I have made many friends with fans/followers, but those relationships are usually struck with people who are doing similar work to mine, or who are in a similar field, so the meeting is fairly mutual. I’ve never had an easy time continuing a relationship with someone who was first and foremost a fan, though.
Initial entry into a relationship like that always puts one of the two parties at a complete disadvantage especially if expectations already exist on either side, which they would in that case (you would assume I’d be an awesome friend [thank you, because that’s a very kind assumption for you to make and it does mean a lot], whereas I would assume our contact/conversation would be somehow restricted to an appropriate time/place). For reasons aligning with my need for self-preservation, I rarely seek out friendships in these arenas… it is not sustainable for me, and I find those friendships to be (to some extent) disingenuous. Now, I do whole-heartedly believe in friendly encounters, but that’s just what they are: encounters.
The respect I hold for people who appreciate the work I do is uncontested - that’s not what this is about. You are the reason I have my job, and do what I do. I spend a huge amount of time accommodating and interacting with members of the public on a multitude of levels because of that appreciation. But my lack of commitment to fan-based friendships is about my ability to honestly open up personally to someone who probably already has a predetermined idea of who I am. If that’s the case, there’s no way I can match up to their image, or meet their expectations.
It takes a lot of energy for me to maintain cheerfulness, enthusiasm, and conversation, so I focus the time and place for that energy appropriately in videos, public events, and social engagements. At the end of the day - when it’s my personal time for my love, family, and friendship - I’m quiet, and recharging. Often, I’m sad. As a result I’m actually a pretty lousy friend because I don’t seek to meet up or talk with people I don’t know very well in my free time. It’s very difficult for me to determine who wants to be my friend because they genuinely love me and accept my major flaws, deep insecurities, and anxiety in all, and who wants to be my friend because I have a large amount of social currency, or a seemingly endless amount of energy, humor, and trivia. I’d rather not put every person I meet or work with to that test of my own mental gymnastics.