It’s me again; hope you’re doing well. As of now I am a senior in high school, and after I graduate I’m moving from New Jersey to North Carolina for college. Now I do love NC. In fact I’m here right now as school is remote and I can still attend online. My parents are retiring in a beautiful home at St. James Plantation and have made many friends there which I get on with. I love the little town of Southport that’s nearby, and the cute little beaches and local restaurants and stores all about. I’m also quite looking forward to college, as I’ve visited several campuses already, and though I know I may still be virtual, I’m excited for the opportunity to grow and learn more about myself. My boyfriend is even going to be moving down here from Illinois too, and although we’ll still be a few hours away, it’s better than being states apart. All things considered, things are going good for the most part.
However, I can’t shake that feeling of sadness when I think of living here. I’ve lived in New Jersey all my life. It’s where I spent my childhood years and has shaped me so far as the person I am now. I love the pretty forests and rolling hills, I love the winding roads through the countryside, I love how the towns have such a rustic, nostalgic feel, and the comfort I experience from knowing them so well. I love the friends and memories I’ve made there, and I’m glad I had the childhood I did. I know I’m going to have to leave a lot of that and more behind, and I’m not sure how to cope with it. I’m not deeply depressed mind you, but the last time I moved was when I was 9, and it was only 45 minutes away. With how long you’ve been around, I think it’s safe to assumed you’ve moved at least a few times, as I know it’s a common experience. What should I do to help accept and (try to) heal these emotions?
Galaxy (age 17)
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Nice to hear from you again and thanks for the update. To answer your question, what you are experiencing is simply nostalgia for the past. Yes, I have moved a LOT. I was born in Boston and have moved nine times, living in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and California. So, I know something about moving.
The bad thing about moving a lot is that you never have a town or city you really feel is your home town. If someone asks me my home town, I say where I am now, and if they say, "No, where did you grow up?" I say "all over" because no place feels like home to me.
My first word of advice: Count yourself lucky that you grew up in a very stable environment, and the result is you will always feel like New Jersey is your true home. That's nice. That's really really nice. As you get a bit older, you will appreciate that more. And that treasure trove of memories of the two homes you lived in, your family, friends, schools, that is always a part of you, and that is beautiful because it sounds like you had a very good childhood (message to Galaxy's parents: Good job, you two!).
Now you are in North Carolina, and it appears you like that, which is super duper! You have a whole world to explore, new friends to meet, new experiences to take in, new things to learn. The thing about growing older is you have two choices in this regard: you can stay in your little home town all your life, grow old and die there; or you can go out into the world and have new experiences and meet new people, which will open your eyes a lot to different points of view and make you smarter, to boot. There is nothing wrong about being a homey all your life, but it has the very real danger of making one too colloquial and too set in their ways. My mother used to tell a story about her first time in Abilene, Texas, to meet my father's family. Now, my mom had already traveled quite a bit at this point, including Europe. She asked a few of the Abilene residents if they had traveled, too, and they replied invariably, "Why travel when we have everything we need here?" Well, sure, you have food and home and church and friends all there, but you don't know anything about people who are different from you, and that can make you very narrow-minded and inflexible to change, and this is not healthy. (And no, watching TV is not just as good as traveling). Do you know what stays in one place all its life? A vegetable. Animals move. Be an animal.
Cherish your past memories; stay in touch with the friends you can (most people lose touch, but that is up to you and them; you still have the memories); remember the lessons learned and use them as information that can help you with the new challenges you face today. Someday, you will leave North Carolina (but probably come back to see your parents) to get a job or marry or just explore, and then you can look back at North Carolina and your college days and appreciate and learn from them as well.
The solution to your problem is attitude. Do not look at your yearning for Jersey as something that has to be healed or accept. No. The fact you feel that way indicates you had a great past and you should always love it. You don't have to fix that because there is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing to "heal" from. You're not wounded. You're fine.
Go out and explore life! Yay for you! Time to get excited about the future and all it holds!
I just wanted to ask about furry cons, even though covid-19 is currently happening right now, I'm still really curious about it and haven't gotten many answers. Like are most conventions only 18+ to go to? Are there furry events in shops around (like cafes stores etc.)? And also advice on what's best to do at cons, like best travel and hotels if covid ends. I wanna be prepared.
Cookie (age 13)
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Dear Cookie (love that name),
That's a great question, thanks for asking. When COVID-19 eases up (and it will; they already have two very promising vaccines in the test stage, as well as treatments being developed), furcons should make a comeback in 2021 and 2022. What a joyous occasion that will be! I'm registered to attend Biggest Little Furcon in Reno, and it's been delayed a couple times and is now hopefully going to occur in June, so here's hoping.
Most furcons with which I am familiar are kid-friendly. While, yes, there is adult art in the artists' den and in the marketplace, these things are restricted to those 18 and older, and you will not be allowed inside those areas, so you can enjoy the rest of the marketplace and art shows without worry. Everything else at furcons--events, parades, forums--are G-rated. Occasionally, there will be a forum that is for adults, but those will be clearly marked on a program and, of course, someone your age would not be allowed inside the lecture room in those cases.
