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SmashTheState's avatar

Can you create an entertaining and/or dramatic allegory which describes Fluther's social milieu?

Asked by SmashTheState (9635 points ) February 10th, 2011

After being away from Fluther for an extended period and then returning, many of the elements of Fluther and its denizens struck me as being familiar. After some pondering, I realized that it strikes me the same way as I remember middle school.

One has the classes—the questions and answers of Fluther—which are supposed to be the meat and potatoes of the middle school experience, but inevitably it is not my classes which I remember thirty years later. Instead, it is the vicious and Darwinian social politics which looms large in my memory… and here on Fluther.

As with Fluther, my middle school experience began with a sort of feeling-out by the cool kids, the “in” crowd. Did I hold the right opinions? Did my parents earn the right income? Did I belong to the right school clubs? Or worse, did I belong to the wrong school clubs, like chess or debate. Slowly, one by one, the cool kids decided that I was not cool. My position dipped lower and lower in the social stratum, free-falling past the secondary and tertiary tiers of “coolness,” past first the rich kids, then the jocks, then the stoners.

As with Fluther, I would not assimilate. Unlike the others whose uncoolness had squeezed them out like a lemon seed from wet fingers, I would not hide meekly and try not to attract attention. I went to war and flew my freak flag at high mast. I remember the fury my resistance incited in middle school. How dare I assert my dominance without a loyal pack of hounds at my heels! I must be some sort of rogue, a deranged and dysfunctional animal which did not understand that it must show submission when confronted with superior force; an animal which must be driven from the hunting grounds lest, in its insanity, it harm a valued member of the pack.

The teachers—the Fluther mods and admin—did not like me. I created problems by always needing to be the “special case.” They were forced to be frostily correct, since they could not be seen to be partial, but where they had sufficient latitude to choose for or against me, the decision was inevitably against. That was fine, I knew how to deal with that too. I could walk the line just this side of the rules, never giving the administration the justification they needed to remove me entirely from their chalkboard jungle.

Decades later, the biting-on-tinfoil contrariness and defiance in the face of social, official, and economic authority would serve me well in my career as a radical anarchist union organizer and professional shit-disturber. And I knew, always, that when I planted my feet on Roland’s bridge of defiance and refused to allow Rodomont’s hordes to pass, that many eyes watched with interest; that the many who also did not pass the muster of social acceptance, but who could not find it in themselves to stand alone against the powerful elite, were given food for thought—and perhaps the seeds of some future defiance of their own.

How about you folks? Can you create an allegorical narrative about Fluther and your own experiences here?

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44 Answers

Dog's avatar

“The teachers—the Fluther mods and admin—did not like me. I created problems by always needing to be the “special case.” They were forced to be frostily correct, since they could not be seen to be partial, but where they had sufficient latitude to choose for or against me, the decision was inevitably against.”

Interesting observation. From my point of view in mod-dom this is not the case at all. I recall some mods are even fond of you. Of course sometimes it suits the ego of the middle school kid to give the air of rebellion and the illusion of being the thorn in the side of authority.

SmashTheState's avatar

@Dog There’s a sort of meta-narrative in there, yes, but I’m more interested in seeing if anyone in here will pick up the gauntlet and create a differing or opposing allegorical narrative. I’m being deliberately provocative.

marinelife's avatar

I find it interesting that you are equating your current life experiences to middle school.

I, personally, would not choose to re-experience middle school for any amount of money.

Fortunately, I do not experience Fluther that way at all.

My anecdote is about a couple of Flutherers from another country who had lined up places to stay in the U.S., some of them with U.S. Flutherers. One of their prospective hosts became ill. Trying valiantly, they waited until a couple of days before the visitors were due to decide that they could not host them—they were just too sick. They put out an appeal on Fluther for substitute hosts in the area. Another Fluther user offered the visitors a bed.

That is my experience of Fluther.

flutherother's avatar

We are like fish that think they are free spirits but which swim in a shoal. To be provocative however isn’t “radical anarchist union organizer” a bit of a contradiction in terms?

SmashTheState's avatar

Treat this like a “General” question. Try to create an allegory which will demonstrate what you’re trying to express, rather than simply saying it. This isn’t a fistfight, it’s a fencing match. Drawing blood is okay, but it should be secondary to the grace of the cut.

iamthemob's avatar

It’s the group of people in the kitchen of a college off-campus party, late at night, in the dwindling hours of the party (or the dim dawn ones of the next day). Many are animated and passionate. Many are damn tired. More than a few are drunk.

