Everything that has fans, will undoubtedly have toxic fans. Toxic fans can feel inescapable when you are just trying to enjoy a chat about the latest K-POP music video in a dedicated forum. What can be worse is to find a sudden influx of hate on a comment you left about being excited for the newest season of an anime. We’ve all experienced toxicity from our fandoms in one way or another.
Thank you to Michelle at A Geek Girl’s Guide for suggesting this topic for my Mental Health in the Geek Community series! Michelle asked me to write about how to survive the toxicity of fans online which is honestly becoming more and more of an issue across social media. Most recently, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker caused quite an uproar in the community and has been the latest movie of the series to divide fans; however, this article isn’t about the Skywalker Saga or the toxicity in the Star Wars community, but rather about what we can do to keep our love of our fandoms without sacrificing our mental health to others who create this toxicity within our beloved fandoms.
How can we deal with the toxicity without giving up our fandoms?
Curate Your Feed
I am quick to curate my feed if I notice a wave of negativity. This could mean I might try unfollowing accounts on Twitter, unfollowing tags or muting hashtags on Instagram, leaving Facebook groups, or just putting people and groups on ‘snooze’ until I’m ready to dip my toes back into my favorite fandom communities. Meagan says “I stay off social media and mute certain tags. And if an argument ensues which can’t be settled, I’ll mute or even block them.”
You can start curating your social media feeds by going to your following list. Unfollow any accounts that bring negativity to your communities and fandoms. Scroll through your feed and if there are any posts that give you pause, think about how it makes you feel and why you are following that account. If you can’t find a good reason to keep following, unfollow! On Instagram, you can check your explore page as well. Just tap on the posts that do not bring you joy and say ‘see fewer posts like this.’ Ta-da!
You can moderate your personal content and public content at your discretion. Whether that means deleting comments on your Instagram or not approving comments on your blog like Lee Hall, you are the decision maker around here. “The good thing about having a WordPress blog is that it allows you to approve comments from followers/users. If someone gets a little ‘spicy’ on my turf (it’s happened before), I just don’t approve their comments.” Lively debates are one thing, but if the discussion turns toxic or “spicy” you have the power to decide what comments go up or come down.
Don’t be afraid of the block button either. If an account or person is getting really toxic or affecting your mental health, block them! You don’t need negativity or negative people in your life or fandoms. Even if they aren’t breaking any rules or are not wreaking enough havoc to be reported to a site or moderator, the block button is always there for you. And if an entire Facebook group goes awry, you can hit snooze on them! Michelle even uses a ‘two snoozes’ rule. “I have no problem muting or blocking people that I don’t know that post toxic things. I unfollow/snooze groups on FB two times to give things a chance to blow over. If after 2 snoozes it’s still bad, I leave the group. And I make regular habit of closing the apps for self care.”
Be a Non-Toxic Fan
The best way to combat a toxic fandom community or their fans, is to be a non-toxic fan yourself! Be the change you want to see in the world! Pinkie says “I’ll convey very much that I am about positivity. I do realize that for my Yin there will always be a Yang. As far as their comments go, I try imagine they speak a different language. I do not understand their negativity nor do they understand why I am positive. It’s like we speak different languages. My positivity can not convince them, nor can their negativity convince me. Thusly I’ll read such comments as if written in a foreign language. Only when they begin to claim they are factually right, I will resort to block.”
Some ways to be a non-toxic fan:
- Approach toxicity with kindness if you are in a good place mentally.
- Use the report feature if you see another fan getting bullied.
- Recommend positive fandoms and communities to other fans.
- Leave comments, start discussions, and connect with positive fans.
- Know when to bow out of a conversation or debate before it turns toxic.
- Start your own uplifting fandom communities with friends and invite positive people.
Take a Break
Michelle says “… just taking a step away from the fandom helps. You can still enjoy something on your own and not be active in the fandom. Especially if it is bad for you mentally.” And she’s absolutely correct. Taking a break from your fandom communities will never make you less of a fan. It’s okay to step away for a period of time from the things we love if it starts to affect our mental health.
Regularly check in with yourself. If you are feeling like your mental health is becoming compromised, close apps or delete them until you feel you are in a better place to get back to participating in communities. Don’t forget to practice self care. In the mean time, you can still watch your favorite shows and listen to your favorite artists without getting caught up in potentially toxic communities. You are not less of a fan by enjoying fandoms on you own.
How have you handled toxic fandoms? Share some advice in the comments that has helped you!
If you are currently struggling with your mental health, please reach out to a friend/family member family and check out these resources:
- Hotline Numbers
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – by State List
- Mental Health America (MHA) – by State List
- Top 25 HelpLine Resources
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