Some cons also have tracks specifically designed for youth (e.g. Furry Migration), and all furcons have rules laid out on their websites about minors. These usually involve the fact that you need permission from a parent or legal guardian to attend, pay for the registration, and pay for the room.
Most furcons are held at hotels and convention centers, but some have different settings, such as campgrounds. If you are looking for small events (you mention meeting at a coffee shop) then what you want is called a "furmeet." These are small parties or activities organized by a local furry group. They plan things like house parties, bowling events, going to movies or parks, and so on. You might try Meetup to see if there is a regular furmeet near you, or search on social sites to find local furry groups.
Because cons are held in cities all over the world, I can't really advise you on what travel and hotel options are best without knowing where you intend to go. I would advise that you check out the website of the con you wish to attend, see if they have a youth track, and contact the person in charge of events to ask about best things to do there. I would, if I were your age, attend forums to learn more about the fandom, visit the marketplace, visit the artists' den, show your parents around so they can see that furry is a lot of fun. And try to meet people and make furiends.
If you have more specific questions, feel free to write again.
Welcome to the fandom!
I have a hard time having sympathy for furries. I feel less and less care when met with news of a furry experiencing financial problems, or worse. This is not without reason, however. I have suffered sexual abuse, less than a year ago. It has opened my eyes to how disgusting the fandom is, and how rare it is to find a furry that isn't a horrible, nearly irredeemable person.
I feel that most furries feed into the culture that caused my naivety back then, and helped a predator blend in within the fandom. The cuddliness of the fandom, I loathe it. Everyone gets in their beds with mere friends and rub on each other like partners. I feel that people like that, even those who do it in roleplay, assist predators. Their actions I feel contribute to creating naivety in minors by making relationship-tier affection something just "friendly". Don't even get me started on lewd interaction.
I have been attacked for bringing this up. Everyone is so okay with the fandom normalizing predatory behavior. Maybe I am wrong? I don't want to be okay with hearing that a furry is in pain because they are likely the type of furry I was referring to. Everyone is so okay with this. My question is, am I wrong for thinking this way? Am I a bad person? I recognize your lack of qualification for help with mental illnesses, and I am not coming here with them being fixed in mind, but having another opinion would be helpful.
Anonymous (age 15)
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The prevalence of sex in the fandom through art and social interactions is definitely a thing, and I understand your concerns. I am very sorry to hear that you were a victim of sexual abuse. There is never an excuse for that.
I would not condemn the fandom as a whole because of your bad experiences, however. I myself have had very positive experiences and have made many friends in the fandom. In my humble opinion, the fandom is what you make of it (which is true of anything). I am not blaming you for being a victim of sexual abuse (please don't think that), but I am saying that one must be careful about the company one keeps. If one marches into the fandom naively (as you might have) and unprepared for what one might find, then yes, you could find yourself among the wrong kind of furry. You are 15 years old and should not be seeking out X-rated stuff, whether that is furry or not. As you likely know, thousands of youngsters are victims of sexual abuse and predation OUTside the fandom. The internet can be a dangerous place, and one should be cautious at all times.
So, don't blame the fandom per se. You will find bad people everywhere, not just in the furry world. That said, you are certainly justified to be upset by what happened to you, and again, I am so sorry you went through that!
You don't mention your family, but I think this is something you should discuss with your parents. There are some sites online you can read up on internet safety, too, such as Internet Safety 101 at https://internetsafety101.org/internetpredators. And it's not just safety from sex predators, but also trolls and scammers who want to steal your money and your identity. So, watch out for people who beg for money (something you also indicated happened to you).
But getting back to the fandom. This is a topic I am discussing more fully in my book, but the reason the fandom can be a particularly tricky place is because it is a refuge for a lot of troubled people. Many young people struggling with sexual- and self-identity issues come to the fandom to seek some release and freedom and companionship. This can, at times, lead to misbehavior. Or, at least, what a lot of people would consider misbehavior. It is a highly complex issue because people are complex, and the fandom has grown to hundreds of thousands of furries all over the world. Learning to navigate such a huge social maze can be tricky. You need to become adept at reading clues that can signal if someone is lying to you. Here's a little tip sheet on that: https://www.news.com.au/technology/online/how-to-tell-if-someone-is-lying-to-you-online-or-in-a-text/news-story/f76033116da0964f2565d5a0d0180812.
All that being said, I will conclude here that if you, personally, do not feel safe interacting with members of the fandom, then by all means don't. The furry fandom is supposed to be a place of fun and fantasy, not terror and mistrust. Most people have a great time doing furry stuff, but if you have come to hate it, then there is certainly no law that says you have to be a furry. Your safety and happiness are more important than that. But, after reading what I have said, you want to try again, then feel free to do so carefully, and write me at any time.
Finally, if you haven't already sought help for sexual abuse, please consider talking to someone. There is a sexual abuse hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Dear Papa Bear,
Last night, the 19th of October, I watched a special on Independent Lens from PBS, and it was called "Feels Good, Man." It was about the history of Pepe The Frog and how he changed the meme world forever. I was ashamed to find out his innocent, bro-like nature was manipulated by people from MySpace and others sites into an atheistic, insidious hate symbol. You know I love to draw clean fat art of cartoon birds, so that's why I'd like to ask you this question: Why do people try to pervert simple, innocent, even Christ-like memes into outright abominations? ... I prayed for Pepe's creator - Matt - and I hope he's learned to ignore such devastating lies and move on to greater things in his life.
