In a word: Badly.

I really never thought I would write a post on this subject. I am in no way well versed or at all experienced with this type of thing. After all, my contact with fandoms of any level of pleasantness is fairly limited. On top of that, my time is currently at a premium that simply doesn’t afford me the luxury to spend it educating people online about their horrible anime tastes for free. Judging by the clueless pompousness of that last sentence – I would probably fit right in with some of those communities….

Point is, I haven’t had to deal much with toxic fandoms at all. And since I do not seek them out in any way, I figured I would never have to deal with them at all. However, over the past year, as I’ve slowly built up a readership, I have occasionally attracted the attention of more aggressively passionate fans. I’ve made a number of mistakes when dealing with these situations and I thought some of you might be able to learn from my mistakes.

Let’s get some generalities out of the way:

First let me say that online interaction are at best loosely parallel to real world ones. By this I mean people simply don’t act the same online as they do in real life. At this point, you’re thinking duhdoy.. I don’t blame you. But although we all know this, some of us (well I) still have a tendency to approach online conversations as we would real life ones. As if we’re talking to a person one on one and the normal rules of conduct in civilized societies apply. They do not…. They cannot.

For one thing, non-dynamic purely written speech simply doesn’t convey information in the same way. I am still learning at my own expense that sarcasm and playful joking don’t exactly translate. I’ve come to realize that in any online conversations, until you know the other person quite well, it’s better to be clear than friendly, funny or even diplomatic. By that I don’t mean you should go on constant rants and flame wars, but dancing around a subject or trying to be oblique is usually likely to make the situation worse rather than better. It tends to get frustrating for everyone involved.

Second: context is key. If your point isn’t clearly defined by the post or comment you are responding to, then share enough background info to allow the other person to follow your reasoning. Don’t just assume everyone can read your thoughts. I suck at this! Even in real life.

I realize these are the very basics of communication and that all you guys know this already. However, since I personally fail to do both/either on a regular basis (probably at least once today and I don’t even know yet when this will be published) I figured I would include them as a reminder to myself at least.

As for dealing with purposefully confrontational anime fans, here are my observations.

You should determine if it’s a case of toxic fan, a troll, or simply an average fan who just happens to be passionate about a specific subject and maybe not all that great at communicating. I’ve noticed that some people feel easily attacked while other don’t notice defensiveness. This can quickly spiral. Others still, are blissfully unaware of anything happening around them unless it’s specifically spelled out. It’s a fun place to be you guys!

anime nisekoi.jpg
I googled “anime oblivious”…

Opening the conversation in an unguarded and optimistic way is probably a good idea, as long as you know when to give up. If you respond in an open polite matter and you still get a combative response, there’s no real point in continuing to waste your time. Basically, don’t feed the trolls.

This is a do as I say don’t do as I do sort of thing. As you may know, I have a soft spot for trolls. The only explanation I have for this is that as a small child I use to be slightly narcoleptic and would fall asleep sitting on the edge of my bed and promptly fall head first unto the floor. I feed trolls a lot. I engage in ridiculous conversations with indefensible stances just to see how far the other person will take it. Occasionally it’s pretty funny, even a little interesting, like an alternative fiction project. The great majority of the time it’s a depressing waste of time that leaves you drained and a little worried for the future of mankind.

But trolls are one thing. People with purposefully incendiary views who just want a reaction. Often, they don’t even believe the craziness they are spreading. Even when they do, they usually devolve into insults and threats or non sequitur nonsense when you attempt a coherent debate. As such, they tend to be easy to spot and can be just as easily ignored.

Toxic fan(dom)s are a bit trickier. These are actual anime fans, just like you and me, and as such are likely to be an active part of the greater community that won’t simply disappear if you ignore them. Moreover, they might even be an occasionally positive part of the community.

anime disappearing girl.jpg
there’s a lot of symbolism here…

We’ve all seen these fans that lash out whenever you happen to disagree with them, even if you did so completely unknowingly, but are extremely positive when you do agree. As long as your tastes and views happen to match, they can actually be wonderful and pleasant, but the second they don’t, you’re met with a barrage of veiled insults and passive aggressive comments that can really wear on you, especially when you’re already having a rough day.

