Thanks to social media and reality television, the paranormal has more of a stage than ever before. Is there still a social stigma around this field? Social Stigma means a disapproval or discrimination against a person due to certain characteristics - say being a paranormal investigator. While we have come a long way and the paranormal is as popular as ever, is there still a social stigma around the paranormal?
I know myself, I have written in the past about the stigma placed on people who are open about their participation in the paranormal field. As a Mum for example in the school grounds, it is not the usual topic of conversation. When I have mentioned what I do, I get 'that look'. Recently at work I had a back handed comment made to me. A lot of people know what I do simply because my Husband also works there and proudly talks about my blog and the things I have done. It isn't something I broadcast because believe it or not, I actually don't like talking about myself and will only talk about it if I am asked. I get embarrassed. Not because of the paranormal content, I don't actually advertise a lot of things about my life unless I am asked. When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn't tell anyone at work because I didn't want to just blurt out hey I'm pregnant. If they asked I would tell them. Let's just say a lot of people thought I was getting pretty chunky because I hadn't said anything. Some where shocked when I eventually left on maternity leave. It is just how I am. Anyway, there I was standing with my lanyard around my neck displaying my ID with my ghost pins all up my lanyard. The screen saver on my laptop is eerie looking images of Black Rock House and I have two massive screens so you can't miss it. A new staff member came in and said to me verbatim "So you are into ghosts?". It also had a certain tone to the way she said it. I said well yes I run paranormal tours out of Black Rock House and I write a blog and her response was to look away and say 'rigggggggght'. It is a response that we in the paranormal field are used to. I must say I was disappointed because I thought maybe we had progressed a bit beyond that reaction. While we post memes on FB about being proud of loving the paranormal and to 'let your freak flag fly', these opinions still bother us. We can say 'It doesn't matter what anyone thinks you don't need anyone's approval', while this is true, no one is made of stone and sometimes the comments hurt. What is even more confusing is that the same people that are judging you are the first to contact you when something 'weird' starts happening or they run to you to talk to about an experience they had.
More than ever, the paranormal is in the spotlight through social media and the abundance of reality television and documentaries. More and more people are tuning in, following pages and taking a real interest in the paranormal. The problem is that people don't necessarily want to be open about this interest. Many times on my page I have had people contact me directly through email or messenger to write a response to an article or a topic I have posted. The email usually starts in the same way. "I didn't want people to see my response on social media so I am emailing you directly." The reason they don't want people to see their response is the ridicule. While in a lot of cases they may not want their friends or family to see they have commented on a paranormal page, there is ridicule of another kind they don't want to be subjected to.
The paranormal field has it's own social stigmas whether we care to admit it or not. It comes down to what your beliefs are. Try posting a comment in a group on a post about 'orbs' for example. Whether you believe in them or you think they are from the camera, you will get ridiculed for your comment either way (trust me I know). People within the paranormal can get quite nasty toward one another based on their beliefs and in a lot of ways subject people to a kind of social stigma just because of what they believe. The other day I had a comment directed to me about an article I wrote about rational explanations as to why a battery might drain. The comment was" He has clearly never been on a paranormal investigation, what a load of rubbish. Why would he post something so silly". First of all, I am a she and I get really tired of the assumption that people often make thinking a man writes this blog! There are a lot of females out there running events, paranormal groups and creating content so let's move into the 21st Century and not just assume a male is behind something. Second of all, people tend to direct these kinds of comments towards others who believe differently to what they do. You have some camps of people in the paranormal aggressively posting about what they believe to be delusional people who believe in orbs while you have people in other camps posting again aggressively that people are not open minded and are 'haters' etc. It turns into a slinging match of insults.
I can sit here and I say that we all need to be nice to one another etc but realistically this is not going to change (at least any time soon). We are dealing here with human nature. This kind of behaviour is not exclusive to the paranormal field. It happens in all walks of life, yet we seem to be surprised when it happens within the paranormal. There is always going to be someone that disagrees. There is always going to be someone who thinks that they know better. There is always going to be someone who is so egotistical that they will not be open to another opinion. You are going to encounter these kind of people whether you are in the paranormal field or not. In fact social media makes it easy for them to make these comments because they don't have to look you in the eye. They can hide behind a keyboard. They don't have the consequence of fall out. Some people even think it is fun and try to bait people because they feel like having a social media fight.
Some paranormal groups can become very set in their ways and feel like a difference of opinion is an attack on them and their work. We build up this thick skin because quite honestly we get used to the ridicule so our defenses are always up. Then there is a thing called context. Written content has no tone and is open to interpretation. People can often take things the wrong way when they are read and things can escalate. We have to accept that we may not be right. There is that human nature aspect again because we as humans don't like to have our belief systems challenged. A normal response can actually be to lash out because you are being made to feel uncomfortable. It is important that even if you don't agree with what they are saying, to acknowledge another person's opinion. Just like you, they are entitled to one and sometimes you just need to learn to pick your battles. The whole world is not against you (even though at times it will feel like it is.) . If you are offering a different opinion, don't be nasty about it, Don't be agressive about and don't insult the person's whose opinion you are commenting on. By slanging an insult their way, they are never going to take on board what you are saying and why should they if there is a nasty insult directed at them. We are all grown ups. We are capable of having intelligent adult conversations. It can make us feel uncomfortable and maybe in some instances we feel like we are swollowing our pride a little, but we can do it.
This is why it is important to surround yourself with the people that will support you. These are the people that can handle and respect the fact that you have a different opinion. These are the people that even though they may not be into the paranormal, they support your adventures from the sidelines (even if they don't physically go along with you). You can't put 100 people in a room and expect every single person to get along and be friends. There is always going to be a clash of personality and there is always going to be someone that no matter what you do, just won't like you. The same goes with the paranormal field. There will be people you don't like or don't agree with. There will be people you just don't see eye to eye with. Just because you both like the paranormal doesn't mean you automatically have to be friends. This is where you have the power. Leave them be. Let them do their thing and you do yours. You don't need to sling insults at one another because you believe something differently. All it is going to achieve is getting you upset. If someone is achieving something, let them have their moment because they would have worked hard for it. People tend to get jealous when those around us achieve something - again it is that pesky human nature. Sometimes people think 'why not me'? This is again where the power lies with you. Instead of criticizing something they have worked hard towards, go out there and put the energy and work towards your own dream instead. I promise you accomplishment feels so much better than jealously or resentment.
We expect people in the world to be accepting of our beliefs and for us to live life the way we want to and essentially be who we are. This is why we say "it doesn't matter what the outside world thinks I am true to myself." This mentality needs to carry on into the paranormal field as well. There is always going to be stigmas in and out of the paranormal field. It is how you deal with it that counts. Comments may hurt, you may lose people but hey that's life. It is not exclusive to the paranormal field. Just remember why you are here in the first place. If you don't care what Joe Blow in the street says about your paranormal beliefs, then don't worry about what a fellow paranormal group says. It is one in the same. At the end of the day you will be surrounded by people who support you and want to be around you. Embrace them for they are your tribe and that is all you need!
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