Witches on the Internet: Still Actually Witches, Thanks.

Oh, look. More offline-elitism and “the internet isn’t real life” snobbery.

It seems that occult publisher Scarlet Imprint has fallen prey to this common misconception:
Two Venn diagrams with peach and green circles.  Green is "things that happen on the internet", peach is "things that happen in real life".  The top one, labeled "How people act like it is", shows them only barely overlapping.  The bottom one, labeled "how it actually is", has the green contained entirely as a small part of the peach circle.
The thing is, I don’t actually have an argument against SI’s decision to quit Facebook. My own FB is more of a vestigial limb at this point, left over from the days when it was a student social network and I was a college student, and before the current era of GIVE US ALL YOUR DATA ALL OF IT RIGHT NOW SO THAT WE CAN SELL IT AND ALSO PRIVACY WHAT IS THIS STRANGE CONCEPT OF WHICH YOU SPEAK? I use it as little as is humanly possible, mostly to stay in contact with long-distance family members and to participate in private groups for a few different things, and my profile is damn near barren even to people who have the right permissions to see everything. So I get it. I get feeling like FB is more burden than blessing, and wanting to disentangle yourself from it.  And I don't blame SI in the slightest.

What I don’t get, and am really annoyed at hearing, is this idea of “Real Witches™ shouldn’t use technology because ewww, internet”:

Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. … We are fortunate to say that many of the best practitioners we know have no online profile, and would suggest that those who are most vocal online should perhaps have their claims taken with a pinch of salt. … We would suggest that your practice would benefit if you get the hell out of it, or at least minimise your exposure to the cognitive load.”

And I would suggest that your practice would benefit if you fellate a pitchfork. But we can’t all expect our asinine requests to be taken seriously, so I won’t hold my breath – and I strongly suggest you don’t hold yours.

If you feel that your personal magical practice would benefit from not spending much or any time on the internet, okay. Do what feels right to you. Do what works best for you, your practice, your gods if you have them. But don’t take that and assume that the same automatically holds true for all witches if they’re Real Witches™, and cast aspersions on those who choose to maintain an active, vocal online presence by implying that they/we are fakes. That doesn’t make you a better or more respectable practitioner. It just makes you a pompous, self-righteous douchebag.

And frankly, if you’re not ALSO taking the claims of witches you meet offline with a grain of salt, I worry for you. A person’s physical presence before you is no guarantor of integrity or truthfulness. In case you were new to this concept, allow me to inform you: people lie sometimes. They do it on the internet, and they do it in person. They have a few more tools to conceal their lies online, in terms of identity and such, but when it comes to claims of magical practice and/or ability, how exactly are you to know any better what a person is being truthful to you about in person, considering we’re largely talking about personal, subjective experiences? You ALWAYS need to independently fact-check people’s claims. You ALWAYS need to run them through your personal bullshit-o-meter.  Being in someone's physical presence doesn't eliminate that common-sense requirement.

I mean, would you take the word of Sarah Lawless less seriously, with her exhaustive photo-documentation and lengthy explanations of her practices, than some fluffy-bunny nitwit in the early stages of their Silver Ravenwolf phase who happens to be standing next to you going on about their love spells?  Just because the fluff is sharing physical space with you, and Sarah is not?  That's some fucked-up criteria there.

See, SI, here's the thing: not all practitioners have access to in-person, offline communities to learn from. Even of those who could find local community, myself included (I live in the Bay Area, CA; there was a witches ball in my small, outskirts-area home town a couple months ago.  I might have to cross a bridge to get to an actual coven or public ritual, but maybe not.), not all of us are capable of social interaction in that setting. Some of us would spend most of our energy and attention at an in-person gathering worrying and stressing about the interaction with other people, and would gain very little in terms of actual experience or knowledge. Not to mention, some of us like having the pre-filtering option of reading someone’s blog or what have you for awhile, to get a feel for what kind of practice they do and what their beliefs are before we decide to invest time and energy into trying to get to know someone.

Is it possible to hit a content-overload point on the internet and sorta fry your brain’s functionality? Sure. But it’s possible to hit content-overload from reading too many books, too. Gods know I’ve done both. And it is exactly as possible to hit the power button on the computer/phone/etc to take a break from the “cognitive load”, as it is to put down a book and do something else for awhile. I don’t exactly do my meditations or spellwork while scrolling through tumblr, you know?*  

But I do learn techniques and get ideas from some truly amazing people who are very vocal on the internet.  Some of it hasn't worked for me.  Some of it has.  Funnily enough, this has happened at about the same rates as stuff I've picked up from books and the odd conversation with people at pagan shops in my area.  Gee, it's almost like the method of knowledge delivery is pretty much irrelevant to its value...

Oh, and Scarlet Imprint: look up urban witches.  If witches can work with steel and concrete as well as grass and trees, why the fuck would electricity and the internet be some kind of impediment?  

*Though now I'm wondering about that.  If you could find a certain type of blog, and use the flow of images as you scroll through as a sort of active meditation?  Hmm.


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