is more identification than they’d like to show. While we hide away in our rooms, avoiding the outside world like the plague, we still yearn for social interaction of some sort. This is where anonymous forums come into play.

4Chan, which has been touted as “the hate machine of the internet” is one such site. There are different message boards where one can interact with others from all around the world- completely anonymously. While there are boards that are specifically for discussing topics such as science, math, and anime, those have never been the boards that I have gravitated towards. For me, the edgier boards such as /b/ [and later on /pol/] have both been a safe havens for my unique brand of degeneracy. /b/ is the “random” board in which people come together from all corners of the globe to shitpost with other social outcasts they can relate with, often sharing stories they would never speak on in real life. At first it felt like a supportive community.

The excitement of being part of an online community with its own little culture and inside jokes was mesmerizing. Even while my life was falling apart, I was comfortable there, completely anonymous. It was on /b/ that I had stayed for many years, until everything changed when the 2016 elections came along. Eventually, political posts from /pol/ found their way into /b/.

I had never been a particularly political person (in fact, I have actively avoided political discussion for the majority of my life, feeling that it is divisive and boring) but some of the things being said on the “politically incorrect” board, /pol/ intrigued me. Many of the things being said in regards to particular religions and ethnicities were completely unsettling. I didn’t believe them. I wanted to prove them wrong, and set out to do so. However, I was horrified to find out that much of it was based, at least in part, on facts, albeit loosely.

I couldn’t believe how sheltered I had been regarding some of the issues the nation (and world) faced, and how so many politicians determined to not only ignore the problems, but to actively mislead the population about them. The rash of information (and misinformation) on the internet transformed me. In the flash of an eye, I had been exposed to what is colloquially known as “the red pill.”

Red Pill, Blue Pill

The red pill analogy is a meme drawn from a popular science fiction film The Matrixin which the main character is given an opportunity to take one of two pills — one of which, the red pill, will open his eyes to the reality of the universe. Conversely, the blue pill will allow him to return to the ignorant bliss he has been living in for his entire life.

The meme centered on the idea that all conservative ideologies are correct, or red pilled while liberal thought was blissfully ignorant of the reality of things. Now, looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t see it for what it was. I had known about cults and religious organizations using pop culture references in the propagandizing of their members for years, but the red pill analogy seemed to fit so perfectly [at the time, at least] that I couldn’t see it for what it was. I allowed myself to become propagandized. I won’t go into it too deep because it’s shameful and regrettable, but it got to the point where if you didn’t walk like me, talk like me, look like me, you weren’t welcome in my home. I didn’t want you in my neighborhood. My town. My country. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t want to share the same air as you. It all just happened so fast that I’mstilltrying to wrap my head around how it happened. What started as having a giggle at a spicy meme here and there eventually lead me down a rabbit hole I was unprepared for.

Shifting Feelings

Looking back on it, becoming active in identity politics, being introduced to a political ideology allowed me to shift my feelings of worthlessness, shame, and failure onto others. This completely consumed me. After years of being depressed, I was finally angry, and I had targets for my anger.

I remember a conversation I had with my ex-girlfriend over text while I was in the depths of my obsession with 4-Chan. I had been ranting about some racially charged topic and she asked me ‘where’s all this coming from? I don’t get it.’ Even in the middle of all the insanity, I would still have a moment or two of clarity. I told her that, deep down, I hated myself.

She tried her hardest to fill the void in me, but my disease wouldn’t allow me to let her help. After four years, I gave up. I told her I was toxic and that she deserved better. I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to be the kind of man she deserved.

Finding My Way

It took turning myself into the county jail to serve time on an old warrant that was the turning point in my story. Prior to turning myself in, I had dismissed the idea of unwarranted police brutality. In jail, however, I found myself treated as a subhuman by the many of the officers, who were predominantly white, and was treated fairly by fellow inmates — most of whom were not. I stayed off the internet for an entire month, reading books instead, and upon my release I reintegrated back into the real world, interacting with neighbors and friends of all ages, ethnicities, sexual identities, and religions — eventually returning to sanity.

Today I believe I don’t hold any malice towards another human being because of the color of their skin or the religion they choose to practice; I judge them only the content of their character. Sure, there are still some cultural differences I disagree with, but I don’t let it consume me today.

A big part of being able to let all that go, I think, is being content with myself. I don’t hate myself today, and I find it impossible to hate another human being without first hating yourself.

As I type this, I am currently enrolled in college full time (15 units) and employed part time. I am active in a couple local 12 step fellowships. I have been reuniting with old friends and making new ones. For the first time in my adult life, I can say that I am living my life to the best of my ability. I’m far from perfect, and I’m sure I’ll continue to make mistakes, but I can say I won’t fall into the rabbit hole of identity politics ever again.

I try to fill my life with positive things, doing my best not to let myself fall back into the type of funk that lead me to project all my feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness onto others. I fight tooth and nail to maintain my humanity and not let hate for anything or anyone [myself included] consume me. Today, through the grace of a higher power, I choose to call God, I strive to place principles before personalities.

My advice to anyone reading this essay, is that if you’re the type that seeks out edgy content when you’re in a funk, call on your friends and family in times of need - don’t allow yourself to get sucked down any rabbit holes that could potentially destroy you.


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