A requested post, so here goes. My apologies in advance for the massive length of this thing.
What got you involved with Reddit?
Listening to the Serial podcast. My wife, being a paralegal, found it fascinating and got me listening. Serial was like Hamlet, we were so tantalizingly close to figuring who did it, but never quite got the solid piece of evidence that would seal it up one way or the other. I ended up getting into it more than she did.
After it ended, I needed to keep up with the evidence. That's what led me to Reddit. I think I got here late December.
As an FYI: My wife thinks he's innocent. Yet, as a paralegal, she finds the Undisclosed team to be off-the-charts ridiculous. I have yet to find someone in the real world with a legal background particularly enamored by what they've accomplished. She was not happy with my involvement on Reddit, and was glad to see me distance myself from it for reasons that will become clear.
How has your experience been?
I remember the early days of /r/serialpodcast. It was a digital Eden. Highly intelligent people. Thoughtful and high quality posts. And everything was so civil! This is what highly intelligent discourse looks like. I had found a home.
As time went on, opinions were getting louder. Viewpoints were becoming more firmly entrenched. Party lines were forming. Then the trolls took over. Things got nasty. I was part of the group that left (and left quite vocally). That was back in February/March-ish.
Instead of people seeking the truth, it devolved into people seeking personal prominence. Both sides are guilty of this. Non-experts were presenting themselves as authorities. And the people who truly were experts distanced themselves from the sub a long, long time ago.
What led you to leave so vocally?
I firmly believe the mods lost control of the sub. And with groups of that size, once control is lost, it never gets reigned back in. The mods clearly had no experience in dealing with large group dynamics. They themselves were too invested in the subject to truly view things in an unbiased fashion. By the time they realized what was happening, the proverbial cows had already left the barn. Missing the opportunity to nip it in the bud, it had blossomed into an unstoppable force.
So when /u/Frosted_Mini-Wheats started /r/NarcoticsUnit, I was thrilled. A sub that could get back to the civil discourse that I enjoyed so much. It was the high level of discourse that I liked more than the topic itself. Groups like that are a rare find ... rare on Reddit, rare elsewhere on the Internet, even rare anywhere in the world.
NarcoticsUnit itself has a rather tumultuous history, how did that work out for you?
It was clear from the beginning that there were too many strong personalities. Those personalities demanded to be heard. Strong personalities combined with nothing of value to say is a BAD combination. They held this case to a near mythic category. It was too important to be held back by any one person's feelings or any one person's sense of right and wrong. And that sense of righteousness led to an incredible degree of disrespect towards the founder and the mods.
One of the people I truly respect is /u/mewnicorns. She saw the problems in NU before anyone else did. She was the only one who left of her own volition. I'm secretly jealous she took a stand before I did. I mention this as an example of how people knew early on that problems were on the horizon.
So instead of slowly and gradually losing control of the sub, the founder shut it down in one bold move. That shows incredible foresight and tremendous chutspah. She remains an Enemy of the State to this day for doing that, meanwhile the culprits that caused the problem very quietly assumed positions of leadership in the replacement sub /r/TheMagnetProgram.
Upon its reboot (we'll call it NU2 for the sake of simplicity), we wanted to get away from all the drama. We weren't even talking about the case. It was great being left with what I considered to be the best of the thinkers that were there. We weren't the most educated or credentialed people from the sub, but I honestly and truly feel we were the deepest thinkers of the group. So I was exactly where I wanted to be. There were less than a dozen of us, but we were having a grand ol' time (if you ever want to debate the merits of "In a world without men, women would be fat and happy and wear sensible shoes," I have a whole treatise on how wrong it is).
You are rather openly hostile towards TMP, being that its cause is similar to NU, why such negative feelings?
After I got banned, some people privately expressed support since they recognized both that I often presented a very badly needed balanced viewpoint and that I was respectful in vocalizing them even when I disagreed with the general sentiment of the sub. I responded to all of them the same way ... "It doesn't matter, I didn't belong there, and I don't fit in."
What I didn't tell them is that I didn't fit in because I find the whole lot of them be a brainwashed cult (including some of the very people I was talking to). They got so caught up in the cause that they suspended all rational thinking. Instead of investigating the case, it became a #FreeAdnan movement. Come on, they were sending him birthday wishes! It is not possible to remain unbiased and send someone birthday cards.
This is NOT what I signed up for.
I cannot say this emphatically enough. The case is interesting and all, but I don't march for anybody. Sorry. I want to be left out of any political or social movement, no matter how good and righteous the cause seems to be. I don't care if its transgender equality, "Black lives matter," birth control covered under healthcare, or whatever the cause of the month currently is. The righteousness of the cause is irrelevant. Let me spell it out: I.Will.Not.March.For.Your.Cause. Period.
So it wasn't the banning that bothered me. I was talking about them behind their backs. They weren't wrong about that. If anything, they don't know the half of exactly how critical of them I actually was!
