So I'm curious. It's great to be in a fandom, but sucks when toxic individuals slip into the mix giving normal fans a bad impression. How would you explain the difference between the normal fans and the toxic ones?
Good question! Unfortunately there isn’t a 100% system on telling normal fans apart from toxic ones until they post a message. Heck, sometimes normal fans can become toxic ones, and toxic ones can learn to let things go and leave people be. With that being said, there are at least a few things I’ve noticed about toxic fandom behavior.
The need for validation no matter what: This is probably the most common form of toxic fandom behavior, and I think we’re all familiar with it. The “I’m right and you’re wrong no matter what because I said so” kind of behavior. The kind of thought process that’s more concern with being right than holding a conversation or just leaving dissenting opinion be. I feel as though this is the most common because honestly, it the most understandable trap to fall into.People like what they like, and when they’re really passionate about something, especially if it’s something they can identify with, dissenting opinion can feel like an attack - as if you’re somehow a lesser person to the one how either doesn’t like it or has a different opinion. The reality is that more often than not, people don’t care if you like something or if you agree with them or not, and going in with the mindset that you have to prove them wrong is just going to turn people away from that fandom rather than welcome them in.
The black and white system: This sort of feels similar to the first one, but I feel as though this applies more to a group than just one individual. It’s the “I’m right and you’re wrong and if you disagree with us, you’re a horrible person” kind of talk. Again, there’s this weird thing in fandoms where the joy in talking about what you like about something can always run the risk of turning into a battle for validation. Nothing ever good comes from these kinds of talks because if it gets to this point, the person you’re talking to isn’t interested in hearing what you have to say unless it’s you agreeing with them. In both instances, it’s better to leave the conversation than exacerbate the issue. If they want to listen, they’ll come around and hear what you have to say. If not, leave it be.
The quizzer: I’ll admit, I don’t see this one around too much, but it’s basically the kind of person who insists that you must prove how much of a fan you are. They’ll ask you trivia questions, ask how much merch you have, etc. And if you get something wrong or don’t have something, they might be condescending about it, or in the case of merch, say that you MUST have a certain thing to be a fan. As if you need to meet certain requirements to be considered a fan of anything, even though there is no such thing. The only requirement for being a fan is to find enjoyment out of whatever it is you’re finding enjoyment out of. You can like a show because of the characters’ clothes for all anyone cares and that’s still enough to be a fan.
The police force: Here’s another one I hear about a lot, though I don’t have too much info on them other than what I hear. They’re similar to the first two, only they’re far more aggressive about their views and opinions. They actively try to attack or shut down anyone who likes something problematic “problematic”, and resort to truly awful tactics to get their way. They’re the ones who tell you that you’re problematic, that you’re racist, a bigot, a nazi, or any other negative terminology because of the thing you like. In some cases, they feel as though it’s even necessary to send angry mobs to this person, to tell that person to kill themselves. All for the “crime” of liking something different in the fandom that they’re in. These are people you want to avoid at all costs. It’s one thing to want a fandom to be safer and more accessible to people, but it’s unacceptable to try and police what someone should and shouldn’t like - especially if the thing in question isn’t hurting anyone.
The forceful recommendation: I consider this one to be the most harmless kind of toxic behavior, but it can be kind of annoying. This kind of action is the one where someone talks about something that they really like, and why you should like it, too. That would be fine, for the most part, if they stopped after the first time you told them no. What makes this toxic is if they don’t stop. They just keep bringing it up, asking if you’ve seen the thing they’re talking about, asking if you like it, etc. I consider this one to be mostly harmless because it usually doesn’t come from a place of malice. The person in question is probably just really excited and passionate about the thing they want to share, but it’s still kind of annoying when they don’t leave you alone when you don’t show any interest.
I’m sure there’s more, but there are the ones that come to mind at this point in time. Toxic behavior in a fandom, at least how I see it, is designed to shut people out, to silence differing opinion, and police peoples’ interests so that it fits with the “approved” way of liking something. If someone like this should ever approach you, either be respectable when talking with them, or ignore them. You like what you like, and as long as you’re not trying to use what you like to be malicious and/or hurt other people, why should it matter if someone doesn’t like the same thing you like? It shouldn’t, nor should you allow someone to take away the reason you liked something to begin with. Fandoms are more interesting when everyone is allowed to have their own opinion and freely talk about it with others, all the while celebrating what they like. The quickest way to kill a fandom is to force everyone to conform to one idea, and to shut out or scare away everyone else.