Why do you think most antis are younger fans?

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Title: Why do you think most antis are younger fans? (the essay/post does not have an official title; the one used here on Fanlore is from the post)
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Date(s): April 18, 2021
Medium: Tumblr
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Why do you think most antis are younger fans? is a 2021 ask by loganelfreeces and resulting essay by Older Than Netfic, and other fans' replies.

The Question

Hi! I know you're one of the older fans on Tumblr & I wanted to ask you about the anti movement. I'm 19 & when I see people talking about the ages of anti fans, they're often within the 14-25 age range & I have no idea why. I also feel it's a little unfair to say that younger fans tend to be antis, though it is understandable since I've also made mistakes when I didn't know things. Why do you think most antis are younger fans? What should younger fans who aren't antis do to be more involved?

Answer

Hee! I’m 40, which, tbh, actually isn’t that old for Tumblr (though it’s certainly old compared to the common perception of tumblr), so sure, I can probably answer this. I guess there are two questions here: 1. Is it true and 2. why, if so?

1. Experience suggests that antis do tend to be young… but it does not follow that young people tend to be antis. (You’d have to know the proportion of antis relative to the overall population of fandom, which we don’t. I think the majority of people of any age tend to want to read fic in peace and not be roped into endless wank.) I definitely see some ringleaders who are older and good at manipulating fandom trends for their own ends too.

2. Why would this be the case?

When I was in college, we used to joke about all the freshman year Marxists. It’s an eternal phenomenon: people who don’t have much experience learn a new thing and are on fire to change the world using the one tool in their toolbox. (To a man with a hammer, yadda yadda.) There’s no passion like the passion of the newly converted, and young people tend to have a lot more energy and often a lot more free time to yell on social media. Antis may be one expression of this among people currently in that age bracket. It’s not like people my age didn’t do other annoying-ass things when we were that age. You just don’t see it because it was 20 years ago, a lot of it was never online, and all the websites/platforms from then have been systematically destroyed. (Often by yahoo. Fuck yahoo.)

The other half of the reason, in my opinion, is that there have been concerted efforts to sway lefty/socially liberal people in specific–often TERFy–ways. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the right wing radicalization of gamer guys.

People are susceptible to it because their lives suck and because they don’t know enough history or have enough confidence to form their own opinions and stand up for them. Sure, some people are going to go hardcore for anti views no matter how much they know, but a lot of people are just being swept along with the tide because something sounds superficially pro-gay or pro-protecting kids or whatever.

I cannot emphasize enough that the things that make someone ripe for the alt right are the same things that make them ripe for cults and for various kinds of toxic fandom shit: it’s usually the smart, sensitive overthinkers who don’t have enough close actual friends and who aren’t in a good place in their lives.

So what can you do?

You can try to make fewer more significant friendships and make sure your support system isn’t people you only know because you currently share a fandom. Most of my offline friends are people I found through fandom meetups, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making fandom your life and only hanging out with fandom people, but we’re just regular friends who have dinner parties and shit (well, when it’s not the plaguetimes). Most of the time, we don’t share specific ships or fandoms. It’s vitally important to have a real support network that can’t be ripped away by social media wank.

The next thing we can all do is publicly stand up for what we believe in and not cave to pressure just because someone yelled “think of the children”. It’s important to be clear about the real history and logic behind these things, whether it’s the history of censorship that inspires people to support AO3′s extremely permissive policies or the fact that ‘queer’ was a fully reclaimed umbrella term in the 90s.

It’s okay if we don’t all agree. What’s not okay is appeals to emotion and ignoring science. A lot of anti bullshit is like “Rape fantasies are an abnormal red flag”, and this goes against every damn thing we know about human sexuality.

Part of this is examining our own stances for illogic and hypocrisy. If thought crimes aren’t real, then all of them aren’t real. I see way too many “Okay, but that one gross kink though!” comments from people who claim to be on my side, and this is very silly.

Possibly the biggest thing, though, is that we as a planet need to start being savvier about shitty social media and how it’s destroying our mental health. I don’t have a good overall solution, and obviously, I’m still on tumblr, but we all really need to cut down the amount of time we’re on sites like Facebook and Twitter and probably tumblr too. The more it has an algorithm and the less it has moderation, the more it’s a problem. Individual discords and spaces that can have moderation are better. It’s fine if some of them are 100% antis. The point is to have multiple spaces with rules that suit different groups.

A thing you can do is make your own spaces: be the owner of a discord for your ship, not just a passive participant at the mercy of shitty mods in an existing one. Run a fic exchange with rules you think are sensible and be firm when people try to scream about problematique things you don’t agree are a problem. One of the most pernicious anti problems is mods breaking the rules of their own spaces (usually a “no kinkshaming” one) to cave to social pressure from the loudest, most assholish set of people in the server. They don’t know how many people quietly disapprove and quietly leave their fandoms because they only fear the loud harassers, not the silent toll of caving to them.

Honestly, the climate of fear is the big issue more than a bit of yelling: I routinely meet 20-somethings who live in fear of being canceled and shunned. You can help this by… not being like that with your friends. If they’re friends with a canceled person, don’t ask them to drop the canceled person or face the same fate. If you disagree about some fandom hot take, talk about it calmly and don’t act like the friendship will be over in 5 seconds and you’ll use all your knowledge of them against them in a public callout because they didn’t instantly agree.

Basically, have some self confidence and don’t be fucking terrified all the time… which can be a tall order and probably explains the age thing also.

Some Fan Comments

[lymmea]:

I think it's also safe to say that fandomentalism tends to take root in younger people the most often because they haven't lived through the fandom purges and content policing of not-that-many-years-ago. They weren't there, they don't know what it looks like, they've never lost anything or felt threatened by (specifically fandom-centric) content purges and censorship. Older fans who DO have an idea where that rabbit hole goes tend to be a lot more reluctant to go down it.

(Not that some people don't anyway. But those people, I think, are likely to be in even worse places in their lives than young fans who are merely ignorant. That level of paranoia, of desperation, in thinking that safety lies in controlling other people's behavior, that anyone who disagrees with you is obviously evil because you're objectively right, that you can and should enforce morals onto others, that lashing out at others is healthy and praiseworthy if they're ~deserving~ of your abuse, that positive ALLERGY to nuance...there is a lot of trauma response in that thinking. None of it is healthy.)

References