They’re a mixed bunch, but somehow self-selecting. The hosts try to keep the conversations civil – partly because there are some very smart people, but also because the neighbors complain about the noise (the hosts have a “reputation” for throwing parties).

The drunk ones talk more than they should, or throw out some ideas that aren’t always so thought out. A shouting match erupts, and someone leaves in a huff (but he’ll be back for the next party). A small group are simply watching…taking everything in. Every now and then, one of them actually speaks up – and you wonder why they were being quiet the whole time because they had the missing element to one of the discussions.

There are, of course, as there often is at that hour and among people in those states, miscommunications. And sometimes because of those, some others leave in a huff. Most, in the end, let it go…and they, also, will be back for the next party.

Unfortunately, there are those that are there simply to talk about classes – and milk everyone for paper topics or answers to their labs. Sometimes, to get them to shut up, someone else at the party will promise to e-mail their Bio100 notes.

Someone asks about a poem. This person is an artist, and very, very important because of that.

And somewhere, in one of the corners, is the guest waiting for a fight…talking to the guest who just doesn’t get when it’s time to leave.

Ladymia69's avatar

Can I just say I am really enjoying these allegories…keep them coming!

chyna's avatar

@iamthemob Wow, just wow.

Jude's avatar

“Never mind” – Emily Litella

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Like a slice of the rest of ‘em kind of pizza but it tastes sort of better, sometimes.

Jeruba's avatar

@SmashTheState, that’s an interesting allegory, but it doesn’t seem to me to be about fluther so much as it is about you. Fluther is made up of individuals and not unilateral forces. I daresay everyone on fluther thinks of himself or herself as an individual just as much as you do.

For what it’s worth, I was on the fringes in school too, never “cool” or “in.” I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder about it or go to battle or do things that caused a fury because I simply didn’t care about the “them” and had nothing to prove to them. I thought the “crowd” was pretty stupid, shallow, and boring, and their “coolness” was established by assertion and common consent but had no meaning or basis in reality. So I was no more interested in making a statement to them than I was in being one of them. I simply went my own way. And I’m still entirely comfortable with that. It was never their fault or mine that we differed, so it was not a matter of me against everyone else.

But I also noticed that the ones who attracted attention by their numbers, their single collective public face, and their aggressive popularity were not the only people around. I was able to see that there were a lot of people who didn’t fit that dominant mold, and not just me. In fact—they were individuals too, and some of them were interesting people whose company was worth keeping. I wonder if that’s a detail you missed.

I’d add a few characters to @iamthemob‘s party scene, along with the observation that a party crowd is a group of self-selected socializers, and that does not describe much of fluther, which is more heavily weighted toward quirky loners and introverts; but I do think it’s a pretty good analogy, and much more apt for fluther than a pitched battle between (a) @SmashTheState and (b) everyone else.

Ladymia69's avatar

Very interesting, @Jeruba!

cockswain's avatar

I would liken it to a day at work.

There are people with whom you love to converse, and you feel you do a good job exploring various political, social, philosophical, or scientific issues. Even in the face of disagreement, people are respectful.

Some threads require a decent amount of research and hypothesizing to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This is much like work itself, but fun work.

As you walk around the building, you will pass those that do very little work and mainly just socialize. They may be nice people, or they could be terrible gossips. Either way, you may be polite towards them or just ignore them.

I’ve got to go. Nothing rivals what @iamthemob wrote, but I intended to at least write something poignant. Ran out of time, sorry for lameness.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

A couple weeks a friend described it as the “TNT: We Know Drama” of the internet. I’m still busting a gut over that.

FutureMemory's avatar

@SmashTheState Jesus Christ on a crutch your ego is fuckin’ huge!

Annoying.

SmashTheState's avatar

“Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself.” — Charles Spurgeon

JilltheTooth's avatar

“Hippopotamuses sweat red sweat.” – The First Book Of Surprising Facts

chyna's avatar

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

iamthemob's avatar

@chyna – Brilliant.