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Have you ever heard of Rule 34? Rule 34 states, basically, that everything is eventually turned into porn. Whether it is Star Wars or Star Trek, Disney films, Cartoons, TV shows, novels, pretty much anything, there is a porn version of that, and that includes "Christ-like memes." So, it isn't that people are attacking innocent or Christian-themed art or whatever; they target literally everything.
Why? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but because people are horny a lot of the time and are looking for novel ways to get off. It's not rocket science. Also, sex sells, and things that are particularly naughty (e.g., things that are supposed to be innocent and pure but are corrupted) tantalize and tickle the prurient interests of the libidinous.
In the case of Pepe, it was not anything personal. And I believe most artists and other creators know this. When you create art, you will be subjected to criticism, parody, mocking, and satire, and the more successful you are at your art, the more likely you will be to become a target.
Another reason for this, especially when it does not involve porn but some other kind of spoof or criticism, is because of envy. People who are envious of the successful like to tear them down, and mocking is a good way to do this. They want to bring the artist down to their level so they don't feel bad about their own mediocre, uninspiring lives. Its the same reason why we have trolls and hackers. People who lack imagination, success, and creativity crave attention, and the only way they can do this is through being destructive. Horrible? Yes. Yes, it is. But that's how people are. They crave attention and validation, and if they can't do it by being a positive force in the world then they will do it by being a negative one.
Don't let it get to you. It's just how people are. That's why I'm a bear and not a human ;)
I want to escape myself. I feel trapped inside this damn shell of a human that is myself. I'm cursed with autism and I just can't take it: the sensory overload, the harder time learning, the fact I will never be understood properly or understand others. It feels painful. I find myself on the ground begging for it all to end, frequently, but I know I can't fix anything. I just wish there was a clear way out. What can I do to just stop feeling like this and become a normal human and not what I am right now?
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Thank you for writing. I know several friends and a family member with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and many of them are in the furry fandom. The bad news is that autism is not a curable mental condition. The GOOD news is that there are ways you can help yourself feel and function better in the world. One of them is to interact more with animals, and another is connecting to the furry fandom!
There have been numerous studies that show that people with ASD benefit greatly from owning pets, whether that pet is a dog or a cat or even a guinea pig, gerbil, or hamster, or big animals such as horses (there are a number of nonprofits that teach kids to ride and socialize with horses). Pets offer unconditional love and are not judgmental, which eases the stress of interacting with them versus with a human being. They offer comfort and physical touch, which are also very soothing and beneficial. They teach you about how to care for another living being, too, making sure they have healthy food, exercise, and medical care when needed. This, in turn, has been shown to improve social interactions with human beings as a result, whether they are peers in the classroom, family members, or people at work. You can read more about this at the Human Animal Bond Research Institute page at https://habri.org/research/child-health/autism/.
In a manner similar to human-animal bonds, people with ASD who interact in the furry fandom have had similar positive results. I believe that this is because of two reasons: the association of furries with animals and the generally welcoming and nonjudgmental environment of the furry family. Being a furry can be helpful because of the way that having a fursona or a fursuit or both can help create a safe buffer between people that eases the stress of social interaction and communication. When you are interacting as your fursona, you feel the relief of not being you for a while and being who you would really like to be. People with ASD have also commented that wearing a fursuit is comforting, like being wrapped in a protective blanket.
Although I don't have ASD, I can attest to this effect, too. For example, when in fursuit I was able to do karaoke on stage at a furcon, something I would be too self-conscious to do as myself. It sort of gives me a little insight into how this would work for someone such as you, BX3.
What can you do to "stop feeling like this" then? If you don't have a pet, I would highly recommend you get one (I prefer dogs myself, but whatever you enjoy is fine). I think you would also do well to interact with the furry community while in your fursona character. Both of these things can go a long way toward easing stress and improving your ability to interact with others in social situations.
I'm transgender, MTF, and have started transitioning at least to the best of my ability given the Covid-19 situation. So here is the problem I'm facing due to the current situation in the world: I don't know how to handle it as I'm struggling to find the help or start hormone therapy, or even if I even need to actually go onto hormones to be transgender. Every site I've looked at only ever mentions going onto hormones to be considered trans, so I don't even know if I'll be accepted as female if I'm for whatever reason unable to do hormone therapy. Even though I'm trying my best to present as female. (But I've still been misgendered several times, which I can only assume is because I still "look and sound" male, which has been stressing me to no end on how to even handle that).
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Thank you for asking a very important question that may help others who read my column. Let's get down to it.
Just like people who think all furries wear fursuits, there is an assumption among the public that all transgender people get surgery and/or hormone therapy. This is false. There are a lot of people just like you who do not go for medical options. This can be for a number of reasons. Perhaps they are unable to afford hormones or surgeries. Perhaps they have other medical problems that prevent them from doing so safely. Or perhaps they simply don't want to put their body through a medical procedure. These are extremely personal decisions, and there is no right or wrong answer. You must do what is best for you.
