So apparently round umpty-zillion of “people are killing fandom by not commenting” is going around, and I’ve seen a few posts trashing people for lurking/viewing/reading instead of actively participating.
My journal and my fic has always been a lurker-friendly zone. I think lurkers are great and people can fight me on this. Here’s why:
We all started out as lurkers. Or at least most of us did. Come on. I’m sure some people out there must’ve jumped into fandom with both feet and started writing and commenting right away, and good for you if you did! But I sure didn’t. I lurked for YEARS. And even now, though I’ve been in fandom since before Y2K, whenever I get into a new fandom or a new social media platform, I still lurk. I hang out around the fringes for awhile to get a feeling for the place before starting to participate. Back in the mailing list/bulletin board days, it was usually recommended that people do that on purpose, watch and listen and learn the local lingo and social rules before diving in. So you know what? You are not doing anything wrong and you are not doing anything that most of the people you see out there commenting and creating and reccing things haven’t done themselves.
We all have lurker days, weeks, months …. Nobody is 100% “on” all the time. Participating in fandom (commenting, reccing, creating content, and so forth) is WORK. It may be fun work, but it still takes effort! Even if you’re sometimes very active in fandom, then you’ll have life fall on your head or the brain weasels flare up, and you won’t have the time and energy to give. Don’t feel guilty about not being able to give fandom your extra spoons. No one in fandom has a right to demand a single spoon from you that you don’t want to give.
Some of today’s lurkers may be your friends tomorrow. How do I know this? Because I’ve made friends with some of them myself! I’ve had people delurk in my comments to say hi after YEARS of reading my fanfic without saying a word. Which I am totally okay with, by the way. And some of these people are good friends today.
So, in conclusion:
It is okay to feel too shy to come out of lurkerhood in fandom until you feel more comfortable there. It is fine, in fact, if you never do.
It is okay to be too busy and have too few spoons to comment or create stuff. You still have a perfect right to be in fandom and read and reblog whatever you want.
It is okay if you meant to comment on that fic or go back and press the kudos button but never got around to it.
It is okay if you have too many accounts already and don’t want to create a new one just to comment/participate on a social media platform.
It is okay if your personal situation (a stalker ex, controlling parents) makes it unsafe for you to create an account or comment on things.
It is okay if you can’t or don’t want to comment or do any of the other things that constitute non-lurkerhood, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why.
Lemme just preface this with saying that I am a writer. I have been writing for most of my life. I have taken actual classes about writing and about what fiction can offer you, me, and people as a whole. I have won an award for something that I wrote. I know and love fiction, be it in written form, graphic novels, or film. It is all so good and complex and it’s something I am passionate about. That said, let’s get into this.
A good majority of the discourse that goes on in most of the fandoms I’m in stem from the idea that violence and forbidden sexual acts in fiction will encourage those actions in reality. It is important to know, firstly, that the only time this happens is when a person is immature enough or not mentally healthy enough to distinguish reality from fiction. Growing up, my parents would often stop horror movies (back when I first started watching them) to ask me questions. To be fair, they were pretty shitty people, but in this one aspect, they were so good about making sure I knew this difference. “You know this is just a movie, right? None of the stuff on the tv is real.” They’d assure before continuing the film.
It’s not real.
Now, half of the stuff I read or watched back then was nowhere near pushing boundaries or making me think critically about society or whatever. However, I knew that what I watched wasn’t real. It was images on a screen. If I don’t like what I’m seeing, I can walk away. It doesn’t have to affect me, personally, unless I let it.
Now, lets circle back. School. College. I took a writing class that used this book:
Granted, it was a screenwriting class and most of the chapters were about various script formats, but the beginning chapters focused on why we write and why we make the stories we do.
It had a section in it describing how human needs and desires are met through fiction. It detailed those needs in a list. This list:
Please draw your attention to the ones on the list that say that fictions helps people to:
Be purged of unpleasant emotions
To have vicarious but controlled emotional experiences
To confront, in a controlled situation, the horrible and terrible
To explore taboo subjects without guilt
Just because you personal don’t need various forms of ‘taboo’ media, doesn’t mean that others don’t. Media, in all of its forms, is a way for people to explore things safely. It’s an outlet that doesn’t harm anyone and it offers the creator and viewer/reader a safe way of exploring the complexities of situations (or in some cases relationships) that these people do not want to be involved in irl. Because we can distinguish reality from fiction. Because none of us are going out killing people or getting into abusive relationships or fucking our sibling.
While being critical of the media we consume is important and it is vital to dissect the whys of the media being created, there is a line between creating open discussion about these taboos, about the society and personal experiences that makes one need these outlets, and verbally abusing and harassing strangers.
If you want to create a dialogue about media or a ship you don’t agree with, fine. Talk about it. Dissect it. Really dig deep into the human condition and the psychology behind these outlets, but don’t shame people for them to the point of telling them to kill themselves or telling them they are human garbage or what the fuck ever.
Fiction isn’t always meant to be picturesque. It’s not always going to be SFW. If that isn’t your cup of tea, then great. Stop going into the tags of things that make you feel unhealthy. You do you. Keep yourself safe. Stop continuously exposing yourself to content that you can’t swallow. To keep getting involved, to keep harassing people, to keep abusing strangers shows that you don’t give a damn about the content. You need an excuse to bully someone else and indulge in holier-than-thou circle jerks with other people who also have no sense of what fiction is for.