Replacing Gatekeepers with Ambassadors

I was recently sent a tweet that said the following:

Of course under said tweets was a barrage of comments about bullying and gatekeeping. This isn’t a new phenomenon – things that lie on the fringe of pop culture become mainstream darlings as time passes. But as more people find their way into nerd culture, it’s time for us to become ambassadors of the culture.

Those of us who remember the early days of “nerdery” can remember a time of conformity over independence. I cannot think of a specific time where people were bullied for liking video games or anime. No one was stuffed in a locker for liking DBZ. But it was not the topic of lunch conversation. In those days it was don’t ask, don’t tell. You could have your interests, but it was best to, as TLC once said, stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. So the culture lived in whispers. Like in computer class among the few who recognized a familiar face. Looking back, there were more fans of games and anime than I would have thought, but the climate at the time did not allow for much outside of high school norms.

This depression of interests created a tribalism among those in the know. Like a secret club, knowledge was your entry fee to this world of Eastern entertainment. What was cool back then was access to information and video that we couldn’t get our hands on. It was the breeding grounds for underground rap, lo-fi beats and some of today’s best artists.

Fast forward to the present, where the principles of yesterday inform the conversation of today. Knowledge and resentment serve as the catalyst for what we know as gatekeeping. Those of us who felt ostracized for their interests are now finding the same things that kept them out of popular circles becoming the ‘it’ thing. And the people originally into said thing fight against it. Instead of video games, anime, etc. being something that they are interested in, it becomes what defines them. Their knowledge and zeal is what gave them a standing in their social circles. Losing it, could mean losing themselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

During a recent podcast, I told my co-host that we, the old guard, should serve as ambassadors. Instead of pushing people away, we should be inviting them in. Why would I want to keep something I consider cool away from my friends and associates? I have everything to gain from sharing a hobby with someone new. Their enthusiasm and new ideas are an energy boost to the community. Instead of questioning people, make recommendations. Have conversations, make new friends. In my life I’ve never gained anything from hoarding. The only time I’ve gained new perspective, relationships, and ideas was when I shared with others. Gatekeeping is the byproduct of old resentment. An idea that testing people is the best way to see if you can “trust” their intentions. But in doing so you remove the one thing you wanted the most – more people to share this cool thing with.