Social Media and Fandom Life: Where’s the Line?
I started writing this article last year and here I am returning to this idea because the issues discussed are still true. Shippers, stans, antis; they’re all terms that I think most fans who follow their favorite shows, movies, musicians closely on social media are familiar with in 2018. Fandom life is nowhere close to being a new phenomenon.
Fans have been writing fanfictions, attending conventions, and cosplaying as their favorites for decades; the Star Trek fans known as Trekkies are a prime example of that legacy. What’s changed in the last decade is the growth of social media and the interaction it’s allowed fans to have with their favorite actors, musicians, writers, and public figures.
With the birth of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, a fan can comment and get a direct response without having to wait months like they would have to with fan mail. The immediate response can be great. But, at the same time, lines are not hard to cross. From commenting on relationship statuses, demanding that creatives write their show a certain way, or even threatening self-harm if someone doesn’t reply, social media has opened the door for a lot of ugliness not only between fans, celebrities, and other creatives but between fans themselves.
Ship wars can get nasty. I’ve seen fans go at it over things characters have done or who they are or are not dating in the fictional world and in real life. It’s understandable when fans see themselves in characters or when shows feature storylines that echo real-life issues. But there has to be a line where fans on both sides of the argument realize it’s time to pull back.
Two singers have a public falling out? Their comment sections are filled with emojis and insults from strangers who don’t know half of the story. A couple breaks up? Fans want all the details about the breakup and even comment on how they belong with that person, even years afterward.
Example, I used to hate going on Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev’s social media for that reason. Even when Ian had got married to Nikki Reed, people were in his comments talking about Nina and had pages dedicated to their relationship. Unplug folks!
We all know as public figures celebrities, writers, directors, etc. people in the spotlight open themselves up to public criticism, commentary, and backlash. It just seems that social media has allowed fans who’ve bought tickets, watched shows and films to have an opinion that their favorites must adhere to because they’re owed something in return. I’m not talking about whitewashing and problematic storylines that actually deserve criticism. I’m talking about requests for characters to date because that part of fandom is “what made the show successful”. Lines like “this show would be nothing without (insert shipper group name here)” While that’s a possibility that fans who like certain characters and relationships boost numbers, remember that a writer has probably outlined plot points and thought out how they want things to work out months or years before you were even introduced to the series.
My least favorite trend has been “fans” leaving disgusting comments on actors and actresses pages for plots they didn’t write, costumes they didn’t put together, and so. A prime example is the treatment of Kelly Marie Tran for her role as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and most recently Anna Diop who was cast to play Starfire in DC’s upcoming Titans series.
In my early days of fandom life, I loved interacting with other fans and discussing my favorite things. Nowadays, I feel like I enjoy my favorite things, but do so from the sidelines. I’ve seen people throw insults back and forth that go far beyond wanting two characters to be together romantically. I’ve seen fandom theories that try to paint a picture about the personal lives of the talents we admire that make me uncomfortable. I’m often left to wonder why people think posting things like that online for not only other fans, but the celebrities themselves to see is okay. Nasty fandoms make me disengage from the content, not because I no longer enjoy it or I’m not a “true fan” but because those who love the same thing I do exhibit toxic behavior and my subconscious wants to distance itself from that.
Be civil. Be courteous. Don’t be creepy and invasive. Create and maintain a healthy fandom. That’s all I ask.
Kira McCall covers entertainment for MFST. She’s a freelance writer and alum of Towson University where she studied advertising, public relations, and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter at cocovanilla45 (GirlsofManyFandoms) and kiramira_.
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