Friday, March 28, 2014

In Deepest Mourning

I got a bit of bad news yesterday that shouldn't be life-altering, but it is. They're closing Television Without Pity, my biggest Internet addiction. This is a site that offers sometimes snarky and usually highly entertaining recaps and reviews of television episodes, but the main thing for me is the forums for discussing television.

Discussing TV is the main reason I wanted on the Internet in the first place. I'd started watching The X-Files, and while I had a long-distance friend who watched it, I didn't know anyone locally who did. It was such a twisty show where all the details mattered, and I wanted to hash out theories about what was really going on. Then I read a magazine article about an online community focused on the show, and I figured out how to use the Internet access at the university where I worked at the time to get on the newsgroup. I soon bought a modem (yes, they came separately then) and signed up for AOL so I could discuss from home. When the show was airing on Friday nights, I didn't want to wait until Mondays to go online and see what people were saying. From there, I got on other newsgroups for other shows, including Angel, where someone posted a link to a recap at a site that was called Mighty Big TV at that time.

I started reading recaps there, and then later found that they had forums. The Television Without Pity forums were heavily moderated -- a huge shift from the Wild West of Usenet -- and that meant there weren't any flame wars, the 'shipping wars were toned down, things stayed on topic, and people were required to write in full sentences with at least an attempt at real spelling (no text speak). That meant that the people who were willing to abide by those rules tended to be intelligent and literate. I felt a little intimidated, so I didn't get an account and start posting until Firefly was on and I had things I just had to say. Soon, I'd migrated most of my TV discussion over there, and I've posted enough over the past decade that I've reached "Stalker" level. Communities have formed there. I've made friends there who've become real life friends and whom I've traveled to meet up with. I've discovered that I was having online conversations with people I knew in real life.

Even though I currently have geeky friends who watch the same things I watch, there's something different about this kind of discussion than I've ever had in real life. My friends and I chat about the cool events that happen in shows. On TWOP, we delve into characterization, character arcs, symbolism, themes, plot developments, etc. I've learned a lot from doing this that I've applied to my writing, so I think it's made me a better writer to look at stories this way.

We have until the end of May with the forums, and people are already making plans about migrating elsewhere. I'm twitching a bit about the loss, but it may end up being good for me because if I use the moves elsewhere to change some of my habits, I should free up a lot of time that I could be devoting to my own work. But I know I'm going to start twitching when I think of something to post at TWOP and it isn't there anymore. I may do something with my Stealth Geek blog that I totally neglect and do some of my own snarky TV commentary there. But none of it will be the same. I'm already twitching.

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