Of Got7, and the “Ghost” Culture

GOT7 is a k-pop group. A member of said group is Jackson Wang. I have learned a lot about myself by watching Jackson. One such thing involves an episode of GOT7 Jackson Show, a Vlive ch+ program which features specific members of the group discussing topics going on in their lives while eating. In one episode members Mark (From America), Bambam (From Thailand), and Jackson (From Hong Kong, China), discuss the topic of shipping and tagging. Allow me to elaborate.

Shipping is when a fan of two or more characters or idols link said characters or idols into a preferred pairing. For instance, a fan of Marvel characters Steve Rogers and Tony Stark either platonically or romantically link the characters, usually giving said pairing a name. In real example, when Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were in a relationship, people referred to them as Bennifer. And, these days, ships are tagged with hashtags, so it would be #bennifer. Further example, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose would be shipped as #AmbReigns.

At times, shippers will run across persons who ship another pair. And, that pairing may include a member of the other ship. So, fans of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, for instance, will ship #AmbRollins. These shippers do not always get along. It’s tense in this fandom world.

Tagging involves linking posts to a specified person. On most sites, this include the use of an @ and then the name of the user. In my case, my “name” on this site is LeminLemur. If you were to tag me in a post, it would be written as @leminlemur. Of course, not everyone wants to be tagged in certain posts. Hold onto this thought.

Back to GOT7. Jackson Wang is a member who is quite sensitive. He’s honestly a sweetheart. Many people hold Jackson as a standard of the type of person they want in their lives, be that romantically or platonically. Hell, even I used Jackson a few times as a template of my perfect best friend. Jackson craves closeness, as such he often ships himself platonically (or other, I don’t know him personally and do not judge)  with other members of the group. For instance, #JackBam is Jackson and Bambam. #MarkSon is Mark and Jackson. It would appear however, that Jackson becomes upset when members of his ship are shipped with others. I think is a human response. Let me explain what I meant by learning about myself from watching him.

Jackson has said in the episode of The Jackson Show, that he is the type of person who feels that someone might not like him if they do not reciprocate his emotional output. As such, when he sees someone he is close to interacting in a specific way with another person (sometimes whom he is close to), he feels ignored and begins questioning himself and if they like him. Fans who ship members of the group have created ships which include other members and not Jackson, and they tag him in these posts on social media. Therefore, when he clicks into his social media, these posts show up. Imagine being a person who craves closeness and feels ignored, and seeing nothing but posts about the people who you feel far from. Here, have a personal example.

In high school, I had a friend whom I had known since elementary school. She and I were not super close, but we weren’t exactly distant. She had a friend from another school who also went to high school with us. This friend did not like me. Per her reaction to being me, I did not like her. This put our mutual friend in a bind. She pulled us both aside and told us, “You don’t have to like one another, but I’m not going to choose who I can be friends with because you don’t like each other. So, I’d appreciate it if you’d at least try to get along.” Well, myself and the other girl became friends.

When I moved away, I met a whole new group of people. I learned in my time away that my personality was huge and that I potentially could shut people down with it and my problems combined. But, I did not know my problems, nor how big they were until I moved back. When I returned, my friends had become friends with the people who initially didn’t like us. That threw me off. Because a lot of these people were particularly cruel to me. I found out later that the only reason these people were not cordial to my friends was because they didn’t like me.

I felt hurt, betrayed, and angry. What was so wrong about me? Why didn’t they like me? Well, for one, I was very possessive. If you were my friends, I wanted to be included. I was too immature to know that you cannot include everyone in everything. I was too immature to realize that no one is truly closer to one person than they are another. In fact, it is a matter of two people gaining things from one another. At times, you may gain something from a friendship with me, that you cannot with someone else. But, you’re still close to both people. At times, you don’t hang out with someone constantly and you hang out with someone else only at specified times. Some people can handle that. As a teenager, I could not.