Are you trans if you don't have surgery or hormone therapy? If you feel that your physical sex does not match the real you, then yes, you are trans. Your true self lies within you and how you feel. It is not subject to public opinion.
Assuming that, even if you do want hormone therapy, you are unable to pursue it at least for the time being, what else can you do to be trans? Your third option is called "social transitioning." That is, you change yourself outwardly in things that can be easily perceived by society. One obvious thing you can do is change your appearance--your hair, your clothes, your makeup, etc. Next, you can change your name (you can do this legally online for very little money at websites such as totallegal.com, which charges like $30 to do the paperwork), and you can insist on people referring to you with the appropriate name and pronoun that suits you. Finally, you need to look into all your legal rights in your state, which might require you to do some paperwork, depending on where you live. Check out this page https://transequality.org/know-your-rights for more on that.
Finally, related to the last part of your letter, try to build a network of support, including friends, family, and professionals (anyone from doctors, nurses, and therapists to ministers and other counselors). I recommend you check out the National Center for Transgender Equality at transequality.org to get further advice and support.
I got into the furry fandom about 6.5 months ago. Ever since I joined I always wanted to have a fully drawn out fursona, Tippy (Deer/Buck), but I’ve never had the art skill to do so. I recently have been super interested in getting a reference sheet via commission. But, I have a bit of a problem, I have no idea what I’m supposed to say/do when it comes to telling them how I want it to look. I don’t wanna be to vague so it doesn’t look right or way to complicated to the point where they don’t know what to do. If you have any advice about the proper way I should communicate my thoughts into their drawings I’d be so grateful!
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Good question, and thanks for submitting it. This is how I handled communications with the ref sheet artist for Grubbs. When talking with the artist, think of the drawing in terms of what the fursuit maker will be sewing. Figure out all the things the fursuit maker will be doing and then describe those to the ref sheet artist.
First, decide the overall feel of the character. Are you going for a highly realistic anthro, or something cartoony?
Do some research on fursuit makers based on fursuits you've seen and what appeals to you with a maker's style. If you have already chosen a maker, point out some of the fursuits they made that you want the ref sheet artist to emulate (artists have their own style, of course, but a good artist can emulate other styles). You can also suggest looks you like from movies, TV shows, and cartoons. For example, when I was coming up with how Grubbs should look, I told the maker, Beastcub, that I thought the bear suits in Disney's The Country Bears were superb and I wanted something along those lines.
What is the overall personality/occupation you are trying to convey? Is this going to be a fat furry? Skinny? Will clothing be worn or will the fursuit be skyclad (naked)? Perhaps armor will be worn because it is a warrior, or a wizard's robe, or there will be jewelry or native wear. Maybe your fursona is a tomb raider or a gamer or an athlete. Maybe they are a musician or skateboarder (maybe you want inline skate wheels installed in the feet! I've seen that... cool!).
Pick out particular features that you want. Do you want realistic eyes made of glass or acrylic, or do you want cloth mesh? Do you want horns or wings or something animatronic? Do you want soft claws or perhaps something made of polyurethane that looks real. Where do you want the zipper (back or front)? Do you want a detachable tail? Should the ears wobble or be static? Do you want a moveable jaw so you can appear to be talking? Should the fur be shaggy or short or felty? Or do you need claws or feathers? Hooves on the feet but human hands? See if the maker has options for how the head is constructed (there are various approaches to head construction (foam heads are more typical of cartoony heads, while resin is often seen in more realistic heads). Ref sheet artists often don't go into mechanical details, but if you can get them to sketch out a lot of the specifics, it can be helpful to the maker.
The ref sheet should, obviously, have a color palate. Make sure you are clear on everything from fur color to paws to claws to eyes to nose to inner ear, etc. etc. etc.
A ref sheet is essential because this is where you work out all the details of your fursona before it goes into production (much cheaper to correct things in a drawing than after it has been sewn!). So, take your time and make sure you have exactly the look you are going for before you give the okay to the maker to start sewing!
Hope this answers your question!
First of all, I'm a huge fan of your site, and I'd like to thank you for being such an amazing, kind and wise person! Keep it up!
Now, I'm not here to complain about my issues since I'm proud to say that I'm really happy with myself and will continue to be happy! Thanks both to your knowledge and positivity and my efforts! I'm only here to share my view on why there's so much sadness in this "modern", "advanced" world and how realising this changed me for the better and rescued me out of a vicious circle of self-pity, anxiety and sadness.
I'll try to keep this short, and I'm sorry since English isn't my native language so sorry if it sounds weird.
So, everyone keeps bragging about how the world today is so "advanced" and "modern" and how science is this aaaamaaaazing thing that is only improving our lives and will continue to do so. But that, of course is not the case at all because, how I see it, science hasn't really solved any problems or made our lives "better" by any means, it only replaced previous issues with twice the time as many worse ones. Science didn't make us better, happier and compassionate... It only did the contrary.
