Have you ever watched something and couldn’t wait to talk about it? So you go online and use the hashtags, tag the accounts, comment on posts, finding a like-minded community? You would actually LOL or yell, “Yes, same!” at other comments and opinions. During these times, the internet can be fun, connecting fans from anywhere, anytime.
But have you also gotten into heated arguments over a disagreement online over a piece of media? It can be frustrating and even hurtful physically because you slam your hands on the table but more emotionally. It’s the dark side of the internet. This is where fandoms can get toxic.
“There are the people that love to troll and that love to stir the pot, but then there’s also the people that feel very defensive about the fandom communities that they love, and feel that any criticism is a criticism of them,” writer Amy Ratcliffe explains.
Ratcliffe wrote a book, “A Kid’s Guide to Fandom Exploring Fan-Fic, Cosplay, Gaming, Podcasting, and More in the Geek World!” to help families navigate fandoms in the digital world. In an interview with NPR, she shared her objective: you are not alone. There are plenty of other kids who love the same things you do.
The first thing that she encourages for families: do not passively consume media. Be intentional and observant. Think critically about how the characters are portrayed and where the story is going. If you still find yourself connecting to it, then you are more aware of why you are becoming a fan.
Now, you want to find others who connect to the story as much as you did. In order to have a safer, healthier relationship with the fandom and other fans, she recommends that kids with their families start to see similar-minded individuals in communities they know, like a local library or game shop.
Having family support is vital. A parent or guardian should be involved when the kids go to interact with the fandom, in-person or online. A person’s instincts are a good clue if they feel something is off. If you feel yourself getting more agitated, hurt, or attacked, get out of that situation right away. And if you feel like you are getting defensive and might say something hurtful to others, remove yourself from it.
“Fandom is something that is pure choice: no one can really call you a fan of something just based on an external visual.”Amy Ratcliffe
You don’t want to get hurt by others, but you also don’t need to hurt others to prove your love of the fandom. The sooner you become aware of this; the better fandoms can be. Remember these simple steps:
- Consume media with intention and a critical eye.
- Connect with people in familiar locations.
- Recognize your feelings.
- Trust your instincts.
And soon, toxic fandoms can be a thing of the past!
*Image from Hatchette Book Group website.
*Cover photo from https://wevolver.com