First we had Friendster. Then we had MySpace. Then we had Facebook. Then we had Twitter. Recently, we have added Google+.
And now, we have... CryptoZoocial.
In a move certain to shake up the world of social networking, the founders of Cryptomundo (motto: "It's a Cryptid World") have put together their own social networking site. (You can check it out, or even sign up, here.) Its stated goal is to allow the cryptozoological community to "have a way to interact with each other on a personal level." Features include an interactive map where you can post your sightings, a companion iPhone app, a place to post events (the most recently posted was the 2011 Pennsylvania UFO and Bigfoot Conference), a "Groups" function that allows you to start special-interest groups (catering to cryptozoological specialists), and a competition for Top User (you get points for posting photos, signing in daily, making comments, and inviting friends).
For a few moments, I actually considered signing up. Besides the fact that it could well be fertile ground for material for this blog, it could also just be fun. A good many people interested in cryptozoology don't take themselves especially seriously, and have much the same attitude that I do -- skeptical but intrigued. As I've commented before, I'd be beyond delighted if Bigfoot (or a variety of other cryptids) actually existed. Being a biologist, I'm deeply curious about nature, and am quite convinced that there is plenty out there that we haven't discovered yet. Bigfoot may well be one of those things. And I have no issue with anyone who wants to hunt around in the woods for evidence, as long as they follow some reasonable code of scientific ethics and are honest about what they do, or do not, find.
My hesitation, of course, is that these sorts of things often attract wingnuts, and they're often far more vocal than the aforementioned cheerful skeptics. Wingnuts have a zeal about them that can surpass the intensity of many of the religious. They believe in their Big Idea with a wild, clinging desperation, and will let no challenge pass unmet. A criticism of their dogma elicits a furious, stinging attack. How dare you question me? What are your sources? What are your facts? How can you justify your criticisms? And every answer you give prompts a further rebuttal, because the truth is, they are holding their critics to a far higher standard of evidence than they hold themselves.
If you've never met people like this, it may sound like an extreme characterization, but I can say with some authority that they exist because I've encountered them on more than one occasion. As a writer on the topic of skepticism and critical thinking, I have often been in the position of criticizing views of the world that are considered specious by most of the scientific community, but are espoused vehemently by a few True Believers. And when I add my voice to the chorus of critics, I open myself up to attack. Note that I don't especially mind defending myself (nor apologizing when I find that I have been unwarrantedly harsh in my criticisms), but I have found that arguing with zealots is (1) unpleasant and (2) generally pointless, because they almost always believe in their dogma because of some reason other than logic and factual evidence.
So I'm probably not going to sign up for CryptoZoocial. Honestly, I'm not eager to seek out more venues to rub shoulders with people who are High Priests of the Church of Wingnuttery. I've no doubt that most of the members of CryptoZoocial are probably very nice, sane people, but it's that 1% who are attracted to it for other reasons who worry me. So I think I'll stick to the more prosaic awkwardness of running into old high school classmates on Facebook. At least there, the worst I have to worry about is that they'll remember that back then I wore really thick glasses and had a dorky bowl haircut.