It was the fact that they labelled me as a troll that I took issue with. If they want to ban me for being critical, fine. That can be justified. But that's not what they claim to have banned me over. Instead, the stuff they came up with was ridiculous and asinine. Their sleuthing abilities leave a lot to be desired (and that doesn't bode well for sub who's sole purpose is sleuthing). Yes, I was critical of them, but in the sub I was quite respectful about about it – in harmony with the stated code of conduct. I still have a standing offer for anyone to go through my comment history and pull out statements that justify being labeled as a troll. In fact, my comments on TMP were favorably received by everyone who wasn't Susan Simpson or the mod team. Back when the original NU was going strong, I was one of the most gilded posters. So it is hard to make a claim that my thoughts weren't well received.
I appear hostile towards them because there is simply no reason for me to keep their secrets, and they have a LOT of secrets. Before being banned, there was an implicit contract of what behavior is appropriate for continued membership. All groups, regardless of the medium, have that unspoken agreement. Except, I no longer have membership.
No membership, no agreement.
In your mind, what caused the problems? Surely you don't believe they started out with a secret intention of creating such an environment.
I don't. But then again, nobody intends to start a cult. It's something that develops when an unhealthy dynamic kicks in.
I think if you asked this question to everyone, they'd all come up with their own take on it based on their personal experience.
I saw a lot of hero-worship right from the beginning. I also believe that in everyone's desire for prominence, there was a lot of exaggerated skills. I don't believe people have half the expertise they claim to have (way too many off-base conclusions in fields they profess expertise in). Even if I'm wrong, education =/= intelligence. Even if they did have the education, they weren't people who were deep thinkers.
Ultimately, whether intentionally or not, the Undisclosed trio ended up being surrounded by pseudo-intelligent, hero-worshiping Yes-Men. Little wonder no one is giving them practical feedback. They're so insulated that they can't see what they really look like.
What is the future of the various subs dedicated to Maryland vs Syed?
TMP will go on. Remember, TMP isn't any different than any other sub. The overwhelming majority of the content was generated from a very small minority of the members. The true-believers will continue posting. From outward appearances, nothing will change. Underneath it all, the fence-sitters will quietly withdraw support. There will fewer and fewer “Good job, you really showed them” type comments. Maybe even constructive critisism will develop (or is that wishful thinking on my part?).
There will be a lot of backpedalling as people distance themselves from the adamant positions they once championed. They'll all claim it was someone else who did that, but not them. They already have a history of this.
You often speak of the friends you've made along the way, how deep does that go?
Unfortunately, all the secret stuff going on did a number on that. I doubt I have a very good reputation with anyone in TMP, the mods made sure of that with their smear campaigns against all of us. Once people start playing that game of secrecy, I guess it gets addicting cause they don't know how to stop. This is true whether we're dealing with the Real Housewives, high school teenagers, or subreddit drama.
So the gossip never stopped after the bannings of anyone associated with any sub not controlled by TMP. Long after we parted ways, our group kept getting drawn back in through various antics of the TMP mods. It gave us a lot of stress and aggravation that friends and family noticed. When this case starts intruding on our actual lives, that's a good sign that it is time to step away.
Right now, even the rebuilt and repurposed NU2 has fractured. I am no longer a member there. I have no lingering animosity (though an explanation might be nice). Of the remaining group, they were so stressed out by everything that they needed to take a break from it all. I don't blame them. I needed a break myself.
Considering the tumultuous history, why do you think you've stayed this long?
Met too many cool people along the way. I've investigated many other parts of Reddit, but none have managed to attract a group that engages with one another the way this group has. I guess I've stayed hoping to recapture that magic.
How do you feel about others who have remained so active here for so many months?
For some, it is bordering on obsessive. For others, it is way over the line past obsessive. This over-focus on on subject for so long is not healthy.
Even if it is truly an injustice, I am adamant about it being unhealthy. Nothing good has come out of any of this. The "bombshells" that have come out aren't legal arguments, so ultimately they don't matter (nevermind that they're not exactly bombshells in the first place). They're not helping Adnan Syed or his family. As for its affects on us, the divisions and contention that plague this case should be a major red flag that this is something best left avoided. This is NOT making us better people. Isn't that what the case was supposed to do? If it's not making us better people, why bother getting involved in it?
I truly feel that everyone seriously need a break from all this, if not get away from it completely. I can see a clear difference in people who have taken a break from this at some point and those who never have. I'm sure others can as well.
If they don't, use our former sub as a warning sign of the inevitable consequences of staying too long. Even our cohesive group of friends couldn't hold up under that stress.
Finally, the big question, do you think he's innocent or guilty?
I am firmly in the camp of "I just don't give a crap anymore!"
How much more sleep is this going to rob me of? How many more friends? If it's not helping him any, and only upsets me when I dwell on it, what's the point?
I am writing all this hopefully to get it all out of my system. Perhaps you have had similar experiences here. I know I'm not the only one. So feel free to speak up.
Overall, the cost of being involved in it was too high. While I am quite proud of my post and comment history, I regret being involved in the first place. But what's done is done. There are some cool people here. So moving forward, I want to get away from this thing, yet somehow keep the cool people. My goal is to distance myself from all this in the days and weeks to come and become active elsewhere on Reddit on any subject matter not pertaining to Maryland vs Syed.
Personally, I would like to hear other experiences as to their ups and downs throughout this whole year-long drama. Feel free to express.