I’m not really very good at promoting my blog, but I do occasionally post links if I’m particularly pleased with something, or if I think a specific person or group might find it interesting. Occasionally I get an invitation to join a fan club, fan group, or a fan forum in response. Well, I don’t do fan groups anymore, and here’s why.
When I got my first computer with internet access, back in 1999, I had just discovered actor Ioan Gruffudd. I spent hours in fan chat rooms with various ladies in the US and the UK. It was really fun, and these online discussions eventually led to real meetings with several people both locally and in London. Then it was actor Hugh Jackman, only for him I met other fans in New York. Then it was a stage actor from London. For each one, something similar would happen.
First I would meet people who shared my interest after we’d chatted online. I had about a 50/50 success rate. Roughly half the people I’d meet from online were nice and normal—or should I say, about as normal as me, which may not be saying much. The other half were just odd. Sometimes it was something scary and intense in their eyes, sometimes it was just general social awkwardness. Most often, what turned me off was a kind of hyper-competitiveness over their obsession. They conveyed the attitude, “I accept you as a fellow fan, but I am and will always be a bigger fan than you. My interest, affection and devotion are greater than yours.” I began to learn how to spot this kind of person through clues in their online interactions, but I’ve never become an expert. In my online groups, I would try to avoid these people and just stick with the people I genuinely liked, but that’s where the group dynamic became tricky.
It’s really hard to avoid people when they’re members of an online community. And, there’s something that happens with groups online, when people are able to post their thoughts without face-to-face social restraints. Sometimes things just get really silly. I left the Ioan Gruffudd fan group when we ran out of his work to dissect, and the discussion devolved into “If Ioan was ice cream, what flavor would he be?” Worse, people get nasty. Often, it’s a failure to be welcoming to new members combined with an attitude of superiority because one has been a fan for much longer. It’s that hyper-competitiveness rearing its ugly head. There’s also usually a person or a couple of people who become dominant, and soon anyone who disagrees with these leaders gets pushed out. What usually happens to me is a growing sense of being boxed in, where I become reluctant to express my real opinions.
My preference now is to find several like-minded fellow fans and connect through one-on-one interactions. I don’t consciously seek them out, because that kind of deliberateness is creepy! It just happens naturally. After some back and forth in public forums, we then communicate privately, where we can be more honest. I’ve met some wonderful people on YouTube, facebook fan pages, twitter, and through my blog. It starts with a mutual interest in a particular actor, but the fans who become friends share more in common with me, whether it’s other interests or a similar sense of humor. I’m lucky to know these people. And grateful.
So, that’s why I’m not a joiner. What about you? I hope you share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.