Years ago there was but one Bigfoot Community. There were several groups but the community was as one, with a few disruptive forces here and there. It was truly a community, folks that believed, witnessed and sometimes fought among themselves.
And then the Internet came along.
The Internet offered a wonderful thing. A way for groups and like minded individuals to communicate over a great distance. Photos and articles could be posted for all to read, see and enjoy. It was embraced by the community.
Some of the early web pages were vast databases of information. Maps, locations, photos and everything could be found on the net with a little searching. Some still exist. But then something else began to happen.
As the Internet grew, so did the groups. Bigfoot groups popped up everywhere. Anyone who could build a web site could hang out a shingle and call themselves a Bigfoot Organization. As the organizations sprouted up, the bifurcation of the community began. Now the little spats between members or groups that usually resolved themselves over time would spread like a virus across a world wide distribution system.
Today there are two and very distinct Bigfoot Communities, the online community and the offline community. Or I will refer to them as such.
The online community is made up of a few true researchers who try to use the web as a communication system, and a whole host of enthusiasts. Mostly younger folks who have been in the field less than 6 years.
The offline community is made up of the older generation and those who are spending most of their time actually researching the beast and looking for the creature. They exist either totally offline or on moderated systems.
You can tell the two apart by looking on the web. Most, if not all of the true researchers rarely make an appearance on the net, and even then it's brief. Their use of the Internet is primarily email among themselves. Having felt the change and brunt of the online community as it formed they abandoned the web for a basic email communication system and even rarely appear on their own web sites. They got enough of the invasion of enthusiasts and wars long ago.
The online community is made up of a few researchers who want to keep a foot in the door and keep up with the latest news, and the rest of the world.
This community is replete with infighting, opinion, bias and overall general slander and disgust. They are bent on domination and kicking out anyone they feel is not on the same page as themselves and often kick out their own.
In the past three years something new has entered the online community. Something I will call BS Amplifiers.
BS Amplifiers are becoming more predominate on the web. They are mouthpieces whereby certain self elected and appointed individuals give themselves a venue to place themselves and their views on a platform higher than everyone else. They are Blogs & Radio Shows.
Years ago no one would have believed the community would ever have it's own radio station, and a world wide publication system was out of the question. Small printed magazines and newsletters did exist but they were difficult to maintain and hard to get writers for.
Today anyone can start a radio station on the net or open a blog. Myself included.
Lets start with blogs. A Blog, unlike a forum is one directional. One person writes and others may comment but the writer controls the flow of communication. It is the equivalent of someone taking a podium and preaching from it. This blog is no different. I write, you read. I can control or censor your comments. Therefore it is not a free flow of communication. I can use this blog for good or evil. I can allow the good comments and delete the bad, or entire entries. If I don't allow the negative then the audience only sees the positive and I can make myself look good. And I, as a Blog owner am not above that. I'm human.
Blogs are ruining the online community. You may include this one if you wish. Anyone can start one and preach their own specific gospel from them, even slandering and denouncing others from their alter. They can quickly build a fan base and generate devout followers easily and with the stroke of a pen. Blogs have even been formed to counter other blogs.
Each participant trying to one-up the other. Some just want to get the truth out to an already bewildered community that is taking sides. Most blogs exist only to exalt their owners. A few even solicit money or donations. I have an ad for my DVD on the right, so I'm no saint either and fully acknowledge I offer a product here. Blogs are also easier to maintain than a forum or web site, and much easier to build. Just sign up for a free one and start blogging.
With blogs and some forums it has become a power play. Blocking posters and views and filtering the truth. Innuendo, suggestion and finger pointing are the tools of this new trade. Ostracizing is the intended goal. The blog is the voice and word, and if you can remove another persons voice then they are no longer a threat to you. However when any new tool is introduced into a field of work, it is how it is used that will determine if it is a positive addition.
Radio stations are the new mouthpiece. This is a relativity new invention to enter the community. Like the blog, it's one directional. It can make you a star overnight and put you out of the business in about the same amount of time. It can also generate illusions of grandeur from it's owners. Suddenly you are a star in the community! People listen to you and your opinion matters! And it too is used to amplify whatever bullshit that is currently making it's rounds in the community. By simply talking about it, it is made larger and stronger.
A radio show today can make or break a researchers reputation in the eyes of other online enthusiasts. The offline folks don't care. Radio stations, like Blogs can bring an issue into the limelight that otherwise may never have gained any recognition. They use the same tools a blog uses. And like a blog it can be used in a positive manner, bringing news and information about the subject to an eager audience. (Can you imagine if Rene' had had a radio station! LOL)
Once amplified, Forums are where the proverbial BS hits the fan. After the issue is made into an issue or brought up and placed into dispute, the lowly forum is the place to hash it out. Everyone has an opinion and you are guaranteed to hear it, from both sides. From here the issue is further exhausted into ad nausea. Even if it is a positive and forward issue. In the beginning a few threads may arise whereby people argued over various things on an individual forum, but now the BS can land on any number of them creating a cross platform of dissent.
Should the community do away with Blogs, Radio stations and forums? Of course not. But it is up to the owners of such devices to police themselves and take care that their platform is never used to hurt others, even if you may disagree with them. These new tools are just that, tools. You can use a hammer to build a fine home, you can also use it to beat someone to death.
Some may say that there are folks in the community that need to be driven out. Perhaps so, but creating a self appointed platform to do so makes the owner of that platform no different than the one they are trying to ostracize.
In the past couple of years Blogs and radio stations have taken issues better left to the individuals involved and amplified them into full blown problems and news events. Some have become the 'rags' of the community. Do inquiring minds want to know? They are the new tabloids. From sleaze to tease it's all there. Running informational articles along side the latest gossip. And when there is no gossip it is always easy to create.
In fact, some of the biggest news events in the past year had nothing to do with the subject of Bigfoot. They were the arguments and hearsay, gossip and stories about people and researchers in the field. They got more press than an actual story of an encounter!
From sexual exploits to gossip and innuendo. Is this where the field has come? Is this where we want to be? And is this what we want others to see that may wander into our community?
Even if you personally are not part of the amplifier, you are still effected by it's vibration. Others will view and judge all of the community by these few voices that can yell louder than the whole. The written and spoken word of the community is the community to anyone coming into it. Therefore these people, blogs and voices represent you. Whether you want them too or not.
Be it a web site, blog, station or forum, you and your words and deeds make up this online community. We all have the responsibility to govern ourselves. We carry the responsibility to police ourselves and determine who we will listen to.
Sometimes the best way to win the game is not to play. The offline folks figured this out long ago and they either left or moderated their web sites to prevent the antics. Self moderation is possible too. It is the only thing that will stop the amplifiers ringing in your ears
PS: I'll add another "Amplifier" to this list. UTube Videos, but that's another post...