Katarina Schultz tackles the toxicity of fandom…
Fandom is a beautiful thing. It can give us a sense of belonging. It can help us appreciate the things we love. It can introduce us to new friends. But at times it can also be toxic. Sometimes it seems like there’s an endless stream of hate and negativity present in our fan communities. It can get to you and wear you down until your love for something becomes poisoned. Here are some things to try when you feel yourself sinking under the weight of fandom toxicity:
Take a break from the sites and communities that are making you feel tired and burnt out. You can disconnect yourself entirely, or just reduce your usage. Maybe turn to other sites that you don’t find as toxic. Leave Twitter if that’s where you spend most of your time and head over to Tumblr to take in some memes – or vice versa. It’s okay to protect your heart when you’re not feeling as strong as usual. There’s no shame in listening to your soul and practicing self-care.
Return to the source material
Go back to the sacred texts. Watch the movies you love, read the books, binge the shows. Remind yourself of why you love what you love, of why you entered this fandom in the first place. Revisiting beloved favorites can feel like coming home. It can be healing but it can also help you discover new things. Make sure your heart is firm so when you return to fandom, you’re sure you want to be there.
Explore beyond canon
Maybe it’s the fight over canon that’s got you down. Venture past the boundaries and find new stories, new avenues for the characters you love. Read fanfiction. Many fics come with happy endings, or let you know when they don’t, so you can pick and choose the level of angst you want to feel. Explore other fan works like art or videos. This can help you not only feel good but find new communities to exist in and see new possibilities where before there were closed doors.
Return and curate
You can stay away for as long as you like- a day, a week, or forever. You by no means have to return. But if you miss the positive aspects of fandom, return on your own time. When you do, curate your community to be a positive one. That doesn’t mean editing out all forms of disagreement. Differing views can help us see our texts in a new light and incite useful, mature discussion. But edit out the trolls and the aggressors, the folks who turn the fandom toxic to you. Create a space where you feel comfortable existing and keep adjusting when that changes over time.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t critique what we love. There is a difference between thinking critically about a piece of media and spewing hate. To me, critical thinking is part of the responsibility of being a fan. It can help us push for improvement in the things we love. But churning out hate for a creator or other fans? Turning discussion into personal attacks? Those are very unwelcome acts in any community I’d like to be part of.
These are all things that have helped me find a new my place in fandom when I’ve struggled. They’re fairly intuitive but for me it’s often hard to remember what to do when I’m down. It is my hope that this basic guide can help you renew your passion for the things you love and find and create fan communities that are healthy for you.