I think we’ve all been there: sitting on our hands and biting back the nerd rage after one hissy comment too many on a fan forum and trying not to type “really? Have you tried not being a total jerk?” Of course, you can’t actually write that – not if you want to retain your membership – but anonymity and silly one-upmanship make for an ugly combination. An unfriendly fan community can really spoil the experience of fandom. Most places have the impersonal, chaotic atmosphere of an airport departure lounge. Some are outright vicious, but many scare off new members through sheer aloofness, and that’s aside from the downright strange.
Some fan communities, however, bring out the best in the members. They enhance the experience of enjoying whatever is being celebrated, and are more than the sum of their parts. A good fan community goes beyond the pleasure of mere media consumption and fosters a sense of belonging among all its members. We all know people who’ve forged friendships and relationships within fan communities. To the artists in question, such long-term presence adds value – a fan can spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars over a lifetime – but most of all, it’s that warm fuzzy feeling of reciprocal affection that makes being a fan so much fun.
The cutesy anime-ish Facebook game revolves around pets that you feed, pet and race. Unlike Tamagotchi, your pet won’t die if neglected, but it will get very, very sad (you mean-hearted bastard!). You can “adopt” anything from an elephant to a piece of tofu, and some 340,000 people are playing the game. What makes (fluff)friends an awesome community is the forum’s trading post, where members can swap pets, props and habitats for the free currency “munny”, or real-dollar currency “gold”. $5 buys you 50 gold, and items fall or rise in value like real-world stocks and shares. One of the most expensive habitats, at around 500 gold, would therefore be $50 in real terms. A kind-hearted forum-member gave me the habitat, for free, “just because”. Such wild generosity isn’t even unusual – random acts of kindness are just part of the (fluff)friends culture.