I talked a little bit about this before, but it's always something on my mind so I'll talk a bit about it again.
I tend to be a very reserved person. Part of it is my nature and part of it has been shaped by circumstances over the years. Only once I get to know someone do many of those walls crumble. Even then, I can get guarded with people that have known me for a while. I'm always on the defensive to protect myself.
There is a fun, vibrant person inside and that person doesn't get to come out and play much, whether due to insecurities, low self-esteem, fear of confrontation or any number of factors. Like I said, I focus so hard on pleasing people and keeping the peace that I often get lost along the way.
One of my goals is to be more self-confident this year. Now I say this every year and every year I still struggle with it, but I think I get a little bit better as I get older. That also means allowing myself to be comfortable enough with stating my opinion without fear of backlash, hurting someone's feelings, or getting attacked for it. I don't expect to become a full out bitch – I'm far too sensitive to other people for that – but I can't keep living in this self-imposed prison I've created either.
And that goes for fandom as well.
You know it's everywhere. People do whatever it takes to feel accepted.
The opinionated part: I think it's stupid. There is a difference between doing something sheerly for fun and doing something so you can feel big. I like what I like because I like it. Not because I'm trying to impress anyone. I've been there, done that, and meh. It's like giving up a piece of your soul LOL
For the tamer more thoughtful part:
I don't know whether it's because I am trained as an anthropologist or if I just have a natural tendency to pick at things, but I tend to be keenly aware of power relations in life. That goes for fandom too, since fandom is just a microcasm of the real world anyway. It doesn't matter what fandom it is; I just easily spot them. Many people are aware of these dyanmics as well so I'm not claiming it's any kind of gift or anything. In fact, I'd rather be ignorant LOL
One of my major fandom pet peeves is the whole "want to be a Big Name Fan" attitude. Some people are very upfront about their BNF aspirations. Others are sneaky about it. And others are unaware.
Some people become big in fandom just because. They have a story that speaks to the fandom and clicks. They have a personality that is infectious. They are people that have a natural energy and good-natured disposition that just attracts people to them.
I'm not talking about those people. I'm talking about the people that actively try to be big and not in ways that are entirely genuine. (Hello, phony.)
The whole topic of BNFdom is a huge and complex one that I am not going to get into here, but I did want to talk about one aspect of it today. That is the "want to be cool" aspect. You know, that whole mentality that went on in junior and senior high school.
I think most people go through it. I know when I was in junior high I wanted to be cool, too, so I bought the Bobby Brown shoes and the diaper pants and all the really stupid stuff that all the cool girls had. In fandom, for me that translated into writing and taking part in aspects of fandom I probably wouldn't have done if I wasn't looking to cement myself more into the fandom consciousness.
I've seen it take on many forms. Getting involved in fandom politics to be cool. Watching a show to be cool. Taking on the interests of a BNF to be cool. Embracing a pairing to be cool. Etc, etc.
It's hard because I think there is a fine line. If you're writing a fic for a friend or doing something fun for each other – wow I love that aspect of fandom. I love the sharing and the energy. I would have never gotten into some of my fave shows without nudging from friends. But there is also the "being part" of something just for the sake of being part of it and feeling like you belong. That is trickier.
And there is always perspective. My pet peeve is another person's reward.
(Now you always have those few souls that just totally march to the beat of their own drum. God bless them for it. Most people aren't like that.)
It's remarkable that fandom (and politics and clubs and work) still have that same mentality. We're always striving for acknowledgment. It's not a bad thing. It only becomes bad (imo) when you lose yourself along the way. I know because I am a highly ambitious person myself. I like attention, feedback, and praise. I've done a lot of stuff for the sake of praise. (And yet, the walking contradiction that I am, I never know what to say when I do get praise.) I just never took it to ultimate extremes. I like attention but not to be the center of attention. It's just fandom, after all.
This isn't some accusatory post about how bad and stupid people are. I'm admitting to having engaged (and likely still do without realizing it) in this sort of thing. It's just as I get older, I become more aware of it, and I see how it plays out in relationships on the internet and real life. It fascinates and annoys me at the same time. I really think people are better than that. There's no need to conform to what others want just so you can be in the "in crowd." There is more than enough squee for everyone ;)
ETA: Completely off-topic, we're discussing diaper pants in the comments. Surely some of you know what diaper pants are. I keep looking online for a picture and I can't find any! They are *not* the same as Hammer/parachute pants. Grr.