I hated being left out. It carried on into my adulthood. When my ex and our mutual friends would go out, sometimes, one friend would talk to me as if I were there with them at the time. And, I was not. This is what it feels like to be tagged in a ship which you are not a part of. I was so annoyed at the thought of them going out together without me that I became a black hole. I questioned myself, I questioned my friendships. I didn’t need to do that. That was insecurity on my part, but it was also traumatic response from other incidents which I had not healed from. The wound kept opening.

Jackson reminds me of myself. He’s asked not to be tagged in shipping posts, and only to be tagged in #GOT7, which some other members have also requested. Not just tagging, but shipping, only #GOT7. They are one. I told a friend that I felt they had done this to protect one another’s feelings. I thought about my friend from high school. That mutual friend, and the pressure she must have been under to be friends with me and someone who didn’t like me. I thought about how hard it was to be pushed aside when they had finally not had me around. Sad as it is to say, it was probably a relief.

I never realized that this was such a deep topic for me until I saw that (and other) video. I still have these issues. When friends of mine online begin talking to one another, I feel excluded. When rping, if my characters friends begin interacting with other characters, I feel excluded. I know now that I need help in consolidating my feelings about past traumas so that I do not keep feeling this pain.  It’s funny the things we see that bring us back to ourselves.

Just to close that walk down memory lane, I had found a new group of friends in high school, and my senior year, I had begun to exclude myself, defense mechanism. My mutual friend was then excluded from her own group of friends, same group she had introduced me to. She came to me told me that she understood now how hurt I had been, and apologized. I told her I accepted and she began hanging out with me. But, the friendship was never the same. And, to this day I find myself pushing people away from me, somehow believing that they will leave anyway. It’s a subconscious situation, but it’s present and I see it.

The Ghost Culture

I am currently studying Multicultural Counseling and Therapy. Part of this means getting through all multicultural competencies, which include knowing myself and my prejudices and biases, knowing about other cultures, and knowing proper techniques to help said cultures in counseling. One part of the knowing myself, which is self-awareness, is knowing my culture(s). I am, and most are, a multicultural being. A few of those traits are that I am African-American, female, born in the 1980s. Of course, new findings have made it required that some of these traits mentioned be altered and specific, for example, I am not just female, I am cis-gender female, which means that my assigned gender is my perceived gender. When I was asked to write the most salient cultural information about myself among a long list of traits and characteristics, I had an existential crisis (man, I am prone to those).

What the hell am I? I just mentioned three, so why didn’t I just write those down? Because, I am a part of what I call the “Ghost” culture. What is that? Ghost culture consists of those of us who began to sit behind a computer screen and “create” online personas. Not quite cat-fishing, but, freedom to be who we want to be instead of who we are. By the time I was in high school, I had a computer, internet access, and two online journals. This was the time when people would ask for photos of you, and you could go online and pick a photo (again, not quite cat-fishing, but close). I could create a person who would not be ignored or left behind. I could create that girl that I wished that I was but could be never be. I was anything but myself.

These days, social media almost requires that we keep honesty in social affairs, but there are still people who make these “alter egos”. I am one of them. And, if you are a gamer, you’re probably pretty good at it. But, I noticed when I was doing my assignment, during those years when I was becoming the adult that I would later be and rearrange, I was busy creating the person I never was. Essentially, people of the ghost culture, have many cultures and many cultural attributes. And, many of them don’t even exist within the person behind the computer screen. It’s like House MD says, “Everybody lies.”

Who am I? I spent the last four years of my life trying to answer that question. But, in truth, I spent the previous fifteen years of my life as ten+ other people, including exaggerated versions of myself. Aside from obvious points in my personal life, you know, the one I could not erase in my waking world, every aspect of my being could be and was altered at any time I wanted. I should not have panicked the moment I received that assignment. I should have been able to POW, write. But, it dawned on me that I am not the only person like this. This is a culture. This technological digital world, is a culture. And, I am part of a sub-culture which I know has a name, I just can’t call it.

It’s amazing when you realize things like this. I can already anticipate the feelings I am going have during this eleven week course. But, I really want to know, in a world where you have the means to create an imaginary person and live their life on a computer, which cultures do you really identify with?