Friday, May 25, 2012

When You've Crossed the Line Between Fan and Friend

Social Media has provided all of us with almost unlimited access to communicate across previously unbreachable distances. Geographic distances mean nothing, and Time is not nearly the issue it used to be. Even the distance between fans and their idols are decreasing. Your favorite actor may not follow you back on Twitter, but you know...they may. Or they might respond when you have something important to say to them. People in niche fields have unprecendented access to people they admire, where they are likely to get personal reponses from creative minds that even a few years ago would be walled away behind a publicity machine.

As fantastic as it is, this access is not without problems.

This week I posted a rage comic on my personal Facebook account. A "friend" took offense to it and 'splained why I had no right to post it. When I suggested that people who 'splained was, in fact the problem, they 'splained again why I was a jerk.

The problem here is that this person was not, actually, a friend of mine. This was a fan who has access to me as a "friend." The fact that they took offense and used the opportunity to 'splain to me how rude it was was ironic, since the comic was specifically about how fans tend to 'splain.

To be clear here, I should probably explain what 'splaining is. 'Splaining is short for mansplaining, or whitesplaining or, in this case, fansplaining, in which a person presumes to know more about a thing than the people they are talking to, based on the fact that they are a member of a privileged group or because they simply don't know or care how much the other person knows. When a woman asks a group about what SSD to get, and a guy in the room starts to talk to her about memory and security like she doesn't already understand that, that's "mansplaining."  Fans of popular culture have a habit of wanting to win a conversation, or show how much they know, so they "fansplain."

The real problem is not that this fan chose to 'splain something I already knew to me, it was that he chose to lecture me on my personal FB account. He crossed the line.

I've seen people get very angry when an admired idol doesn't respond to their tweets. Or be furious when their emails are blocked. Not everyone wants to be friends with their fans. Even people who are relatively relaxed about that have a line in the sand they don't want crossed. My line is this - don't presume to tell me what I should or should not say on my own spaces. For one thing, you don't know what my intent is. Secondly, and I mean this in the nicest possible way - you are not actually my friend. So, please, don't cross that line.

Because you can contact someone on Social Media, do not presume that your are actual friends.

Be mindful of your privilege as a fan, and enjoy, but do not overstep those boundaries.
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