“Marginal Groups Thrive on the Internet”

by rthieme on October 22, 1998

That’s the title of a recent study of participation in newsgroups by psychologists who discovered that “online gatherings matter most to participants in marginalized but concealable groups.”  That probably isn’t news to you, if you’re reading this on-line, because you have long known that life on the margins is richly textured, nuanced in subtle and rewarding ways.

Life began in brackish waters, after all, in marshes and tide pools, where things were a little murky. We prefer blurred margins where animal and plant are difficult to distinguish, where life dissolves into its constituent elements. We thrive on ambiguity and complexity, which seems to do justice to life fired point blank from the barrel of a gun, as Ortega y Gasset said, in all its immediacy and nowness.

The root of the word “Hebrew” was habiru, which meant a rag-tag motley assemblage of slaves from various places that made common cause building pyramids for pharaohs. The fusing fire of their desert journey turned that word around, making a proud name of what had been used as an insult.

The edge is the new center. Those who know how to live on the edge thrive in a world moving at the speed of life. Next year’s doctrine or seminar topic is this year’s horse laugh. Yes, the Net is indeed a haven for those into illicit drug use, sexual spanking, and everything else, as the study said. We few, we happy few, we band of eccentric netizens do rejoice when we look into the digital mirror and see more than our own face reflected.

Oh, give me the margins, where voyeurs, epileptics and incest survivors can reinvent themselves beyond categories created by social scientists holding onto their labels for balance as they lean in from the edge to have a good look.

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