voices from the antisocial internet

At times I feel your voice is reaching me from far away, while I am prisoner of a gaudy and unlivable present.

-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 136

There’s no such thing as a seagull.

That’s right, says Redditor u/Dense_Advisor_56. There’s not.

Instead, there are fifty or more different species of gull which all look kind of the same from afar and which will make lots of noise, poop on you, and steal your french fries. But they thrive in different ways. They have different life expectancies, common diseases, mating rituals, territories and preferences.

“But that’s a pointless distinction,” I can just hear you saying. “They’re all the same thing to me. My fries are stolen, I get pooped on, hell, sometimes my fries get pooped on too. We only made the name for those little fuckers because we needed something to yell at them when they’re flying away. So why does this matter?”

Great question. It probably doesn’t matter to you.

But to the gull, it’s important. Not that a bird is going to care about what people called it, no, the reason it’s important to the gull goes beneath thought. Its inborn and learned preferences, mating rituals, territories and life expectancies are going to shape its existence profoundly, terminology be damned, and it had better be prepared to roll with that if it wants to be happy.

===

“Hm,” you’re saying. “This doesn’t sound like it’s about seagulls anymore.”

You’re right. It’s not. Here’s u/Dense_Advisor_56 again:

Much like the seagull, the concept of the psychopath is an ill-fitting taxon that attempts to describe a singular entity applicable to a broad set of similar, but not identical members. Instead, what this research has identified is a slew of “phenocopies” of that elusive (and yet to be discretely captured) phenotype.

Dense is talking about psychopathy.

Since the mid 2010s, discussions of mental health have swept the internet. Topical forums have given people access to others they relate to, psychology terms and diagnoses have become popular vernacular, and there have been held a range of conversations wide enough to include both the life changing and the mind-numbingly stupid. By 2015, three related forums had sprung up on reddit.com: r/aspd, r/sociopath, and r/psychopathy. Many, many discussions have been had.

“Hold on, stopstopstop,” you’re saying now. “Those people are antisocial. Don’t listen to a word they say, it’s all bullshit designed to make you look the other way while they steal your french fries.”

What, all of it’s bullshit?

You seem pretty sure about that.

How sure are you?

Finding yourself permanently and repeatedly on the outside of a lot of issues that almost everyone else seems very attached to, or chronically at an odd set of parallel understandings of things that should make sense, makes for a frustrating and lonely existence.

Finding some other people who share similar life philosophies is a fucking primo way of coping with that difference.

-anonymous, r/psychopathy, 2022

What a psychopath experiences as far as suffering is greatly understudied because frankly no one cares… I don’t know or care really what the astrology of medicine thinks really but I have had years of therapy and I can tell you that I struggle at times greatly with mood swings and emotional dysregulation.

-anonymous, r/psychopathy, 2024

There’s a long history of these kinds of comments. Over time and across forums, they tend to agree with each other.

In fact, you might say that the sum total of discussions like these contribute to a fuller picture of what psychopathy actually is. It’s a slippery concept, to quote Dense, and scientific research hasn’t exactly been able to pin it down yet.

It would be useful for everyone to know it better.

Fewer fries might be stolen, proverbially, in the long run.

Therapy doesn’t work for me, always has bad or silly outcomes… At the same time one wants to be more “normal” and have productive relationships etc.

So where this forum could be useful is sharing any insights or tips outside of “seek therapy” that people have actually applied and had success with in their lives. Practical shit that can be applied, not vague psychology rubbish that sounds pretty but does fuck all.

-anonymous, r/psychopathy, 2023

You know what buddy, I want the same thing. Let’s do this.