Science doesn't "improve" our lives, it actively replaces our real, natural lives and experiences with simulation, replicas and failed attempts to surpass nature. In it's delusions of grandeur, science is shortsighted... It creates and invents more and more, always focusing on how it will "make the world better" but never on how these Inventions could be used for evil, or how they could backfire in the long run and destroy people's lives and so many other side negative side effects... Just because something can be invented, doesn't mean it HAS to be invented. Science invents things for the sake of it, always under the pretense that it will improve the world, while being blind to the counter effects.
This talk about science matters because science has removed all real life activities and experience with replicas and simulation of said activities and experiences. There is no more need for exploration, risk, real thrill, challenge... All is replaced and packaged into the virtual existence, or heavily roboticised and automated.
Why go outside and explore nature when, on a click of a button, you can immerse yourself into many virtual, idealised worlds without having to go into the real, "dangerous" world? Why go to concerts and enjoy a good time with your friends when you can simply listen to music on your phone, computer or TV, in the safety of your own home? Why indulge in dangerous, tiresome sport activities when you can play sport games or watch other people do sports, all the while eating snacks and not breaking a sweat? Why travel and see the world in all its beauty when you can watch other people travel on travel shows or just open up Google Earth? Not to go on any further, you get the point.
Science created a world free of challenge, risk, no major problems, everything made easier, everything made readily accessible... Served on a silver plate, all the while eliminating the need to even leave your house and socialize. You can do all those things, and many people thankfully still do, but that number is rapidly decreasing...
It is so horrible that we are allowed, in many ways forced, to live such sheltered, passive lives. "Lead" is not a proper word, "watch" or "observe" is more suitable. A life where nature and reality, failure and experience and all the great things that make life are made "obsolete" by the virtual, the packaged replica... In which there is no real consequence, no real failure, no thrill... no love. Most activities replaced by video games, relationships and romance replaced with over-idealised, readily available porn/anime/hentai (all of which replace the need and the want for real sex, because it's so "perfect" compared to the real deal and seriously skews the expectations of what people should be), real socialisation replaced by "social" media, real comedy, parody and jokes replaced by "memes" which bleed the humor dry, real labour replaced by machines and automatic processes.... Real reality, with all it's flaws and beauty, replaced by safer, risk free artificial copies that are more easy to access and provide no real repercussions to failing, which is necessary for growth. I do not live in the "first world", but this especially applies to it.
All of this combined, you get sheltered, deeply unhappy people with very unrealistic expectations due to overwhelming exposure to over-idealised fake reality, and with insufficient failure and experience from said failure due to resorting to risk-free alternatives, the same people, when faced with real problems or when comparing their own lives to that of a idealised ones they see in games, TV, anime, whatever, they start to feel empty, insufficient, "not good enough"... But overexposure to the fake world and insufficient exposure to the real world make those people not realise the difference between one and the other... I was one of those people, always depressed and anxious, ever sheltered and passive, always escaping to the virtual world in which I don't have to put any real effort or face real pain from failure... Always comparing my life to over-idealised ones I saw on social media, in film, games and anime and always thinking how I'm not nearly as "good enough", because due to not enough experience in the real world, I projected the picture perfect things I saw in the virtual to real life people which were only perfect on the surface. Many people do this, unfortunately... It was always like that until I got a grip on life, and on risk, and failure and grew stronger from it and realised that I'm not as weak and "useless" as I had thought and that other people weren't as perfect or as happy as I thought. That was all due to my skewed perception of what life is supposed to be, and what love is supposed to be, heavily skewed by porn, anime and other media, which is why I view anime and porn as especially dangerous due to the fact that it can skew expectations tremendously... Especially to the inexperienced youth. Another thing are the artificial and unrealistic beauty standards that come from western media that is especially troublesome and dangerous... Many people have gone insane with anger, bitterness and pity over them, but that's all just fantasy and NO ONE can achieve those standards. It just isn't realistic... I thought I was "ugly" all the time and constantly saw other people do the same, and even now they do... Thankfully, I saw through the bullshit and am much happier now!
I'm sorry for my English, I might have forgotten to mention many of the things I wanted to, but I hope this makes enough sense. I see that the people in the west, especially the USA, live such lives with unrealistic goals and expectations provided by society and further abused by consumerism. Am I correct on that?
I'm just so afraid of what's going to happen to the world, science isn't going to stop anytime soon... It is a sad world in which the human experience is made obsolete by artificial, picture perfect virtual worlds. All of life packaged safely in a magical rectangle, all the knowledge in the world contained inside our devices, all at a click of a button, all in the safety and comfort of our homes... But science can never replace nature, a copy can never surpass the original... We are paying dearly for not realising that, aren't we? The spiritual made obsolete by the material...
Thank you for reading, Papa Bear!
Theo (age 19)
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Thank you for your intelligent and well-thought-out letter. Your English is quite excellent, by the way, thanks to European education (you don't say what country you are native to, but pretty much all European countries excel over the USA's pathetic public schools). On to your question/statements....
My two initial reactions are: 1) it is dangerous to generalize about anything as being "all bad" or "all good," and that includes science; and 2) it sounds like your main concern is with virtual reality, the internet, and the media (TV and movies) giving a false impression of reality and depriving people of exposure to the real world, which leads to unrealistic expectations about life. Let's address these two issues.