There are also some people who are prejudiced against one or several groups. And even if you don’t fall into one of those groups, getting that type of bigoted rhetoric thrown your way probably isn’t something you’re looking forward to or that you want to be associated with in any way. And starting a debate on those issues is almost guaranteed to turn into a messy rant. The internet is simply not the best venue for these conversations (at least not so far). This said, the possibility for open respectful discourse with people from all walks of life is a treasure and one of the greatest gifts the information age has bestowed upon us. I’m not sure why I went all Polyanna there. Point is, try for serious conversation at your own risk.

Personally, I find that I need to pick my battles. I chose a few points I won’t budge on and declare my point of vue plainly. On these issues, I state my side and make it very clear that it’s not a conversation. I simply cannot spend hours of my life explaining why women are people too or why a person’s sexuality is their own business as long as it’s not hurting anyone. When discussing more let’s say frivolous subjects, I deal with it as I did with debate club:

anime club.jpeg
why are there not more anime school club shows about debate?

Step one, get all the relevant data and context. If someone is telling me I’m an idiot because I missed the point of a show, I’ll ask them to explain until I understand and repeat it back in my own words to make sure we’re on the same page. Then if I think they have a point, agree with them and amend my thesis (without necessarily changing my post) or explain my own side and why I think it still applies. It’s important to keep people on track, as they sometimes will go off in completely different directions, generally venting about everything, and it can be tempting to jump on each point. Unless you actually want to discuss that new point more, I find it effective to steer them back to the question at hand.

In my experience, people will quickly give up and stop answering within one or two questions. Once in a blue moon, it can turn into an interesting conversation though.

Mostly, I try to remember that people have their own realities and lives to deal with. Comments may be odd or clumsy but rarely truly malicious. And those that are, are just people as well. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter that much is a stranger thinks I’m an idiot. I mean a lot of people who really like me also think I’m an idiot so it’s all good…. And I have to appreciate that someone took the time to even engage. As long as we can still talk to each other, then there is still hope of an understanding!

Like I said, this isn’t really my area of expertise. I’m sure a lot of you have had to deal with these situations on a much more frequent basis. How do you cope? Or are you a a *hyper passionate* fan yourself?

57 thoughts

  1. I’m bad at debating, like really bad so I’ll follow your advice and just let the more passionately aggressive talk away and move on myself. You can only read the same nonsense a few times before you get an urge to punch their nose really hard.

  2. I don’t know where I fall on the “leave it alone” or “fight back” spectrum of reacting to trolls, but it’s probably more on the former side since the amount of arguments I’ve participated in on the ‘net has decreased since I joined WordPress, I think. Might be the fact you can’t edit your own comment after ‘Send’ is hit, but the blog owner might be able to.

    Rule of thumb: being careful with your words, particularly slang and sarcasm (the latter of which you said), and having transparency (as much can be done in public text) tends to eradicate problems with other fans, passionate or not.

  3. I’m always up for a positive discussion, but every time I pop into Discord there’s so many people new, and old who always want to debate me on My Hero Academia. It’s so old to me that it’s instinct for me to expect it every time I go on. There’s so many times I want to positively discuss something on Discord, but then someone interrupts the conversation to basically bad mouth something. I learned to just give up on these things XD.

    I don’t spend a lot of time actively in the community. Only times I do is either on Discord for a few minutes, and replying to a comment on my MAL page. Other than that, my interaction is kept very minimal with the anime community.

    I do enjoy a good debate once in a while, but sometime it makes my head hurt. Like this one time this MHA in a YouTube comment section didn’t like the fact I didn’t MHA. We got into a debate where it went into some stupid places. Firstly, he had the nerve to call me a moron even though this was the first we interacted at all. He started bringing up to me how Bakugo powers wasn’t firebase trying to go all science. I went science back at him, and explained to him that Nitroglycerin is found in explosions, and that Bakugo’s explosions are made out fire. It went that dumb! It got to a point where not only did he loose to me in that debate, but deleted his entire channel after our debate.

    There was also this Aldnoah.Zero fanboy who didn’t like my review of season 1 on MAL, and felt compel to insult instead of addressing any my criticism. Interactions like that sticks out to me. Certainly the majority of a series’s fanbase will bothered me, but the bad ones will always stick out to me for better and worse! The bad ones won’t keep me out, usually they give me a good laugh, and I move on. The good interactions I have keep me coming back to the anime community.

