The internet world in many ways is a fairly new and uncharted domain, where anything can be written and, in turn, everything can be accessed. Originally the web was created in the 1960s with the intent to aid the military in the event of a nuclear war, the idea being that while phone lines may cease to function, the system would be intelligent enough to aid them in spreading information. This remained a focal point of internet use until the 80s and 90s, when its use became a much more commercial one, with people sharing information, knowledge, books, music and stories and, for the horror-lovers, creepypastas.
With the rise of the internet came the rise of online writing – blogging and storytelling became very popular, as anything could be written by anyone, anonymously or not, and with it, naturally, came creepypasta. Online horror has been a part of the internet since its commercialization, with some wanting to express their creativity by sharing gruesome tales and legends with other fans. In this sense, online horror can easily be classed as a form of entertainment, similar to any storytelling or book-sharing website. This is not to say, however, that online horror does not also have its dark side.
It’s certainly made them more accessible, but also much easier to debunk
Seeing as the internet is open to everyone, no matter their age, phobias or mental state, there is room for vulnerable people to be potentially exposed to terrifying videos and imagery. Incidents surrounding threatening chain letters, luring ads and pop-up tabs quickly emerged as a scare tactic for regular internet users that can turn a bedroom into a house of horrors, potentially trigger unwanted results. An example of this is the ‘Slenderman stabbing’ in 2014, in which a 12-year old girl was stabbed by two friends who were attempting to imitate the creepypasta story of Slenderman. For young children especially, being exposed to online horror can be a major source of both anxiety and inspiration and can significantly affect the quality of their lives in the long run. In this sense, the web has certainly made horror much more accessible than previous years. In times past, the only way for horror to spread was through the retelling of myths and legends and was often used to push people into submission through fear (think Baba Yaga, a witchlike being who often appears in Slavic folklore). Now, the digital age means one simple internet search is enough for thousands of these stories to pop up with one click.
On the other hand, online horror can be said to play a positive role. It provides leeway for people to overcome their fears and phobias of the unknown by providing an education on topics that inspire excessive fear. Just as horror is easily accessible, so is general information – an 8-year old that is terrified of Baba Yaga can simply google the name and realize it’s just a story. In this sense, the web can not only create horror, but also take some of it away. Similarly, it’s a platform for horror-lovers to freely share their creations to a community that shares their interests.
So, what impact has the internet had on horror stories and tales of the supernatural? It’s certainly made them more accessible, but also much easier to debunk. The short answer is, it’s different for everyone. For some it’s a fountainhead of fear and anxiety, and for others creepypasta is their main source of entertainment. If it’s not your cup of tea, stay away from it, but if horror is right up your alley, then online horror is a must.
Photograph by Arzao via Pixabay