Psycho Fandom, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018-07-10 21:00:00 No comments

Steve has some notes on pathological fandom that are worth a read. A few things stood out:

Even if your interest provides a number of benefits, even if it connects you to people, those connections may not be healthy or involve too much pathology. In some cases you may be better of without the community.

It’s not just “does my interest connect me to people” it’s “does it connect me with healthy people and communities?”

I think the bigger problem is that most people have no idea what constitutes a pathological community connection, or a pathological community for that matter.

If you're a socially awkward young man who finds women intimidating, and you're welcomed heartily into a MGTOW/redpill outfit that fills you up with sexist rhetoric that provides short-term emotional satisfaction at the expense of long-term anything else, there's a strong chance you're going to think of all that as being good for you and not bad for you.

I've been reading a book called Why Buddhism Is True, a much better piece of work than a title like that would let on. One of the things the author, Robert Wright, talks about is how our brains are wired to accept certain kinds of short-term satisfactions that made sense when human society was relatively primitive and wasn't scaled up to the billions. Now those same impulses are counterproductive and weaponizable. (I think the real story of recent political history is going to revolve heavily around the unwitting weaponization of those instincts.)

I don't mean to sound dismissive in the whole of Steve's insights; I think they're useful. For one, I think they point all the more towards how fans, paradoxically, are some of the biggest suckers for this kind of pathology. There's no guarantee that presence in a fandom encourages reflexive skepticism or an enlightened attitude towards things. If anything, a lot of the time, it discourages it, because mere presence in the fandom is taken as a priori evidence that someone has those qualities.

One of the things that turned me off from participating in most self-identifying fandoms in general was the way the fandom and everything in it tended to be an end in itself rather than a means. This manifested in all sorts of wretched ways — gatekeeping, purity testing, valuing trivia over insight, garden-variety snobbery. When I called myself a movie fan, I did so because I was curious about the ways movies could have something to say about our world. They pointed outwards, not inwards.

Eventually I found out pretty much any fandom you could name was rife with this sort of insularity. Many folks cared more about the label, about what belonged inside it or not inside it, than they did about the possibilities that could be awakened by whatever was tagged with the label. I know now, full well, that a lot of circles of fandom are not like this. But I find the best way to defend against that is to start with the person rather than the interests.

Anyway, to restate my original point: Most people don't know what constitutes a pathological community. They look for something that welcomes them, that provides them with a way to make sense of things, that gives them a place they can call their own. On the face of it, anything that satisfies those needs is for the good.

But there are positive and negative ways to satisfy those needs. Knowing the difference requires some degree of introspection. Those of us who build communities owe it to ourselves to not create places that prey on those who need them — to encourage those introspective qualities, to have the people who walk in the door put that ahead of any cheap comfort they get just from being there.

Tags: fandom psychology