    1. Bakugo explosions are fire based!?!… Sorry I couldn’t resist. There is something to be said about a series that can illicit so much feeling in its viewers. I gotta admit that. And I’m glad you can laugh about it. Seems like the way to go

  4. To me, irony is a way of life. You can imagine how much I had to relearn communication online. It’s best to be clear, but it’s not easy to be clear when you’re in the middle of figuring things out, which is pretty much always if you’re me.

    About emojis: I’m using a lot less now than I used to. You’d think they help getting your mood across, but I learned the hard way that they really function more like tagged-on syntax, a part of written language. They’re not really spontaneous either. The emotions you signal are distinct from the ones you have, and they’re parsed like that. Since they’re not spontaneous, showing the wrong emotion might get you into more trouble than it would in real life. You might find yourself smiling in the wrong situation, or a wink comes across a condescending because you assumed more common ground than there is. Rarely, I’ve had people doubt the sincerity of my emoticons.

    Utlimately, for ever comment I post, I delete three. Especially, when I can’t tell what I’m getting into, which is often.

    1. You must write 1000s of words a day in comments… That makes me very curious what an unfiltered Dawnstorm comment must be like.

      1. Incomplete. Otherwise much the same. Whether I like my posts or not seems to be rather arbitrary, also influenced by mood. Might post it one day, delete it another.

        I’m not frightened of touchy subjects, but when life’s stressful around real-life me, I tend not to engage. That’s one example I’m aware of. Most other reasons to not post aren’t quite clear to me either.

  5. Honestly it depends on how tired I am as to how well I deal with people. There are some people who genuinely want a discussion, or just wanted to express their view and are happy enough to move on and then there are other people who seem to want to turn a discussion of opinions into a debate or argument and feel the need for someone to win. Once I realise I’m in that position I usually just end the conversation. While I love that different fans have different views and opinions and I love sharing those ideas and sharing my own opinion, combative comments that feel like they are forcing a ‘correct’ interpretation or opinion make me just feel tired. I think a discussion is always fun coming at a topic from different sides, but discussions only happen when both sides are willing to listen and also want to discuss, not argue.

    1. Combating with ppl who want to win is tiresome & useless for me. What I always do is just like you do, avoid punch, not deny their opinions, end the conversation, find any points I can accept although our comments are not the same. I don’t need to win them but I don’t need to lose either.

  6. at the end of the day, i might just be a particularly thick-skinned person. i think you’re right in that certain ppl will tend to be overly defensive, which can lead to spiraling. honestly, im of the opinion that a debate only devolves into a screaming match if both sides allow it to happen. i would say im the same in the sense that i pick my battles. but when it really comes down to it, i think it’s a matter of being flexible. there’s no shame in changing your mind. it’s probably why i actively engage in conversation with ppl who disagree with me. as long as an opinion has been thought out and has good reasoning behind it, i dont really care if it’s not the same as mine.

  7. Oh and I’m hyper passionate about stuff I like but always try my utmost to only scream about why things are good. Reviewing bad games really pains me.

    1. I know – I feel the same about reviewing bad anime – yet I love to read reviews of bad shows and games…

  8. Once again, very insightful, excellent read and, although the general topic of online toxicity is something I’ve spoken of in my own features, I try to generally avoid it.

    However, I’d also be a total hypocrite if I pretended to not fall foul of element of bad online etiquette. Particularly the ‘assuming someone reads the tone’ or summarising too briefly, making a lot of assumptions. Maybe something to work on?

    I try my best, where I’m not being entirely daft, to communicate much as I do normally. Personally I feel the lime between online communication and face to face communication will completely blend together over the next decade.

    The optimist in my believes this could remove a lot of redundant hyperbole that most of us are guilty of.

    Or I’m way off and it will just remain this weird-ass place where no one REALLY understands what the hell is going on.

