what does your community feed you? pt. 1 // A Love Letter to Tweaker Nation

“You must be like me; you must suffer in rhythm.”

The toxicity of communities is perhaps more apparent than ever with the disseminate internet. But so is a grander sense of finding people who can relate to you; a greater chance of feeling accepted, understood, or at the least, not alone.

This is especially so when you take part in activities the general public deems as toxic. Were you seen as human trash before finding your current community, or were you ostracized only because you joined the community? When most of society has deemed you to be unworthy, a poisonous black molding leper, how lovely is it to have a group of people who are also honest about their struggles and end up being more open-minded than most you’ve come across?

A community many would consider toxic is Tweaker Nation on Tumblr. Associated tags include #tweakerguys, #tweektweak, #spungirls, #snobunnies, #tina, and #tweakend.

The majority of the demographic ranges from the ages 20–30. Most reside within a range of western countries (Tumblr is most popularly used in the western hemisphere). I found posts about detecting fake crystal when purchasing. I found posts of people looking for friends and correspondence of encouragement and understanding when someone posted about a relapse. They have their own memes, graphics, quotes about the struggles of love, smoking videos like potheads smoking blunts/sharing their latest bong-engineering efforts. All the things you associate with tumblr culture — just all revolving around the use of meth.

*I’m not here to condone the use of meth, but really trying to shed light on the distinction between a community itself being toxic and the members themselves being in a toxic state, but receiving good from the community.

For the past 6 months, I’ve corresponded with 100+ tumblr users who openly post about their love for Tina. I’d asked what the best part of having a community such as Tweaker Nation was in regards to something outsiders wouldn’t understand. The following are select answers from heavy users I’d been corresponding with:

“Misery loves company.. having someone to do wrong with is uniting and comforting.. and…. fun. But also knowing we all struggle and suffer through similar rock bottoms, through similar hells… it’s reassuring in a way. To know we aren’t especially fucked off.. just the normal amount as every other tweaker. Also it’s a good platform to share harm reduction. Teaching safe, proper ways of using as to do the least amount of damage as possible. If we are going to be bad, might at least be as safe and healthy as you can while being bad.. and the tweaker community is alive with advice on ice. Anything else would just be having a human instinct to have friends… tweakers are human… we want friends..” — Smokèmon Master (25, Colorado)

“[…] there’s the whole harm reduction factor for people who would have no reference of what is safe when they start experimenting. And it actually works here, unlike Reddit, where half the people have no clue what they’re talking about and do more damage than anything because they just guess. But my favorite thing has to be that it brings us into a community in the first place and gives all of us a sense of belonging. For many users, I know for me at times, it’s the closest thing you feel to having a home or a family. It’s just important to a group of people that is so harshly alienated from the rest of society.” — Anonymous (25, Cincinnati)

One of the women I was corresponding with had run out of money while living in Phoenix, AZ. There was a shortage of job opportunities where she lived and she stopped smoking meth because she could no longer afford it. She moved to Idaho in search of a job without any contacts, people she knew in general, along with trusted sources for meth. She had alternatively chosen to drink and smoke weed for the past couple of months. This was her answer to the question about what she thought the best part of the community was:

“Probably just people who understand getting high. I still would like to smoke meth when I get some personal life things figured out because it helps me more than any other medication I take. I’m a high functioning addict, but I’m still an addict you know? I miss being around people who understood what it’s like to just smoke a bowl at the end of a hard day” — Anonymous (22, Idaho)

Among the users I’d corresponded with, a recurring theme seemed to be that each person had a community that changed often. From new friends from tumblr, to other people they started smoking with, veterans going to get clean, everyone being switched out every so often. Another tie was that members were pretty with-it when it came to using various social networking apps. Many of them mentioned using Kik and Whisper along with Tumblr. It’s considerable that this is an evolutionary development: humans quick to utilizing technology when seeking a tribe.

Whisper is an app for people to anonymously post secrets — it can be funny, heavy, disconcerting, comforting, everything in between, as birthed by the honesty of its users

If a community provides you with exactly what you need at that point in your life, to be what you want to be on your own terms, is it really toxic? The members of Tweaker Nation joined only after developing a smoking habit on their own. Most were reluctant to speak with me when I told them I no longer tweak. It’s safe to assume they feared I’d go on an anti-meth tirade, but with one another, they were supportive and understanding.

How far does a community have to go in terms of personal gain to be considered good? If you are reaping benefits you couldn’t get on your own and you would’ve had vices being on your own anyway, is a “toxic” community so much worse? Is it the presumption that they would egg you on that makes them seem bad? Couldn’t self-loathing and loneliness do that as well? So perhaps a group comprised of individuals who are truly self-sustained/fulfilled are the only ones considered “GOOD” and “PURE,” at which point, what would even be the point of having a community?

Toxic communities could include sober people who meditate and grow a garden with you, but feed off your insecurities. There are plenty of “communities” which suck members dry of thousands of dollars and make them reliant on the community under the guise of “guided living.” Then there’s the consideration of the environment you’re in that determines normality and the usual — is it a privilege to be able to access communities which society does not berate as quickly? Is it a matter of privilege to deem a community as toxic without acknowledging that we may never understand the experiences that members had, leading them to join the community?

This was not written to normalize the use of meth. I chose to focus on Tweaker Nation to consider the benefits of having a community when you as an individual are already on the fringes of society. Admittedly, another part of the reason I’d cared to delve in at all was that I grew up in Hawaii and we had the 4th highest use of meth in the states { it’s personal } The only content I’d seen on the internet about Tweaker Nation was unsurprisingly extremely critical and rather mocking. As we move forward with access to communities through the internet, there should always be a consideration that there’s more to it than we are conditioned to grasp — that the petri dish each of us were born into is limited with understanding. To have a community for anyone is vital, regardless of how sustainable it may be, and we are often too cattled into a single pen and quick to criticize certain ones more harshly.

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