Science is both good and bad. Medical science, for example, has come a long way in treating previously incurable or untreatable injuries and diseases. Physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. are teaching us the true nature of reality, which has helped explain the world in ways where religion has utterly failed. Science can solve problems such as how to deal with climate change and pollution (it's only politics and greed that get in the way). Yes, science can give us bad things, too, such as plastic waste and nuclear warheads. That's true with everything, though. There is always good and bad. Don't blame science; blame the people who use science for ill.
Going into the specific area of science and technology that you are complaining about: the way it creates a world that protects us from the real world. This can include everything from the internet to living in climate-controlled houses and cars. Yes, science has separated us from nature in many ways, as well as from social interaction. Religion does this, too, if you haven't noticed. Religions such as Christianity teach us that nature is "bad" and only heaven is good (which results in mankind treating nature like garbage), and it keeps us from understanding other people through mistrust.
But, back to science. Let's focus on virtual worlds and social media and movies and such. What you say is, often, very true. I've seen people get immersed in gaming, for example, as a way to hide from a difficult world. It is far easier to be Zardok the Savior of the Fifth Realm than to be Edmund Peebles of Tiny Town, Iowa, who can't hold down a job at the local McDonald's. Likewise, with porn (and this is a huge reason why many furries are into furporn, I believe), it is more fun (and stress-relieving) to pretend you are a well-endowed muscle wolf who can ejaculate 10 gallons of spoo from your 5-foot-long penis than it is to be a lonely 20-year-old who is too nervous to ask a girl on a date because he is terrified that if it leads to sex he will be too nervous or awkward to perform. The fursona aspect of it is a way of wearing a mask--not to conceal your identity so much as to relieve the anxiety and tension that arises if one were to reveal one's true self, which leaves you exposed to being judged by others, and if there is one thing most people crave it is positive validation, not criticism.
Yes, movies, television, RPGs, and even comic books take us to fantasy worlds that are not realistic. This can be a lot of fun, but it is also very limiting. Let's go back to furporn for a second. While one can be a sexy furry with many partners online, the stimulus here is limited to the visual and the auditory. Compared to real-world sex, you miss out on all the other senses: touch, smell, and taste. And so, you are only getting about 40% of an actual sexual experience. I, for one, would much rather have the real thing than sit and watch a naughty furry animation.
The same is true with experiencing nature. Yes, you can take virtual trips online or watch a travel show on TV, but again, you are only getting part of the experience while also neglecting some physical exercise. You can learn a lot of stuff from a documentary, but you don't get an experience you will remember. An example from my life: Ten years ago, my sister took me whale watching off the coast of Baja. Oh. My. God. You go out in tiny boats where the cow (female) gray whales are swimming gently about with their calves and these magnificent creatures come right up to the boats and interact with you! You can pet them, smell them, feel their presence. Far more amazing and memorable than watching a National Geographic special.
Neither online porn nor TV shows will ever replace the real thing, as you wisely conclude. Fortunately, they never fully will. Just as when people feared that the invention of Betamax and VHS tapes would keep people from attending the movie theater proved incorrect (except when you're in a pandemic), technology will never fully replace real life.
When it comes to furries, I believe that one reason people want to be anthros is because, deep down, they recognize how humanity has become separated from animals in nature, and this is their way of reconnecting with wildlife. Now, one of the greatest things to do as a furry is to go to furcons and furmeets, but the main reason the fandom has grown by leaps and bounds can be chalked up to the internet, which allows for communication throughout the world (as I am doing with you right now, my European furiend). Many furries can't go to cons and meets for one reason or another, so the internet allows them to do this. You can thank science for the ability of people to connect in ways they never could before.
Again, good and bad, Yin and Yang, positive and negative. It is the dual nature of our lives.
To answer your last question about science and technology replacing the real world, no, I don't think it will--at least, not completely. There will always be people like yourself who want to go outdoors and do things, interacting with nature and other human beings. Look at what is going on now with the pandemic. Yes, people can watch football on the telly and they can watch movies and talk in chat rooms, but they are screaming to "get back to normal," go see sports and concerts in real auditoriums and stadiums. They want to hang out with friends in bars. They want to go to a beach, even a crowded beach, and enjoy the people and surf. Humans are social beings. They want to interact with real people. How many furries do you talk to who are sad that the conventions have closed? There is nothing like fursuiting in public and getting real hugs. A glowing screen will never ever replace that.
I am glad that you have wrested yourself from the virtual world to experience your life. That's a great thing. You needn't reject it completely, however, or label it evil. As will all things, balance is the key. Find what is good with technology and exploit it for good use. For example, I could not do my current job without the information I have access to when researching online. Yes, I could go to a library, but that is limited compared to the terabytes of information online.
Balance science with nature, technology with the spiritual, and temper it all with wisdom and compassion. That is the path to a happier future.
Where can you find a website for young furs? I try to go to furry websites but they always say you have to be 18 or older. I need a break from that. I wish I had furry friends to make online, and I just want young furs like me to have fun online too. I look at every furry website, but no young furs are allowed, so please make a website.
