Online communities are platforms where like-minded can converse with each other and share things. We are undoubtedly all part of one or more of these platforms, take for example Facebook, YouTube or even this blog you are reading right now! Usually online communities form around a certain hobby or fanpage where you can find fellow fans and get in contact with each other. One of these platforms was formed in 1998 among fans of the then running tv show The X-Files, named the X-Filesaholics. This platform shows that sometimes, boundaries between real life and the virtual world can become extremely vague, and that people online can participate in situations that even in real life are not considered pleasant.
More precisely, I am talking about the concept of hazing: something that is still very alive in student fraternities in the Netherlands. Hazing a practice meant to show the freshmen, or newbies, that there is a set hierarchy within the fraternity and that they should obey those with more power. This includes doing chores, public embarassment and often verbal abuse. Not very fun now is it?
So how does an online platform for X-Files fans relate to this? An extended study (Honeycutt, 2006) of the community shows how the users of this site are using hazing techniques to maintain boundaries and excert power onto newcomers of the platform to maintain the inequality inherent between dominant and subordinate groups.On the message board, also referred to as “Mulders Apartment”, many things are discussed unrelated to the X-Files whatsoever. Newcomers are expected to go through an intitiation ritual, part of which is the so called “toothbrush/ice block welcoming ritual”. According to this ritual newcomers are assigned a room inside the apartment that they then need to scrub using only a toothbrush.