I’ve been thinking about what qualifies a goth a lot lately, honestly, since I started this blog, and how participation in the culture has been changing due to social media. Before things like Tumblr, YouTube, Spotify, becoming goth was like a personal quest and any small rare find was emotionally large in satisfaction. I will always have a little place in my heart for small town goths who had/have the perseverance to craft their own sanctuary within themselves. Now, it’s much easier to find the right music, the right clothes, the right anything and buy it, acquire it. You can share that information “Look at what I got” or “How goth is this” and immediately get feedback about it. Is that bad? Is it wrong to want things? Of course not. I think the desire we feel towards, for example, an expensive pair of shoes that you honestly can’t afford at the moment is an opportunity to see how much you’re willing to work towards getting them or anything for that matter. But when looking the part is held above all else, it becomes something else entirely.
We’ve talked about goth not being entirely separate from main stream culture. In mainstream culture social media is important, for businesses, for news, for connecting with people. Participating in social media and wanting to participate is expected of you to be in sync with the world around you. We carry that over when we participate in goth culture, after all we’re using the same tools, (Instagram, Facebook, etc) just for a more specific niche. While goth culture does not overtly require you to buy your way in, the idea of what is goth and what is not goth seems heavily dependent on an individual being able to get the right stuff. Yes, I know there is a fashion element to goth culture and you know damn well I live for it, but what I’m really looking at is the way that affects people. There is a whole generation of goth that grew up with a strong relationship to social media where validation and rejection are instantaneous. We get very different ideas of what participation means when we compare that to people who reside on the cusp, from a time where social media was in its infancy while many were in their adolescence and to people who grew up without it completely.
I don’t think “the scene” is dying because people don’t like it or because of the elitist goths, at least, not completely. What’s changing is the way people participate in it. If style is more important than going to an event (that has little to do with old school pillars of goth, but is still goth none the less) your energy is going to be spent on the more “important” thing. Post a picture, rack up likes, you’re goth now. If no one likes it, it’s not goth. The more people who do it and do it more than anything else in the culture reinforce the idea to onlookers this is what matters and eventually everything else falls by the wayside.
There are rarely any videos or posts about actually being goth, living it every day and when there are it’s far and few between. There are a lot of new things coming out that still hold true to goth at its core, but unless it’s packaged perfectly it’s mostly goes unnoticed. A lot of popular discussions tend to revolve around the acquisition of goth and solely that. This may not be true for the majority of goths, but I worry about the ones who become depressed about it. If you can’t afford Hellbounds, have no decent thrift stores near you, can’t sew or afford fabric, or have a nice phone for taking selfies and post the best you’ve got, you risk being labeled as a poser or not goth. Those being the nicest of the things that are said to you. You feel like you can’t participate and that your lack of stuff is what’s stopping you. So while you like many parts of goth culture, without that cherry on top, you aren’t fit to use the goth label.To me, you are welcome no matter what you wear, you don’t need to have a corset or a bustle skirt. A lot of the stuff that truly makes up the goth culture is free now and we’ll find it. I don’t want you to fit in, I want you to thrive.
It sounds like a lot of work to change the way things are headed, but if you’ve got the energy to bitch about the scene dying, then that energy can be directed into a more productive outlet, mainly the one that leads back to the roots of goth culture. I know so many goths still read with a hungry appetite, what are you reading, why do you love it? What new band did you find that hurts your heart other people don’t know about it? What new skill did you learn today? Why did you want the things you’re showing us in your haul video? You see, the problem is not if we participate in social media, it’s how. If we are superficial in how we share and interact, it will eventually only become superficial. I can promise you adding that little depth could shift the way many of the next generation approach goth and improve what those who are in it get out of it. Yes, it’s not your responsibility or your job, but perhaps it is the reason you still love it but it’s not what you used to love.
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Until next time,
Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.