    1. The word daft just made me think of another point. Another thing that gets lost in text is accents and colloquialisms can get you in real trouble if people don’t realize you may not be from the same place as them…
      I went off on a tangent – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts

  9. I think one of the most important things about online conversations is that there is no emotion behind them: In other words, text is static, and you don’t see the mood of the person who writes it. (Some people us emoticons, to at least clarify things…but that of course doesn’t always happen😊). In other words, I have had some conversations online with people that excalated over a simple misunderstanding because someone read a text out of context. It happens. Honestly, here it hardly ever happens. Pretty much because it’s probably a really close community, and most of us know how someone else writes. But of course the occasional misunderstandings can still happen. But I have never seen one erupt here into full on war.
    As for toxic fandom: the keyword always is respect for me. If someone is not open to any sort of critism that is usually their problem. No matter how much you love a show, there might always be people that don’t like it….and that’s something one should simply respect. But hey…that’s my take on it though 😊

  10. I love to fight trolls, especially when I defeat them. 😎

    No, but seriously, after many years in various comment sections I have learned that it is okey to say “I don’t think we are getting any further in this conversation. It was nice talking to you. Bye.” It has spared me a lot of grief when dealing with rabid fans (and other kinds of idiots). I do like to discuss but sometimes the discussion just goes round in circles and it’s not worth the energy. I’m glad though that I haven’t had many hostile comments on my blog to deal with.

    1. Considering the honesty and impact of some of your posts, you’d have t be a real jerk to troll that… Even I didn’t!

      1. Well, that’s true. You’d be real low to go after something like that. But you can always troll my magical girl posts. 😎 Then again I got some real idiot after me for those one on Twitter. Isn’t it wonderful when they take the posts over to Twitter and try to trash you there, thinking that you won’t find out. 🙄 Anyway, I am grateful people have the decency to not troll my serious posts.

  11. In my case, I usually don’t worry about people who disagree with me: asking them to step back and provide further insight to help me learn more about their thought process usually eliminates the low-level trolls who want attention, and those who answer usually are those who have a reason for their thoughts but simply had a tougher time expressing them.

    The only cases where I have a stronger adverse reaction to fans is when they attempt to aggressively push a point using the “I know more than you” attitude (characterised by a great deal of purple prose, references to society, history, culture and philosophy and trying to stand above others in a discussion rather than regarding others as peers). Your Name was such an example, where one guy claimed that anyone who did not previously study the Man’yōshū as he did would never appreciate the movie to the same level that he did. Fortunately, people like that are rare, and for my part, I tend not to be involved in any drama within the anime community.

  12. At least you try to engage I usually just leave. Literally how I deal with any fandom and I have to admit it’s a pretty isolating thing to do. When SnK fans wouldn’t shut up about not getting a second/third season… I just left. Haven’t looked back (I have other problems with SnK but neither here nor there). When YOI fans wouldn’t stop screaming about their ship, and yaoi when some of us were just looking at representation: I left. I’m too old to be trying to engage overly passionate fans who can’t and won’t budge because we’re on the internet and they don’t have to.

    That being said, you bring up a good point. Passionate and ‘bad’ fans/fan bases do serve a purpose. By being so focused on something they really do know their material in and out and can point out the short sight of people less invested. Which sometimes is informative, and sometimes is just nit-picking because they’re mad we don’t agree.

    I’m also been trying to by-pass accidentally contributing to these mis-conceptions by actually waiting to reply. Reading posts more then once to make sure I actually understand peoples positions or ideas before commenting. I still make stupid comments but a lot less then I use to. Lol

    1. That’s a good habit! I always respond in the heat of the moment. But I’m the type that will forget about it instantly.

      1. Ugh if I respond in the heat of the moment unless I feel absolutely right (mayeb I am a passionate fan afterall??) I always have regret. So much overthinking on my part lol

          1. You know, I like this plan. We have the unifying power of loving Natsume’s Book of Friends too so what could possibly go wrong?!

  13. I think people tend to forget that everyone brings their own history. When I watch a show and when they watch a show they will see things differently because of their past experiences. They will interpret a character or show different than I will. This is actually really what I love about books/anime/tv/music. This is how I can learn from others.
    However, like you said it crosses the line when they jump and assume that your analysis is wrong. They don’t acknowledge that you bring a different backstory (so to speak) to the media you are viewing/listening to.
    It really sucks that people attack others for what they like. Dang can’t we just like things? I’m always going to wonder why it bothers people so much that someone can get enjoyment from something.
    I will be honest if I don’t like an anime, but I will never judge someone for liking that anime. Also it really helps me see if I missed something from that anime too.
    Let’s all just be friends and enjoy things haha.