Peanut Butter (age 8)
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Dear Peanut Butter,
You are 8 years old, so I am guessing you are not aware of furry history. You see, the furry fandom began back in the 1970s, when a number of sci-fi and comic book fans decided to start making art and writing stories featuring "funny animals" but with adult themes (mostly violence and mature situations, but sometimes involving sex). "Funny animals" are what people used to call talking animals in cartoons such as Bugs Bunny and Mighty Mouse. Anyway, the whole point of furry was to have talking animal characters featured in more mature stories. Now, this doesn't mean X-rated stories, necessarily. There was a lot of sci-fi stuff such as in the now-classic Albedo series. But there was also stuff with more sexual situations, such as the Omaha: The Cat Dancer comic books. As the fandom matured, more and more X-rated stuff has entered websites and publications and, no, it is not suitable for kids under 18.
The demographics (who is in the fandom in terms of age, gender, race, etc. etc.) have been evolving a lot over the last couple of decades. While the majority of furries are still people in their late-teens and twenties (mostly male and white, but there are more women getting involved, as well as non-Caucasian furries), more and more furries are older and more and more are quite young. Furries such as you probably enjoy anthro characters in Disney and Pixar cartoons and films, of course, and then you find out about furries by stumbling upon them online or perhaps hearing about furries from a friend. Anyway, you are not looking for X-rated art. You just want to have fun adopting a fursona and perhaps having some online RPG adventures.
Unfortunately, at this time, there are no social networking sites like FurAffinity or SoFurry that are specifically for cubfurs, especially as young as you. I would LOVE to design and run such a site (and thank you for asking and thinking I could) but I have neither the time nor technical know-how to do so. I do keep my eyes out for such things on the Web, though, and you can be sure I will write about it if I hear anything.
In the meantime, there are still fun things you can do to meet furries in the virtual world. If your parents are okay with it, you can play online RP and other games such as Furcadia (just stay away from the Furrabian Nights adult section, but almost everything else is kid-friendly). You can roleplay while also meeting other furries. Here are some other games you might find enjoyable, many of which offer ways to chat with furries playing the game with you online (some are better for older kids, and some for younger kids):
Many furries meet other furries by playing such games, no matter what their age. In fact, it was in the early days of FurryMuck that contributed greatly to the growth of the fandom back in the 1980s. So, I would recommend you not worry about such places as FurAffinity and instead start playing some furry games.
THEN! Get an account on Discord.com, which is a place where you can hang out and chat with people about your favorite games.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve just been very busy with woodwork and social stuff. However, recently I’ve been thinking about the sad and dark stuff that happened in 2020 and how so much I wasn’t expecting just how low the year could get.
I’ve been feeling down lately (though I stress I wanna live more than anything). The news and all the horrifying stories about COVID-19 and the horrific crimes committed by police (the fact I now cannot trust them with my life given my mild Autism and hearing about police murdering Aspies [people with Asperger's] is both depressing and disturbing), the numerous deaths of beloved figures from disease, the recent financial recession in my country. Not to mention the natural disasters that occurred earlier in the year and so many events I were looking forward to getting cancelled.
I’ve also suffered a relapse in depression. There are nights where it’s been so overwhelmingly miserable, I just want to cry myself to sleep. I struggle to smile and find the situation so hopeless, I can’t stop frowning. I just wanna smile again and feel hope and light, not this looming despair and darkness that leaves me paranoid of a horrible disease. It’s so scary and uncertain.
I’ve been feeling lonely lately. Trying to get out of the house to help my mother out with shopping and seeing a friend is to try and cheer myself up. It’s hard to feel hopeful when the news is destroying my faith in humanity and the global pandemic is killing so many people. I’m just so overwhelmed.
I also felt a sense of guilt from what happened with Etika. I wanted to help him because I could empathise with him and wanted to help him but when I heard he was blocking people trying to help him, I didn’t do anything because I loved his stuff and I wanted to not bother him. I was scared when I heard about his disappearance and was devastated when I heard the news of his suicide. I’m crying typing this because I feel so guilty I didn’t do anything even if doing something kind meant being blocked for trying to be a good person.
Also, one massive thing that traumatised me and made me feel terrified was my Mum’s so-called friend (I’m just gonna call him “J” even though he has the same name as my brother which I find insulting). I noticed early on in 2019 when J was emotionally abusive to my mum, gaslighting her and making her feel as if he was the only one who truly loved her(my separated father is 10-times the better partner than that bastard). He was also screaming at her at times. I could hear them through the paper thin walls. He threw things and was cruel to her. First time that happened my brother and I (and my dog Jake though neither of us got our shoes on and I couldn’t get my phone or wallet from upstairs) ran out while my Mum called the cops (this is before my trust in them was destroyed this year) and her bloody bruised face still haunts me. Second time it happened at night after he “apologised” to her and threatened to kill himself if she left, I couldn’t take it anymore and screamed at him to get out and stay out! I never once trusted him and my mum screamed at me that I should be glad dad and mum are in separate relationships. I don’t appreciate abuse. I always had a gut feeling not to trust him but I was nice to him anyway before the second time because I wanted to give him a second chance. He even gave me chew lollies but I suspect it was a bribe to shut me up and it didn’t work. I now associate the packet of lollies with that asshole. I hate them.
