I’ve been extremely critical of the various fannish communities I’ve encountered in recent memory but I’ve never really understood why they are all, virtually without exception, so horrible. Now, I think I’ve come up with that reason.
Communities tend to encourage group-think. They do not push people to think outside of the boundaries of the community, nor do they accept those who don’t walk in lock-step with the rest of the community drones. This is a truism no matter what kind of community you’re talking about, be it action figures or comic books or pet ownership or board games. All of them have the expectation that, in order to fit into the community, you are going to adopt views which match the majority of the community members.
The problem is, I’m not one to conform to group-think, no matter where I am. I never have been, I never will be. I think my own way, I come up with my own opinions and honestly, I rarely fall into the group-think-for-the-sake-of-group-think camp. In fact, I don’t think anyone ought to do that. I get that it’s a basic human desire, that doesn’t make it a good thing. I’m firmly convinced that group-think diminishes possibilities. There have been social experiments, for example, where everyone in an elevator, part of the experiment, will turn and face the back wall, leaving the subject to decide whether to take an absurd action that fits in with the group, or to go their own way and reject the actions of the group. I think the latter case is the most important, even though lots of people will, indeed, turn to face the back wall just to fit in. People don’t need to mindlessly adopt the views of the group, just to be a part of the group. We should be able to pick and choose what we like and what we dislike, so long as we can justify our opinions rationally, and not be looked down for doing so.
Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s not really how it happens and that’s why I’ve walked away from virtually every online community out there. I’m not a member. I’m not a joiner. I don’t want to be either. I’m an individual and if people like what I have to say, great. If not, that’s fine too. They’re welcome to go find another individual whose views more closely resemble their own. I’d much rather there be a thousand little communities that think for themselves than a single massive fandom that forces people into a single mold.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been outrightly attacked by suggesting things outside of a fannish community. I’ve written about some of them, where I’ve been insulted for daring to suggest that a certain well-loved comic book isn’t as good as many think it is, where I’ve been told to go away because I don’t share the majority view on bird ownership or attacked because I don’t fall into the cult of the new in the board game realm. Therefore, I’ve excluded myself from all of them. I don’t need them. I don’t want them.
So what do you think? Am I on the money or do you think I have it all wrong? Are communities worthwhile or, as I’ve concluded, are they totally off the mark? Do you follow the crowd or do you think for yourself? Let me know, I’d really like to know.