  14. Well, I do have to say that, besides that huge comment I got once that I even tweeted about I never really got that kind of comments ever again… At least on my blog xD

    There is one thing that is completely true. Text is completely different to talk with someone in person since you can’t see any kind of body language. Someone who writes with no emoji whatsoever may pass as this serious and more angry person. However, it may just be how they normally text.

    Then, we also need to take into account that, as we may feel difficulties in commenting and sounding friendly, cool, and all those things. Others also have the same problem.

    I remember reading comments from people here on WordPress when I still didn’t know them very well and thinking if they were mad or it was just the way they wrote. Well, after knowing them better, it always fell in the later. So, it’s really important to understand when it comes to texting/commenting we may have more misscomunication than usual.

    Now, regarding fans who love a show and will defend it until the dead… I’m sorry, but that’s not for me! If you aren’t able to see some flaws your favorite show may have then I will think that you are a child and are not able to be reasonable with. For example, my favourite Anime is Nana. I find it perfect, but I do know there are some flows. Will I defend it? Sure! However, I’m not as blind that I can’t see that there are some flaws that I can forgive that others won’t.

    Last, but not the least, I don’t think this a topic just for the Anime fanbase… Most of, basically everything type of entertainment is like that… Kpop, movies, series, Yotubers…

    Well… Now, I’ll let you try to understand what I just wrote since it just became a ramble and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make any sense xD

      1. LOL don’t do that! I don’t want to lose your funny and ironic comments 😛 I think if you started using emojis your internet personality would be lost ahah

  15. I must admit, I really depends on what’s been said, how, and my own mood. I tend not to be overly confrontational, so for the most part I will let thing lie unless direted towards me and truly despicable. Arguing isn’t something I seek out, so it makes sense to do it that way. That tends to apply to any fandom or grouping too.

  16. Over the years, I’ve mostly learned when to let things lie, even if they’re infuriating. And this is probably the best advice I can give anyone to keep their sanity.

    In other words, in most cases, if I see some sort of deliberately inflammatory opinion that is obviously unreasonable or not backed up by any sort of convincing evidence (as the colloquialism has it, “feels before reals”) I tend to just walk away. In the worst cases, I’ll type out a reply to make myself feel better, then immediately delete it without posting it. I then have the catharsis of actually getting my immediate reaction out of my head without then having to deal with any sort of fallout.

    Nine times out of ten, it isn’t worth getting into an argument, because it’s very rare either you or the other person are going to change their viewpoint, regardless of how eloquently you make your respective cases. People don’t tend to “debate” online (specifically on social media), they shout opinions at each other until one or the other goes away.

    I have one exception to this general rule: I tend to get passionate, upset and angry when the things I enjoy come under vicious, horrible and insulting attack from people who obviously don’t know what they are talking about. When, for example, a fanservicey game like Senran Kagura or Valkyrie Drive brings out the “anyone who likes this is a paedophile” brigade — and when those people won’t acknowledge the mountain of evidence I can provide them with that *actually*, there are plenty of “redeeming” features about titles like this — and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of fanservice anyway.

    In this latter case, “it isn’t worth getting into an argument” still tends to apply so far as the toxic commenter goes, but when people — often friends — are getting accused of actual morally repugnant or illegal things just because of the media they’re interested in, I think it’s important to speak up. Primarily to show those who make that media and/or others who enjoy that media that there is someone in their corner and that they’re not “weird” or “criminal” for being into it.

    I dunno. It all feels a bit pointless and frustrating sometimes. I wish people could just live and let live. If you don’t like something, it’s not hard to avoid it. But some people seem to really struggle with that concept.

    1. It can be exhausting defending your views but I do think there’s a lot of value in the exercise beyond changing the other person’s mind…
      I never once imagined I could actually convince someone that homosexuality isn’t a crime if they beleive otherwise but I will always state it.

      1. Oh, of course. That sort of thing is very much worth making your feelings on the matter known — as is the latter example I cited, to a lesser degree.

        I’m more talking about getting into pissing matches over whether, say, Sword Art Online is “shit” or not. No-one gets anything positive from an Internet slapfight over something like that. Those are the cases I tend to just walk away from, even if I disagree strongly.

        1. True. I find I have no issues when someone really expressivly enjoyed something I thought was aweful but I do occasionally get a bit decensive when someone trashes a show i love. Not every show I love… Just certain ones. It’s odd

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