I know this blog is mostly a system blog, it has nothing to do with the kin community. But this is a topic that does touch both communities and affect both in major ways. While this post is targeted mainly at systems (and their fictives), I want to make it clear that we feel the same way about canon calling for kin.
The oldest canon call blogs we remember on tumblr were actually archive blogs like fictivefriendfinder (which apparently still existed until 2014 but was founded in late 2012 according to the remade blog) but we know the practice goes back as far as fictives and fictionkin have been online, especially if you count canon calls made from personal accounts and not “call hub” blogs which archive hundreds of calls for others from the same canon.
And it’s a good practice. I want to say that now. The practice is not inherently unhealthy. We as a system wouldn’t have talked to half the people we’ve talked to from canons if not for blogs like @canon-calls or @systemcalls. Hell, we’ve run them more than once. Canon calling is good for a community which encompasses so many subcommunities and I’m really glad that tumblr has figured out a convenient, accessible way to do it with the ask feature. It’s really neat, the way that canon calling has evolved over the years we’ve been active here.
In the beginning the biggest fear raised about canon callers was that they created a directory for hateblogs to use to find victims. (Hell, the aforementioned Fictive Friend Finder was one of the first canon call blogs on TiA, and it wasn’t by far the last.) It was a valid fear, too, but it didn’t come to fruition often (and still doesn’t).
But as we watched canon callers take off in popularity, something a little more important became our main concern at least, and it was something we’d been affected by multiple times; canon-based manipulation.
It was something we managed to avoid for the first months of our participation in the fictive and multiple communities; our fictives were from obscure enough canons or were unpopular enough characters or just fronted little enough to skate by any real interest from the larger fictive communities. But we watched a good few of our friends in the early months enamored with people from their canons and then taken advantage of for it. We watched people convince others that just because they’d been in love in their past lives they needed to be now.
It wasn’t until we saw blogs like @kindating and the now defunct kin-dating, that the concept really solidified as an issue for canon calls in our brain, and as we looked more and more into it it made more and more sense. And got scarier and scarier as the implications became more clear.
To share a canon is a massively potent thing in this community. It’s one of those things that can be amazing, beautiful, or incredibly toxic. It can be used to make great friendships last years or it can be used to manipulate people into being nothing but what someone wants them to be.
There are a lot of tactics that go into this shared-canon manipulation. Probably the most common one is just “you were there for me then, you need to be there for me in the same capacity now”. This is something that often comes from near-strangers who share a canon, maybe not even a specific one, in which the characters you two were were close to one another.
It’s very easy for a lonely person who is kin with/fictive of a thing to get obsessed with others from their canon. You see it in the way some fictives and kin ship themselves, or in the way they post ceaselessly about someone else. Even this in and of itself isn’t necessarily abusive in every instance, but once that obsession becomes paramount, then nothing’s going to be good enough to break the illusion of perfection they think they could reach with that person; even, oftentimes, that person.
If you deal with same-canon manipulation, you’ll likely have your canon actions thrown up as evidence of your needed retribution, or of your required affection for the other party. You’ll have your canon persona blown up above whatever experiences you’ve had in this life. Your system’s shared phobias or allergies might not matter if your character didn’t have them. You’ll be told “X would never do that to Y!” or just “X would never do that!” in some way of turning you into nothing but your canon. Your characters’ relationship or a “ship” of your characters may be used as coercion into romantic or sexual situations. You may be expected to fulfill that relationship, and a role within that relationship, for the abuser.
But the most dangerous aspect of shared canon abuse in my opinion is the aspect of “but we are bound forever”. The thing that we’ve witnessed destroy people entirely is that. It’s the idea that sharing a canon means you share a spiritual bond unlike any other. Shared-canon-abusers use this feeling to their advantage, they cultivate it and start to remove their victims from non-canon-sharing friends (and often even canon-sharing ones, by explaining that “oh but their canon is different from yours, maybe you should let them find their REAL you” or “they’re so bad for you though! even if you share a canon you shouldn’t talk to them anymore” [ironic, isn’t it?]). They’ll convince their victims that while other things may matter, their canon, their history, is what matters most.
And, then, after months if not years of abuse, the victim turns around and starts questioning the shared-canon-abuser. And the abuser cries “Oh but we’re friends(/lovers/teammates/canonmates) from a past life, we have to be together forever!” and twists the victim’s brain around with all those seeds of “but canon is all that matters” they planted months ago, and all of a sudden the victim doesn’t want to leave anymore, because canon is all that matters.
What frightens me most right now, though, is that as a community we’ve turned to this massive trend of publicly displaying all of the important details of our personal canons. Which shouldn’t be a bad thing! We should be able to share our memories and experiences from canon without having to fear that someone might see them and manufacture a fake kin/fictive to perfectly mimic something you remember. We should be able to share our memories without being fucking terrified that the next person who comes and says “I’m part of your canon” is going to hurt us.
We should be able to. But people may hurt us. And that’s the thing, that I felt this post needed to be made over, a lot of the younger community members don’t realize that this is something that not only can happen, but it’s something that does happen. Frequently.
So please, when you make canon calls, be careful. Hold a few memories close to your chest so you know that they’re yours and no one else’s, that doesn’t make them less valid, and it means that no one who tries to skew your entire view will ever be able to take them from you. Don’t stop making canon calls. Don’t stop trying to find friends in this community, but…
Be cautious. Keep your eyes open. Realize that you are vulnerable when you open yourself up to anyone who responds to a canon call. And remind yourself to evaluate relationships frequently; do they hurt you? are you hurting them? has this relationship run aground or is it still going strong?
And speak up when you see someone who does it frequently, who flits from fandom to fandom, gaining an alter or kin whenever they see someone with a canon call up, whenever they see an opportunity for a relationship or otherwise. Speak up. If nothing else, tell us about them.
Good luck, happy canon hunting.