bI don’t know, maybe it’s not in my genes, but I am not now, nor have I ever been a fanatic for anything. There are things I enjoy to be sure, but I cannot identify with the people that I see that absolutely can’t live without the latest and greatest new stuff that comes out.
I know this isn’t limited to the geek crowd, you have people who fall all over themselves to get all the baseball cards or all the books in a series, but mostly I see it among the geeks and most of the time, it leaves me shaking my head.
The fact is, I’m not a fanatic about anything. I don’t get emotionally invested in my hobbies. If that makes me a casual hobbyist, I’m fine with that. I’d actually like to talk to other casual hobbyists, where we can discuss the subjects as normal, rational people, not as die-hard extremists. Yet the online forums only seem to appeal to the zealots, not to the people who just have a good time engaging in these activities.
Take the board game forum I’m on. The people are virtually all fanatics. They spend copious time complaining about all the games they buy but have never played and probably never will. They whine about not having any more room for their games, yet they just ordered another half-dozen and have to make space. They spend time making long and detailed lists of every single game they’ve ever played and how many times they’ve played them. It takes a hobby and makes it into a spreadsheet.
Or how about the multiple stamp collecting forums I frequent? You have people who gush on and on and on about the latest stamp they acquired, but worse, you see people who are just accumulating literally millions of stamps that live in boxes because they have no time in actually inventorying what they have. There is one dealer in Australia whose “collection” has taken over every flat surface in his house and he’s still got more coming by the carton-load. It’s not well organized either, from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s just stacked haphazardly around his house, I have no idea how he finds anything.
I’ve complained in the past about the bird forum I used to visit. It was filled with zealots from one end to the other and, in fact, they used to attack anyone who didn’t share their zeal or who behaved outside of the acceptable group-think. These are people who have focused their lives around birds, some of them have quit their jobs and gotten their doctors to sign off fake medical ailments so they can spend every second of every day with their birds.
What about the action figure forum? While I don’t go there very often anymore, it’s sad to watch people who openly scorn modern action figures, but who can’t stop themselves from buying them at every turn. People buy these things by the case, they spend thousands of dollars and then complain how much they hate the quality, then buy more.
Or the comic book forum? So many people have such an encyclopedic inventory of comic book trivia, you can post a single panel from any comic published in the past 80 years and someone will pop up almost instantly and tell you where it comes from. Now I suppose that’s not a horrible thing in and of itself, back in my youth, I could do similar things. My specialty was music, I could tell you, for any band I cared about, what album any song was on, where on the album it was (for whatever format I was most familiar with), exactly how long it was, etc. But what I could do is nothing compared to fanatics who can almost quote thousands of comics virtually word for word.
I’ll be honest, most of these people really aren’t that much fun to talk to. Oh sure, they may be knowledgeable about their subject matter but they are focused to an extreme degree on it as well. It’s all they talk about. It’s all they care about. They can’t just enjoy it, they have to obsess over it. I think a lot of them have an unhealthy preoccupation with their particular activity. There just don’t seem to be many of these people that have a casual interest and who just want to talk to fellow fans like I do.
I could see if it was a convention or another specialty event that cost money, where only the most devoted fanatics would likely attend, but these are free online forums that anyone can access and unfortunately, I see a lot of interested casual fans coming onto these forums, asking a few questions and almost immediately leaving because the lunacy drives them away. Lots of people either want to use the craziness to their own advantage or they get overwhelmed by the extreme dedication and decide to slowly back away and take their budding interest elsewhere. This is sad, but I have seen it in every single area of interest I mentioned above, without exception.
If there was actually a place where people with specific interests could gather, a place where it’s just fun, where collecting isn’t a job, it’s a hobby, I’d love to know where it is. I have yet to find a single forum, a single IRC channel, a single anything online where that’s the case. If there really are that many people out there with an obsessive personality, I think we as a planet have reason to worry. It’s just not healthy.