OPINION | Gatekeeping on the internet is draining and pointless

Star Trek, the LGBTQ+ community, track 5 of Taylor Swift’s new album and a park bench all have something in common: They are all things I saw posts about on social media this week because someone was “gatekeeping” them. I wish I could turn off the word “gatekeeping” as easily as I can turn off my phone whenever the word annoys me.

Gatekeeping overpopulates the internet as people constantly establish new meanings for it. It causes fights and self-centered emotional outbursts to flood my “For You” pages and all of my daily interactions.

Seeing the word gatekeeping is exhausting because people overshadow its actual and important meanings with their own interpretations.

Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of gatekeeping is “trying to control who gets particular resources, power, or opportunities, and who does not.” In various other contexts, what remains constant is that a powerful person or group stands between a less powerful group and that group’s needs.

Gatekeeping becomes negative when news outlets with cruel intentions keep important information from the public or when healthcare organizations limit minority groups’ access to quality healthcare.

While beauty influencers on TikTok are finally deciding to share their favorite popular skincare product with their audience after superficially gatekeeping it, the CDC is releasing information on how to combat real medical gatekeeping with health equity practices.

Gatekeeping is a highly misunderstood societal concept that results in more harm than good, and watching people completely brush it aside in favor of their own slang definitions really bothers me.

These slang definitions can get amusingly irrational or extremely harmful. People love to brag that they listened to a song before it became the latest popular TikTok audio. Personally, I love knowing that I stumbled upon a talented painter or musician’s work before they gained popularity.

I also want to keep other people from ruining my interests, but I understand that this is unreasonable. The average social media user does not have the power needed to claim sole ownership of a movie or an album. No one can gatekeep content that the public has unlimited access to already.

In this context, internet claims of gatekeeping are useless, yet they still manage to start vicious and hateful social media fights over the “rules” of “claiming” something trendy.

Even the social media users who comment that they found something somewhat unsatisfactory get attacked for not trying to claim it. Using this slang form of gatekeeping looks ridiculous.

I have seen people shun other social media users for posting an inaccurately written and insignificant comment about a band. Calling someone a fake fan for an incorrect comment is one thing, but some people have used this form of gatekeeping to exclude others from communities beyond digital platforms.

The Urban Dictionary has a listing for the term “Gaytekeeping.” It means that members of the LGBTQ+ community claim that other members of a certain gender or orientation do not belong in that community and insult them as a way of forcing them out. I see this happening to my own acquaintances with public social media accounts.

One of my acquaintances is exploring their gender and posts stories all the time about the hateful messages he receives. People tell him that he cannot use he/they pronouns if they still look feminine and misgender them to make them angry.

Transphobia has no place in society, and transphobic gatekeeping even from within the LGBTQ+ community can cause others to suffer serious long-term pain and mental health problems.

People often go on social media to distract themselves from hardships with relaxing and mindless content. They should be allowed to share their interests and personal news without experiencing any kind of gatekeeping. Working to better understand the real meaning of gatekeeping can help us escape the harms of its pettier internet form.

Photo from insider.com.