Everything is True Here, Even if it Isn’t: the performance of belief online
The primary stage for contemporary horror storytelling online, the subreddit No Sleep, declares the most important rule for users: everything is true here, even if it isn’t. This rule dictates the way users typically interact both on the subreddit and elsewhere while writing and reading horror stories online. Users typically post ‘in character’, or write as if the narrative is a true story. This impacts not only the comments, but also the story itself. Users engage with a playful performance of belief, demonstrating that belief is not just an on/off switch – ludically immersing themselves in ontological realities beyond their own. Using fieldwork conducted at No Sleep, this paper seeks to demonstrate the playful performances of belief as something much greater than ‘simple play’, but a demonstration of the sliding scale possible in belief. The process is not necessarily about finding belief, or changing belief, but about the performance itself. The performance of belief creates a social reality for the community. It is a manipulation of belief, which creates a form of mythic thinking which can create a spiritual experience. Realistic supernatural stories bring the supernatural into the everyday, but also brings the everyday into the supernatural.