Tiring Fandoms and Social Media
When the editor of one of the world’s premier ornithological journals deemed it of sufficient interest to publish a paper in which the author recorded the number of times a great tit defecated every 24 hours, I came to the conclusion that it was high time I occupied my thoughts with some other aspect of nature. I chose plants.
This a quote from Collingham Ingram, a fervent collector and breeder of cherry blossoms that I came across in a book I recently read. I had been thinking of writing about this topic for some time (not the lavatorial habits of the great tit – ah, there we go again), but I felt inspired to finally sit down and write after reading this quote. A quote that was made over 100 years ago that made me laugh and instantly sympathise with as I considered how well it could be applied to my thoughts on many of my own hobbies and how the Internet and social media helped nurture them and then subsequently pound them into within an inch of their lives.
As with many people, I have my own interests and hobbies that I suppose are not incredibly varied. Writing is one that I only recently adopted and that is partly for the reason that I am going to describe in this post. Others who know me will know that I enjoy video games, TV and film, and reading, however particular I may be.
There are many things that I loved as a child which I unfortunately cannot enjoy at such levels as I did when I was younger. Not things like toys and children’s TV which I think one naturally grows out of, but those franchises that have been allowed to grow to such gargantuan proportions and make so much money that the creators just cannot let them go. I feel like some things are supposed to evoke a sense of nostalgia, not the rolling of my eyes whenever I see anything about it online.
Star Wars is a great example of this. I loved it as a kid and into my teens and there are so many reasons why it has fallen out of favour for me that I just could not list here. I have very fond memories of my grandmother taking me to a quaint shop in Uxbridge, UK, where I would buy old Star Wars figures and play with when I got home. As I got older the interest went onto books and the occasional video game but I never got into the levels of fandom one sees in online groups and real-life events. I still enjoy it to an extent, but for me it has been ruined with the release of the newest trilogy resulting in countless articles that clog up any social media feed I have, or through Google that keeps trying to shove absolutely pointless pieces (whether a news article or an annoying YouTuber) down my throat until I internally scream ‘FUCK OFF! I DON’T CARE!’ and then remove Star Wars from my list of interest and never see them again. Phew. At least that function exists, but it doesn’t completely end there. The sequel trilogy was far from perfect and I think I knew how little I cared about it anymore when I would walk out of the cinema, dwell on it a few minutes, say my piece to some friends and then happily move on. The more I read about Star Wars, the more I simply grew to dislike it. Something that I enjoyed with my grandmother has been ruined, but the good memories still remain.
The Internet has allowed for people across the world who share interests to communicate and discuss things they enjoy like never before. But isn’t it tiring? Having that constant access to someone to talk about a thing you like can only be addictive and depending on the platform it can be awfully depressing when those ‘discussions’ are really just slagging matches with no reprieve that can quickly descend into personal attacks.
For me Twitter exemplifies this perfectly. As I write this I can happily say that I no longer have a Twitter account. A few weeks ago I just had enough of it and decided to let it go for a few reasons. The idea with Twitter (at least from my understanding) is that you can follow things that you like and keep up-to-date with what’s going on. It sounds good in theory, but as many creators rely on clicks which are gained through quantity alone, the contents of what they create becomes more extreme and the titles of the articles linked are specifically written to create intrigue and get that click, regardless of how ridiculous or contentious it is. This is nothing new, of course. Newspapers have been doing this for years! But the frequency and quantity that can be seen online is absolutely staggering. I’m in the process of writing something on this specifically in a bit more detail, but I thought it worth a mention here at the very least.
The Lord of the Rings is another example of something that I love and has succumbed to only part of the problem I have with Star Wars. Thankfully the Tolkien estate is intelligent and dedicated enough to not allow the rights to fall into the wrong (questionable, I suppose) hands. (Yes, Disney, I am looking at you. Can you imagine if Tolkien had sold the rights to them? The thought alone makes me gag.) But that does not mean that it does not fall victim to avid ‘fans’ who just have too much time on their hands and ‘journalists’ who know little to nothing on it, but somehow end up churning out endless drivel on the hundreds of ‘news’ outlets out there. A lot of air quotation marks there, but totally justified. Some argue that the Tolkien estate are too cagey and stingy with the rights. I couldn’t disagree more. The ‘fans’ want more and more, where I would like less and less and to try and enjoy it for what it is, not for what people want it to be, or what studios feel will make them a quick profit.
