If you're a part of the geek community, you might have noticed by now; it's exceptionally competitive and a bit toxic. You would think that the group known for its "outcasts" would be a little more accepting, but we've all ran into a fan that spoiled the fun. And, let's face it, at some point we've even been that fun-spoiling fan.
There is a lot of pressure to get it right in fandoms; especially anime, video games and comic books. This adds a lot of unnecessary pressure to members of the community, but that doesn't mean we throw the whole thing out! It means we work towards a change. Here's a few ways you can definitely be a better fan.
Not Everyone Knows Everything
Firstly, try your best not to freak out when someone has told you they've not seen that series or played that game. It can be off putting, not to mention embarrassing, for the person you're talking to. Especially if they're new to the fandom, try not to be condescending on how far they've gotten or if they've even started at all. Fandoms should be about fun and fun includes going at your own pace, which can vary depending on the kind of free time you have or just the pace you like to experience things.
Keep in mind, there is a big difference between getting excited and purposely putting someone down. A lot of us have definitely been put down at some point because we didn't know something, so it can be extremely exciting when we finally get to show off what we've learned. That's completely okay, but remember to not be the fan that embarrassed you when you were just starting out or didn't know something.
Sharing is Caring
We've all read the heartwarming stories about how one fan shared their entire collection of dvds or books to help a new fan really get into a series; this is super sweet and if you trust that person enough, you should go for it! But giving out your collections to random strangers may not always go well for you, so how do you share items to help newcomers or other fans that are missing content?
The simple answer is to give out parallel resources! There are a lot of us out there that can't afford certain fandom items like games or books, but that doesn't mean they have to be left out. Sharing resources like YouTube channels or threads that can give background on game lore, condense stories from series or help a person gain some great additional information is always a great way to go. Note: it's important to purchase content from creators, so please try not to hand out sites that offer illegal services. Official sites and fan-made sites that offer the legal share of information will be just fine, I promise.
Don't Call People Out
Sometimes we call out the wrong people. If you notice the person you're talking to is simply nodding along or acting like they know what you're talking about, let them go. People tend to do this when they notice you're having a good time talking to them and they don't want to ruin the mood or they're nervous you will shame them for not knowing something. It's important that if you recognize these signs to just let it go. Instead, offer some more detail like you are explaining something to them in a subtle way so that they can pick up some of the information you're giving them.
Calling people out on stuff like this only discourages them to interact with people from the fandom and there's no need for it. If you want to call people out, you can do it to people who are being awful to fellow fans - not fans who are trying their best to understand and fit in.
If You Have Nothing Nice To Say, Say Nothing At All
It seems obvious, but this saying could go a long way. It's one thing to critically critique something, but another to be flat out mean. Some of the comments you see on cosplayer photos or the comments you hear at conventions is just fueled with hate. If you don't like something, that's fine, just leave the people alone.
No one deserves to get harassed for just enjoying themselves. If they're not harming anyone and your comment has no real thought behind it because you simply don't like something, just move on. It's a simple as walking away or just scrolling by.
You Don't Have To Be Good At It To Love It
This rule especially goes for video game or art fandoms and partners really well with the last point. If you see someone who's clearly new to something, be encouraging not disheartening. It takes a lot of confidence to post things like artwork or playthroughs on the internet; especially if you're in public at a convention or tournament. Some people might tell you they're only criticizing to help the fan "grow" and "get better", but there's a better way to do this.
If you really want to help a person, encourage them! Support that they like it. Advice isn't always a necessity either; in fact, it's often unwelcome. Not everyone plays a game or draws to become great, some just enjoy doing it for fun and to connect and share with others. Let that happen and enjoy that they want to experience that with you. If they do ask for your advice, then share in a respectful and constructive manner!
There are a lot of ways to be a good fan and these are just a few. If we all work together, we can make the community a better place for all people regardless of where people are at in their fandom journey.