DancingMind's avatar

You’re walking along on a path in an enclosed area. Large, but you know it has limits. You’re looking at your map trying to make sense of all the complicated twists, turns, intersections. Something on it catches your eye, and you’re not quite sure why, but you go to investigate. Why not? It’s nearby where you are.
You find an area full of fog, a cool bluish gray, that’s broken up with the dark orange sunlight that seeps through from above.
Walking around you begin to get the idea that the landscape is pretty flat and consistent—an ocassional surprise to keep you on your toes, but safe. As you listen, you notice you hear people calling out. You walk towards the sound of the nearest voice, and realize as you get closer it’s not one person’s voice but many. You listen, intrigued, as a heated conversation shoots your way. Without realizing what you’re doing you find yourself applauding some of the voices, loving the unexpected wisdom and insight you’ve happened upon.
So you look around some more, or rather, wander, and find more of these conversations. You begin to recognize voices, learn their names.
And you realize why you found this place. You’ve got a question too. You call out to the silence… get back silence.
But then you hear footsteps walking over, and a voice respond. You weren’t really ready for that. Waiting, hoping, but look! listen! And then more footsteps, more voices, neatly following each other, commenting on each other, answering your question. How incredible. You get more brave, walk more confidently around in the mist, and when you hear voices calling out a question or debating one, you find your voice and begin to add it to the mix.
And soon you’re one of the voices. Agreeing, disagreeing, sending out help and condolence, giving opinions, seeking answers.
You realize the voices have a rhythm, time they grow in volume and numbers, time they quiet a bit, but the sounds never die off into silence. And you’re glad they never do. You like them. Just voices, but you find yourself and surprise yourself by trusting them with more and more.
You fold up the map and decide to stay a while. Sometimes leaving for a bit, but always seeming to walk back into this foggy, safe place, and whether you meant to or not you’re glad to be there among the voices again.

lloydbird's avatar

A really nice, accommodating pub.
I keep coming back.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My goodness but @SmashTheState the state writes a LOT of words all the time!!

Jeruba's avatar

You wouldn’t say that, @Dutchess_III, if @dalepetrie were still a regular poster. He’s the champ.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Why use one word when 47 will do?

Response moderated
Jeruba's avatar

I always thought “a picture is worth a thousand words” gave me license to write a thousand words instead of just taking a picture.

FutureMemory's avatar

I miss dale’s dissertations :/

Haleth's avatar

@iamthemob Woah! Perfect. To me, that definitely suits the mood here. The discussion is animated and no topics are off-limits; some of the questions and answers are strange because everyone’s in a strange mood.

I could also see it as a coffeehouse or a neighborhood pub. Anything that’s a regular gathering place for a group of people who wouldn’t normally meet.

iamthemob's avatar

In a restaurant with your significant other, things have gotten very quiet. You’ve been fighting about the same thing for what seems like the infinity-eth time, for a period of time that seemed like infinity. It’s always the same problem – you keep finding ways to offend your partner. He or she keeps telling you “Look, I think you’re really interesting, and I love that you have passion – but if you keep saying things the way that you do, I don’t feel like I can have any productive conversations with you. I just want to scream.” You don’t want to change, though – you feel like you should be able to be loved for who you are, and say whatever you want. You thought taking a break from him or her would help show that you were right – but now you see that he or she still feels the same way.

You know that you’re right – and if your partner can’t handle it, you’ll just say “Fuck it” and leave. The fact that this is exactly how every single one of your relationships has ended in the same way doesn’t seem to register with you. The fact that he or she doesn’t want you to change who you are or what you think, just to try to temper it with some civility doesn’t seem to make sense to you. You feel like the world doesn’t understand you – when, it’s really, after repeated instances of this same conversation in various restaurants (or coffee shops or bars) having the same result, becoming abundantly clear that you don’t understand the world…

…for now, though, you both keep quiet – waiting for the resolution.

SmashTheState's avatar

No, let me modify your allegory.

You’re in a restaurant with a group of people, all of whom are having a series of round-robin conversations. Among the dozen or so people present, a wide variety of interests are represented but, given that they are a subset of the general population, certain beleifs are more prevalent than others. A lot of them are christians, for example. The conversation drifts to christian theology, christian traditions, and so forth. You, being an atheist, voice your criticisms — fairly mild ones at that. At first they simply pretend you’re not present, which is irksome but tolerable, since there are a few others at the table who are also atheists, and they’re more than happy to discuss the issue with you. Then, to your amazement and disbelief, one of the other diners gestures to a waiter who walks up behind you and, in mid-sentence, shoves his hand over your mouth.

