What Is a Fandom Value?
So what to do after identifying the problems? It isn’t so easy to change the way people behave. Trying to lead the internet is akin to herding cats: they will go in whatever direction they please, as long as they are moving away from your insistence. The best way to lead is by example. Holding ourselves to our own standards is more important than trying to impose those standards on others. It is difficult to achieve, I know this as well as anyone. Sometimes the desire to participate in the follies of fandom begin to feel overwhelming. We want to pretend things are a certain way, or that others are stupid for thinking differently, or fall into our tiny sheltered communities, or claim our interests make us more important than others, or simply to withdraw entirely and not participate at all.
The biggest problem is in the way people treat each other. All too easily people lower themselves to the behavior of the lowest common denominator in a group. One person acts like a jerk and everyone else feels that if that person can act like a jerk, then acting like a jerk is perfectly acceptable. Resisting that temptation is the first step in the process.
It is okay to be critical or to have a narrow standard of quality, but it is important for all sides to understand the fundamental difference between criticizing content and criticizing people. A review in itself can make good entertainment, even when it jabs at the fanbase that typically consumes it, but we shouldn’t get immediately defensive when a critic dislikes a title that is popular with our fandom. And we certainly shouldn’t use that criticism as a justification to become belligerent ourselves.
What it basically boils down to is this:
People are entitled to like what they like, regardless of quality, just as much as people are entitled to not like those same things out of different tastes or for perceived flaws. It is not okay to ignore the hypocrisy of our worldview. It is not okay to look down our noses at everything to avoid being looked down upon ourselves. It is not okay to marginalize others for thinking differently or liking things we believe are not worth anyone’s time, whether it is subjective or objective in its consideration. It is not okay to shelter ourselves from said criticism by shutting out dissent. And most importantly, it is not okay to stay silent, whether out of apathy, ignorance or fear.
I don’t expect people to read this and instantly change. I want to be a better fan, and a better person, so I am going to personally endeavor to realize these values in myself. When I start to feel myself slipping into pretense, disparagement, wank, possessiveness or silence, I will take a step back, breathe and consider my words more carefully.