I listened to a Lord of the Rings podcast recently from Nerd of the Rings (a rare YouTube channel that I actually quite like) that was with the author of newly published The Nature of Middle-earth. In the interview he was asked if he thought that there was any possibility that there would be further books published that take part in Middle-earth with new characters or even possibly established ones. His response was sensible enough, that it might happen in the future should the Lord of the Rings ‘franchise’ (ugh) be let loose into the public domain. While I am looking forward to getting my copy of this book, I do hope it’s the last book with JRR Tolkien’s name on it. Let it be what it is and give the man a break! The man died a long time ago and anything else that’s released from now on is for one reason only: feeding an encouraged need for more in the pursuit of money.
If Tolkien’s creations ever got to the point that there was a new movie, book, TV show, video game, etc. every year, I think I would cry. I’m sure it will happen eventually in the chase of the forever fortune, but hopefully I will be dead by then. I’m optimistic about Amazon’s new show that starts next year but the anime film from New Line cinema certainly raised at least one of my eyebrows; it is a bridge into fan fiction and the extension of the Lord of the Rings ‘universe’ (ugh) – a small taste of what may be to come as they so desperately hold onto the film rights. If it’s anything like the Witcher anime film that was released a little while ago on Netflix I will be sorely disappointed. I wonder if they’ll throw in a young Théoden at the end to try and tie it in with Peter Jackson’s trilogies. (Note: he wasn’t alive, but so what?)
Next on my list comes video games. This suffers the same fate as Star Wars, but still manages to hold onto me just enough to want to play games every now and then and still have a general interest. I do have issues, though. Way too many games. Franchises that have lasted longer than perhaps they should, to the point that they are barely recognisable anymore, ‘journalists’ writing about utter bollocks that they materialised out of nowhere and just awful fans who feel such levels of entitlement you’d think they held the highest stocks in Nintendo. Sorry, Jim, they couldn’t care less about your demands for the fifth release of Ocarina of Time that you so ardently wish for but could literally play on an N64, GameCube, WiiU, 3DS or even play on an emulator. But I want to support them, I hear you say. Well, just buy another game. It’d be far more interesting, I’m sure.
I used to enjoy watching video game-related content on YouTube, and it took a good few years for me to realise that I had just lost interest. The videos were all the same. YouTubers copying other YouTubers and some channels taking a 30-second trailer and creating turgid videos that dissect it to such a degree that it is no longer enjoyable. Not for me anyway. I guess I used to find them interesting otherwise I wouldn’t have watched them, but soon started to switch off a mere few minutes in. I figured it’s probably a good idea to just sit down and play a game instead of watch a video about them. Playing a game with zero knowledge of it can be a bit of a risk if it’s awful, but I like the idea of walking into a shop and there being a game I didn’t even know was announced, let alone released. This has happened a few times recently and it definitely added a little something to my day. The simple things.
Funnily enough, Nintendo have done me a favour recently by releasing such little information about their upcoming games that I haven’t felt completely burnt out before a game’s release. Pokémon Sun and Moon proved to me that releasing too much information early on really can ruin the experience. Unfortunately, though, this does mean that a lot of Nintendo YouTubers are clutching at straws and creating content based on minuscule information or sometimes no information at all. Pokémon fans and YouTubers (or Poketubers as they like call themselves) are particularly guilty of this. Well, a short session of unfollowing various YouTubers soon sorted that out. Mr Google tries his hardest to desperately find out my interest to continue to tamp more content into my throat until I choke on it and I will continue to mark it as ‘not interested’ until he gives up. Some of the things I had heard and read about this particular community also helped in this decision.
Come E3 this year I had to go through Twitter and block words such as ‘Nintendo’ and ‘Super Smash Bros.’, as I was just tired of all the whinging users complaining that X character isn’t in Smash, the tiresome wishes, and the endless ‘I want Wind Waker on Switch’ in response to the announcement of Skyward Sword’s HD release. (It’s on the Wii U!) When I realised I was doing that I had to ask myself whether I even like video games anymore. The short answers is yes, but how fans suck any enjoyment out of anything and how the constant flow of information, rumours, leaks and the like completely squeeze any excitement or intrigue from everything! What I learnt was to steer clear of the Internet and I might actually start to enjoy things again. This is my aim.
Now I will agree that this piece probably sounds like an old man who just doesn’t want to have fun, but it’s really not. (I’m only 33 and not quite at that stage yet.) At least that wasn’t my intention anyway and I admit this is merely the tip of the iceberg. I am not saying that people shouldn’t do this or that, I’m just simply saying that I don’t like it and ultimately it is up to me on how I deal with what I feel is a genuine overload of connectivity and access to information, which is something I am going to write about in another blog about reducing my screen time, disconnecting from the net and bringing my meandering mind back down to Earth. I know that some of the things I wrote about in this blog may not make a lot or any sense to some, but really my point was just to highlight how there is too much out there and that it’s time for me to give it a little break from this intrusive world and have a little sit down with a nice cup of tea and a good book.
Thank you for reading as always 🙂