So, I was listening to this episode at work tonight and thinking a lot about the idea of power dynamics between creators and fans as was discussed on the show…
I have always found something strange about the creator/fan dynamic. The power creators wield over their fan base is used either as a shield to distance themselves from people who may enjoy their work that they don’t know or–as been the case here–to exploit them. But on the flip side of this we have fans who (and I’m mostly speaking for myself here) look to creators, beyond their content, to potentially fill voids in their lives. Escapism though consumption of content is the obvious way, but they might also see something really awesome that person created and think that person might make a good friend and so they praise that person and a kind of trust in that person develops. Especially if, like in this case, the creator fosters an inviting and trustworthy persona.
This trust is unwarranted. We do not need to give our trust to people we do not know. Just because we become familiar with a persons work does not mean we get to be their friend or that we know them. I keep seeing this happen. It’s happened to me in the past. Hell it happened with the formation of this site during the 72hr livestream! I was introduced to someone who’s work I was previously unfamiliar with and really grew to appreciate them quite quickly. But I do not really know this person. This person is not my friend. This person could be the Brooklyn Butcher for all I know.
In an ideal world we’d all be friends sharing our content with each other and this power dynamic wouldn’t be necessary. However, we live in a capitalist society that, through the very construction of its hierarchies, creates alienation. I do think the power dynamic stems from that in some ways.
In an episode of Logged Off (maybe the first one?) Danika and Sam talk about how friends are made online… and it sounds very much like online friendship is a meritocracy based entirely around content creation. Content creators who enjoy each others work surely have a much easier time contacting each other and saying they like each others work and should be friends than the person who… just appreciates the creators work and has nothing.
Lest this start to sound even remotely victim-blamey I want to say I’m highlighting this stuff, not to tell other people who fall into the fan category to stop putting their trust in creators, but to say to creators… Hey, y’all have a lot of power over a lot of people. Some of us are really lonely, suffer from social anxiety, have few friends, and look to your content to fill in gaps, and you need to be more careful with your audiences. Please.
When I was younger and on the fan side of the fence I got legitimately depressed that I couldn’t be friends with these people online. I’ve tried. I’ve given up. But it really really pisses me off when people who otherwise create cool shit use their power to exploit their fanbase.
But maybe I’m wrong and my giving up my ability to trust is the reason I’m bad at making friends. lol
Sorry if this came across as incoherent. It’s 2am.