There’s been much discourse on social media lately about how the vibes at festivals and raves have felt off. Most conversations are surface-level and do nothing to benefit the social climate of EDM spaces. While substance use is a key factor in these conversations, some input comes off as biased and judgmental. Many of us get so caught up in virtue signaling that we forget that human behavior is a complex thing. In order to have effective conversations on behavior patterns within our scene, we need to look at these issues from a logical and scientific perspective rather than an emotional perspective.
Unfortunately, that comes with confronting some hard truths.
EDM is a capitalistic industry that profits off of the substance use of emotionally vulnerable people.
This scene is incredibly triggering for people predisposed to Substance Use Disorders (SUD). While SUDs can be genetic, you’re not necessarily guaranteed to develop an addiction if you have a family history of addiction. You need to have access to the substance, use it repeatedly, and be exposed to certain environmental influences in order to develop a SUD. EDM spaces check all of those boxes and more. It is imperative that we keep this in mind while having conversations about harm reduction.
Now, being emotionally venerable is not limited to people with SUDs. Although some behaviors and illnesses stay dormant until opportunities arise, psychoactive substances hold the risk of inducing psychiatric disorders. Those who have little real-world experience outside their homes and small social bubbles, oblivious to the harder truths of the world, are just as susceptible to falling into addiction as someone with anxiety or depression. The only difference is that the oblivious people are the ones getting manipulated. The traumatized just use EDM as a coping mechanism.
Regardless, people are going to seek out substance use to numb the pain they are dealing with.
That’s arguably not a bad thing when used in moderation. We all have vices, and we need to let loose once in a while. But, when substance use is rooted in desolation and not fun, it is going to be felt not only by the individual but the people around them as well. By that extension, the energy in the crowd isn’t going to be the best.
Those who don’t surround themselves with healthy-minded people, or even acknowledge that they have character flaws, don’t really care about how they treat themselves or others. An EDM influencer giving a spiel on the history of PLUR isn’t going to change that. It’s like trying to put a fire out with a bucket of water and a prayer: the effort is appreciated but ineffective.
Unfortunately, most ravers aren’t qualified to guide a traumatized person through healing in the triggering environments that are EDM events.
Some people can be very difficult to get through to. Often times those people hold psychiatric stigmas that makes it difficult for them to be receptive to treatment or peer intervention. Again, human behavior is complex. There is not much we can do for someone that doesn’t want to help themselves.
However, we can avoid enabling our friends and entertaining their erratic or self-destructive behaviors. It’s okay to tell some people maybe they shouldn’t be dosing for the third time this month; that it’s okay if they need to step away from the scene for a bit until they are in a better place. If they won’t do that, then the friend/friend group AS A WHOLE needs to take initiative and distance themselves from that person in EDM spaces. It is possible to have clean fun and hobbies outside EDM. Life isn’t always about partying. As a friend, you should be capable enough to create a space where your sober and healing mates can nourish their souls.
So many of us are hooked on the idea of community and love that we refuse to call our messy friends out on their shit. People don’t want to start drama in the friend group. They don’t want to lose that person as a friend. If a rave fam actually cares about one another, then these conversations must be had. The word ‘community‘ holds no value if the people in that community can’t hold each other accountable. We shouldn’t have to wait for the extremes to happen to start giving a fuck.
Now let’s be honest. The vibes in EDM spaces have been weird for quite some time now. But lately, things just feel different.
Some like to pinpoint new and younger ravers as the cause. Consider this: their prefrontal cortex is still developing, and they missed out on a good 2-3 years of proper adult social interaction and etiquette due to the pandemic. Along with various environmental factors and blunted reward responsivity, these factors heavily influence how they will behave when opportunities for substance use and indulgence are presented. These are very normal human reactions given the circumstances. Albeit unpleasant, it’s human nature.
There is nothing normal about life right now, and we shouldn’t shy away from having conversations about it.
We were forced back into the world as if everything was okay. Our loved ones died. The education system is crumbling. 64% of us are living paycheck to paycheck, plus we’re now expected to work twice as hard as pre-pandemic, with no tools for recovery and little to no payoff. On top of all that, everyone’s social skills are shot to the ground. You can’t really be surprised that people want to cope in unhealthy ways. They want to forget. We are reminded every waking moment of peril, violence, and the erasure of human rights. Humans weren’t meant to intake this constant, negative information on a daily basis. Though we seem desensitized, it’s not healthy.
We are grieving. Many people deal with mental health issues that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic. So, yes, they are going to music events, acting out, because they are hurt and want to hear some bangers. It’s uncomfortable, but there is very little we can do about it outside of trying to hold ourselves and our own loved ones accountable. The human brain is complex. Some things will never be fully understood or explained. What matters is how you see that experience, how you cope with it, and how you react to the things around you. Perspective is everything.
Cover image by Audrey Alexandescu
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