Let’s come together and think about what it means to feel safe in an internet environment, and what function Fandom serves for a lot of people. I’ve noticed a bothering uptick in what a lot would see random bullying. An unsuspecting person will reblog or post a picture or comment and they will get jumped on by another individual for merely doing what is considered a typical right. Expressing. The person might not even be creating the idea, but there are bullies waiting in the wings to swoop down on the individual and chastise the blogger for distributing content.
Lately these bullies have been creating a unsafe atmosphere in the Fandom where people, myself included, are becoming less inclined to even participate alternatively people may decide to disappear all together or sometimes become mere wallflowers where before the person may have contributed. People often come into a fandom seeking refuge from real life. This is his or her safe place already, no changes necessary because compared to what these individuals face on a daily basis the fighting and bickering in Fandom is usually nothing. These people come here to enjoy what they enjoy and have a chance at expression in one manner that they may not get in others.
I guess my one of my main considerations is that if you don’t know an individual please think twice about putting yourself on a moral high ground above him or her, especially if the person isn’t directly addressing or hurting you or a loved one in some way. If you want to critic a piece of media consider going to the source instead of ‘shooting the messenger,’ because the messenger may also have the same viewpoint as yourself but you will never hear the person speak because your tearing them down has scared them into silence. Even if you aren’t directly speaking to them but using their reblog as a platform, this can feel like a personal attack. Another option would even be to create a separate post of the media and start a conversation about the social issue on that post maybe if you wish linking back to the original post of the media.
People are not all brave with thick skins like dragons or feathers like ducks that let comments roll off like water. The internet does not provide a context for your feelings, actions or beliefs. I’m sure there are plenty of individuals willing to discuss it with you on all sides of a particular topic but operating under the guise of having awareness of real, and honest issues in society only to attack individuals to make yourself feel better about who you are and to feel better about your own actions is bullying. Often motivation will blind a reasonable individual and comments that would have no sting or bite in person change with the distance of a screen and no face to put to the body of a blogger. This is dehumanizing, and makes it easier to treat people like they aren’t in fact people.
Bullying is something that most everyone has experienced and in fact might be part of the reason so many of us feel at home in our Fandom. We believe and want this to be a safe place from those that will treat us harshly without knowing who we are. That we can come together to mutually enjoy something without fear of being ridiculed, or being made to feel bad for loving something that we do. So yes, while open discuss of social issues should be encouraged, the statement used is that we do not live in a vacuum. Our actions don’t only have an effect upon ourselves. Everyone has emotions that should be considered.
Social Justice is not the problem. People consuming media for an ounce of joy in their lives also isn’t the problem. The lack of basic respect for one another is. I will not say that there isn’t a time for direct confrontation. When someone truly isn’t safe, and when there is harassment we need to stand together but when it’s supposed to be a conversation is needs to be a conversation and not an attack on a seemingly faceless foe with a counter ‘bigoted’ viewpoint. Different is not wrong. An absence of voiced opinion is not lack of opinion or a mark of ignorance. There are many different types of passion for something. There is something heroic about championing causes you believe in. There is also something heroic about extending kindness to people who may not be so voiced and allowing them the freedom to speak without fear of when the proverbial sword will be put to their throat.
What this comes down to is my motivation. People who once felt safe, now longer do because what could’ve been once innocent is now an ‘issue’ to be confronted, often much harsher than one would ever be to a stranger’s face. It’s saddening to see this happen, to think about how many people could join discussions if we took the time to build up ideas instead of tearing people we often don’t know down, to think about how many people will never say a single thing out of fright but watch wishing they could. We are turning Fandom into what most fear in real life. We huddle together in our cliques scared to leave because we don’t know who is friendly and who is ready to just tear into another individual to make themselves or their friends feel better for moment.
I’m posting this to the Transformers Fandom but I have a feeling this isn’t to only community this is taking place in so I’ve left it mainly a nondescript plea to treat people like people. I’m not afraid to admit fear because everyone fears something. I’m afraid of the community, and what it’s slowly becoming. I’ve been in this Fandom for years and most the time have been a model example of a wallflower lingering at the edge torn between praying not to be noticed and wanting so dearly to speak with others but afraid to do so out of being annoying. I used to be able to almost lovingly brag about how welcoming we were, how we took anyone as long as they had an interest with the hopes that they’d grow to love what we found so special as much as we did, but I know that I’m feeling that is less and less true. I could go on bemoaning the potential loss of something I felt was special, but I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t somehow think it might be recoverable but I could be deluding myself and I would most definitely be if I didn’t say I was disappointed to see this. Lashing out has happened from both sides of this. Neither side is guiltless.
There are some truly inviting people in the Fandom. My thanks goes out to these individuals that really try to treat people like people. I look forward to my future interactions with these people that show kindness to strangers and look out to a crowd to see potential friends still awaiting them.