Both times, he destroyed something in the house (the car park door on the 2nd time) and made my mum cry. I hate myself for being so scared. I hate that man for what he did and it took every bit of willpower not to attack him the second time he attacked my mum. He’s also taller than my mum and me so he’s intimidating. He’s a monster. A cruel, manipulative and evil sack of shit who I hope I NEVER see his face again.
By the way, I should clarify despite my sadness at my parents separating, they’re still good parents who care about me and my siblings.
The 2010s were honestly some of the darkest and lowest points in my life. I was seriously hoping 2020 would actually improve things but it just got worse. I really wanna hope 2021 is slightly better but I have no idea. I wanna be a parent before I’m 30 but I’m worried if I’ll be a good parent given that I remember a social class from primary school when we were given a younger student from another class to help as a “parent” and I wasn’t there for them so they were given to someone else and the kid told me to my face I wasn’t there for them and were disappointed in me. I know it was just a school Project but it haunted me ever since and makes me scared I’ll be a bad parent for real. After some horrible abuse I went through from that shithead, I realised how important my family mean to me. I really wanna be a good loving attentive father one day.
I guess my questions are this: is there any hope for the future and how can I be a better person? Also, hope your leg’s okay, Papa Bear. I was rather worried when I heard the news from you. Stay safe, mate.
From a concerned and unhappy canine.
Sam the Dog
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Wow, there is a lot going on in this letter. There are at least four questions here: 1) Given the current state of the world, how can I be optimistic and hopeful about the future? 2) How do I deal with my mom and her abusive boyfriend? 3) Should I be a parent soon? 4) How do I deal with my feelings of guilt regarding Etika? (Please note in future that you are only supposed to ask one question per letter, but I know that writing this down is a catharsis for you, so it's okay this one time.
Let's start with the second one first. Domestic abuse is a serious business. Your mother's boyfriend is emotionally abusive and, it sounds like, even physically so. There is not too much you can do until your mother recognizes this, and there are many psychological reasons too complicated to go into here as to why she might be so reticent to change her life. I'm not sure what Australian police are like, but if you do not trust them to help with domestic abuse problems, I would recommend you contact Lifeline Australia (https://www.lifeline.org.au/), which offers services concerning suicide, domestic abuse, and other crisis support services. Start with them.
Next: Etika. What happened to Etika is not your fault. Could you have done more? Sure, you could have tried to talk to him more or recommend help for him, but ultimately his choices were his own. You do not own other people's fates; you only own your own fate.
Should you try and be a parent before you are 30? Ideally, in my opinion, no one should try to be a parent until they have their shit together, but if I could somehow enforce that, Homo sapiens would become extinct in a couple of generations. Almost no one has their shit completely together, so the second option would be to have your shit mostly together, meaning you had enough income and could provide a stable environment to nurture a child into adulthood. Do not become a parent for your own selfish reasons (I cannot count how many times I have heard people say, "I want a baby so I have someone to love me" or "I want a baby so I have someone to take care of me in my old age" or "I want a baby so that I can have someone to carry on my legacy.") All of these reasons are wrong reasons for bringing a human being into the world. So, ask yourself: "WHY do I want to bring a child into this crazy world?"
Lastly, the BIG question: How can one be optimistic about the future in such a grim year? To get a grip on this, one must accept that life goes in cycles. There are good periods in history and bad ones; economic good times and depressions; periods of political stability and periods of unrest. I sympathize with your unease in this Time of Trump, which is simply horrible. I am very nervous that our American republic is being destroyed and we are regressing into a past when racism ran rampant and when destroying the environment was the status quo. Right now, it is about 50/50 as to which path we will follow in November, and it is truly disturbing how many Americans still support Trump and his evil reign of hatred and racism. Let us hope that voters will turn things around, but if not, and we get four years (or more) of Trump, even then there is still hope because, as noted, eventually evil is overthrown and things improve. The only question is whether that happens sooner or later. Of course, you are in Australia, which is a stable, fairly socialist country (compared to the US), so you should be okay, especially since Australia is doing better handling the COVID-19 pandemic than many countries (South Australia is considered one of the safest places on Earth regarding the coronavirus). I think you will be okay. Hang in there.
Looking worldwide rather than just in Australia, yes, there has been a definite swing toward right-wing regimes in recent years. Countries including the USA, Brazil, the UK, Hungary, Poland, and Austria have growing right-wing movements. This is the result of a couple of things, including reactionary movements against immigration and the success of liberal legislation giving rise to counter-legislation. Basically, white, conservative Christians fearing they are losing power to brown-skinned people who follow other faiths or who are liberal socialists. So, we get a political phenomenon based on changing world demographics. As with any active system, there is turbulence during a transition from one equilibrium to the next. Things will settle down eventually, but it could take decades.
You can't take on the world by yourself. But I do like the saying, "Think globally, act locally." If you wish to do something, get involved in local political, social, and environmental groups, and see if you can lend them a hand. That will ease your sense of being powerless because you will be doing something constructive.
Good Luck to You! Take Care! Bear Hugs!
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.