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!
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.
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:
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?