Inspired by some recent discussion on what a dumpster fire Twitter RPG discourse is, I present the Questing Beast Theory of Fandom Toxicity.
Virtually all fandoms are toxic once they reach a certain size. The reason is pretty simple: fandoms are groups of thousands of people that only have a single interest in common. This means that wherever they hang out, members of that fandom will be constantly engaging with people who share their enthusiasm for the fandom’s topic, but whose worldviews are opposed to their own.
This wouldn’t normally be a problem (we run into people with incompatible worldviews all the time) except that modern fandoms are often very intent on uniting the fanbase under a single “community.” This creates several problems:
- You’re part of the community whether you want to be or not.
- You get the cognitive dissonance of being in a community full of people who don’t share your beliefs.
- People within the community are upset at you when they see you in conflict with other members over basic issues.
- You get the embarrassment of outsiders lumping you together with people you dislike.
- If the fandom topic is a big part of your identity, you can feel that it (or you) is tainted by the presence of bad actors.
This situation causes the constant sniping, gatekeeping, and toxicity you find in fandom spaces. There are a couple ways to solve this.
- Make a real community, but be very selective who you let in (preventing disparities in worldview).
- Stop pretending that a shared interest group is a community and be very specific in what you allow people to talk about (preventing discussion of worldview disparities).
- Ignore the communities question, and just keep the group very small (200 people at most). This is basically why G+ worked. Most people knew each other on a personal level (often playing in each other’s games), so they were able to overlook worldview conflicts.