The internet in many ways is a realm devoid of human emotions. Excluding web cams, microphones, and video posts the internet can lead to the misinterpretation of tone of voice, sarcasm, facial expressions, and intent. From this a new era of battles has emerged. Not at Thermopylae – this is not Sparta – but rather on the pitch of chat rooms, message boards, and where this story leads, Facebook, in a battle between two facebook groups- The Sharks and The Eelz.
In Burlington, Massachusetts, a new web generation is coming to fruition. From YouTube videos and the lastest James Bond movie, Casino Royale, suburbia is exposed to a new extreme sport: parkour, also known as free running. High school kids began taking to the streets and office parks, abandoning half pipes and skateboards at least temporarily in favor of jumping gaps and performing flips with high risk factors. Most prominently, the Sharkz group emerged on the scene, making a small bubble of influence with their own series of YouTube videos.
The group was a peaceful mini-giant in the world of videos viewed by Burlington teenagers, that is, until the Eelz came around. But the Eelz is a group reaching for a different extremity, and they require some backstory.
Several weeks back I found myself dining at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage in Cambridge. While dining on the likes of burgers titled across the political spectrum (The John Kerry served with Heinz ketchup, for example) I was enjoying the company of my high-spirited friends, overflowing with energy as we were there celebrating a friend’s eighteenth birthday.
Though afterwards our stomachs were too full for dessert, our energy left us craving something. And so, we set off on the T, got off somewhere around Park Street, and went for a walk. And somehow, in the vicinity of Park Street we ended up at a park. A nerdish videographer, I naturally, happened to have my new video camera with me, ready for any spontaneity worth recording. That is where it all started.
Suddenly digestion took a strange churn on us. Some of us, many rooted in the high school drama department came out with odd accents. Others flocked to the swing sets and slides with an ecstatic return to childhood pleasures. Midway through our nostalgia, we started thematically directing our craziness. We had all heard of the Sharkz, but we wanted to do something different. As they had gone after the extreme we went after the mediocre. Where they had done backflips, we did dramatic slides down firemen poles. It was positively ridiculous, and where they had been Sharkz, we deemed ourselves the Eelz.
The point of ignition for an online conflict came nearly a week later when an Eelz online group was formed and I posted some excerpts on Facebook in a short video. We soon came under fire. Although receiving positive feedback from close friends, we quickly came under fire from the Sharkz who openly disapproved of our undertaking. They did not look at our video as a complimentary spoof, but rather as an insult. And so, the first of misunderstandings began.
Instantly, verbal hazing came to our supporters and our group from the Sharkz end of the reef. Attempts at explanation went back in forth in wall postings. It was summer and school was not a venue to sort things out and talk. Eventually, several Sharkz realized we meant no harm, but their core stars remained convinced we were encroaching on their niche. Doctored pictures had made it to the group wall with Sharkz gobbling Eelz. But it was impossible without caption to tell the exact intent. Posts were made interpreting other posts as if they were abstract art works. Who was kidding and who wasn’t? Vulgarities began to sprout as well and the whole of both groups seemed to shout for analysis by a major in human behavior and social science.
And so, this tale of Sharkz and Eelz remains unresolved. But my question is, would it be as “epic” or would the trash talk be so frequent without the internet as a tool to depersonalize contact with people? You decide for yourself. The Sharkz videos are still listed on YouTube, with the Eelz to transfer theirs to YouTube soon (currently only on Facebook). Teenage years, oh the drama and immaturity. But they’re fun.