A Sense of Belonging

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Title: A Sense of Belonging
Creator: Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): July 27, 2014 (own blog), archived October 9, 2014 (The Fan Meta Reader)
Medium: online
External Links: A Sense of Belonging, Archived version
“A Sense of Belonging,” by Elizabeth Minkel - The Fan Meta Reader, Archived version
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A Sense of Belonging by Elizabeth Minkel.

Curator’s Note at "The Fan Meta Reader": "This piece, the second of two centering on conflicts within fandom, was written at a moment of ongoing tension in the author’s fandom, captures a sense of that other side of fandom, when any sense of ‘community’ ends up feeling out of reach – not only between fans, but also fans and producers as well."

Some Topics Discussed


I always find it funny how conventions and similar in-person fan activities make people feel like their fan-hood is in question, and, similarly, like their fan-hood is quantifiable—I suppose by that metric, it is. Are you being the best fan you can be? You must spend $X to fly across the country, $X more for the Super Special Greatest Fan Gold Level Pass, $X more for pictures in front of that screen from class picture day. All your hard-earned money, for the chance to shake the hand of a famous actor, to sit at a table with him for a few minutes, to have the actual real live moment of intimacy to compliment the endless one-sided moments of intimacy you always have in your head, when you watch the show or read the book or put the song on repeat or scroll through all those endless gifs.
I’ve written before about the stakes of fandom: somehow incredibly high and incredibly low all at once. It feels a bit paradoxical to me. I think what this has in common with Comic-Con, or any other big gathering, comes down to the difference between being a fan and being a member of a fandom. You love the thing and it occupies your thoughts and you are a fan. But a fandom is a collective thing. We seek a sense of belonging, to see ourselves in others, and in the group; we gather, in physical spaces or in digital spaces, to share something. On tumblr, as posts cross each other and bile is spewed, we don’t have these structures that keep things orderly at the convention. There are no lines, no corporate wranglers, no one to shake hands with. This is the Wild West. We must police ourselves. And yet.
There is an easy prescriptive cure for this ailment. You hear it all across the web. Block, unfollow, blacklist—winnow the group down to the faces, the voices, that don’t make you feel like your own voice is being drowned out, or smothered, or some other metaphor for silenced. But it’s not a great solution: It hurts us, to shut out a diversity of opinion. But it also hurts us to do this, the same old thing, every few weeks, little stinging shots across cyberspace. We came here for a sense of belonging, but it’s increasingly hard for me to see what, exactly, we’re all trying to belong to.