At first you can’t believe this is happening. The other diners are carrying on with their discussion. The ones who agreed with you look elsewhere, very carefully not seeing what’s going on in front of them. When you angrilly try to shake the waiter’s hand from your mouth, he leans down and begins shouting, “LALALALA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU, LALALALA!”

In a cold fury, you leave the restaurant. You don’t slam the door, you don’t make any angry speeches, you just leave. Why would any sane person subject themselves to such gross and rude behaviour?

Months pass. You begin to wonder if the waiter’s behaviour was really as blatantly offensive as you remember it. Maybe you’re misremembering it. Maybe it’s not as outrageous as you originally thought for a waiter to physically manhandle you just for expressing an opinion which is unpopular with some of the other diners. You’re hungry, you have some money in your pocket, so you decide to give the restaurant another shot.

Ah, you think, as you walk in, a lot of the clientel have changed. The restaurant is under new management, too. You sit down, order your meal like everyone else, and begin to chat with the other diners. Then, in mid-word, you see someone gesture to a waiter. With a sick feeling of deja vu, you feel a familiar presence creep up behind you…

JilltheTooth's avatar

Sounds like a restaurant I wouldn’t frequent a second time. However, because the food is free there and there are so many menu choices, and I would have the opportunity to converse privately with the people I would find the most interesting, maybe I would. But I wouldn’t expect everything to be different.
I don’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but this is the gist: “The definition of madness is repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

iamthemob's avatar

@SmashTheState

A “what if” modification now:

Furious, you storm from the table, to the host, and ask to speak to a manager. You realize, to your pleasant surprise, that the manager is an old friend of yours.

You discuss your problem with him. He tells you he’ll handle it, and tells you to come back next week.

You do, to find a completely new system. The same patrons are there – but all of the waiters are gone. It’s hard to find a table as there are a few more people, but you do get to sit down. The food is more varied – but the new dishes seem to be variations on the same theme. And many of them are underflavored and seem…well, rushed. That’s okay, because you realize that everyone is saying whatever they want now. Suddenly, a fight breaks out at the table next to you. Your table quickly succumbs to the ruckus – and you leave, only half the meal eaten.

You return the next week. The menu has tripled, but none of the food appears to be of any quality – and you don’t have time to sift through the bad to get to the good. All the tables are full and it’s standing room only. And although you say whatever you want – it’s hard to hear anyone including yourself over the shouting. You leave without eating a thing, completely unsatisfied.

You return the next week to find that the restaurant has been torn down. In it’s place is a McDonalds. Which is right next to a Burger King. Which is right next to a Jack-in-th-Box. Which is right next to a Wendy’s. Which is right next to a Checkers. Which is right next to…a…

SmashTheState's avatar

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves.” — William Pitt

iamthemob's avatar

“It is impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself. ”—Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Xena's avatar

It might be useful if some people realized that the only ‘controversial’ thing about their opinions is their delivery. It’s not censorship if no one cares what you’re actually saying. Food for thought.

Jeruba's avatar

I think I’m going to repeat that in larger letters if you don’t mind, @Xena:

It might be useful if some people realized that the only ‘controversial’ thing about their opinions is their delivery. It’s not censorship if no one cares what you’re actually saying. Food for thought.

SmashTheState's avatar

Echo chamber in full effect, I see. Sorry, I’ve lost track of which person was unduly enamoured of hir own opinion.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@SmashTheState : Your allegories center around the fact that you and only you are the one who is unhappy. The others indicate a community where the members feel free to make choices. A group that does not agree with you is not by definition ovine (well, maybe by your definition it is), it is simply a group that does not agree with you.

cockswain's avatar

@SmashTheState Despite the fact that a few seem to be implying that the problem is you, I enjoy most of your posts and hope you continue to contribute.

iamthemob's avatar

I’ll second @cockswain on that one. Discussion is rarely interesting or productive where we agree on all points.

FutureMemory's avatar

I personally agree with @SmashTheState most of the time, it’s his delivery that is irritating.

FutureMemory's avatar

@SmashTheState Sorry, I’ve lost track of which person was unduly enamoured of hir own opinion.

Pot, meet Kettle.

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