How to engage with people in fandom of special interest

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Renalani
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19 Feb 2024, 3:19 am

I had a rough experience last week trying to engage in a Discord server for the fandom of my number one special interest. I have lots of different hobbies and interests that wax and wane in intensity, but my number one special interest holds a place in my heart and in my soul that I don’t think will ever be usurped by anything else.

Last week in a server for this fandom that I'm in I saw a bunch of polls were put up for each of the main characters asking people to choose between their different versions and openly encouraging debate in the chat. Up until this point I hadn’t been too involved in the server as I found the amount of engagement and different channels overwhelming and this felt like the opportunity to finally get to gush about my special interest to fellow fans. The inciting event was when I mentioned how much better I thought the new TV series handled an extremely intense scene compared to in the book series and a replying message said, “I have to completely disagree <3”. This scene was so upsetting to me that the first time after I read it I threw the book across the room and couldn’t return to it until a week later. Then more and more messages started flooding in for how great this scene was for developing the characters and that it helped show that the main character had to choose to be good and wasn’t just inherently good which then put me on the defensive that I of course also believe he chooses to be good, but that this scene caused me to doubt him and his convictions and was confusing and hard to understand and it just became this awful back and forth as I tried to defend my reasoning.

Obviously, knowing tone and precise meaning is extremely difficult over text (and even more so as an autistic person) but their responses seemed at times condescending and like they thought I just didn't understand it which was not the case. Worst of all, as I was becoming emotionally unraveled and my heart was pounding faster and faster, no one else (as best as I could tell) seemed anywhere near as invested in this debate and by the time I said “Fine! You win! It’s better in every way!” (I said something like this. I didn’t mean it sincerely, I was just feeling bitter and petty) they seemed confused like this wasn’t a big deal and not a win, lose situation and then the conversation proceeded on like nothing had happened while I was left in a complete emotional mess. I continued to be a mess for several days afterward and am still feeling some of the emotional recoil of what happened.

Thank you for reading until here, I just really needed to get this off my chest to other people who may know what it’s like to have such intense feelings for something and get so invested that when something like this happens they have a complete meltdown. I know everyone is entitled to their opinions and I can’t expect to not be met with people with dissenting ones especially when I am expressing my own, but how do I guard my feelings and not be so easily shaken in what I believe? How can I engage in the fandom of my favorite thing ever without getting my heart broken?

TLDR: Got into a debate about a scene in my number one special interest that left me extremely upset. How do I stand strong in my opinions and not let the views of others make me doubt myself and what I feel?



elotepreparado
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19 Feb 2024, 4:59 am

This is rough. Sometimes engaging with others that are share your interest is really difficult because when it is a special interest, it can also be something that is really protected in your heart and you don't want others to change the connection you have with it.

When other people "correct" my opinion, I often get really sad or frustrated and like no one will understand me if I tried to explain why I felt what I felt. Or I felt like I was stupid for not understanding it better. I think maybe I am "over-reacting" because I sometimes end up feeling like I am being isolated and made fun of all over again. It is like a reminder to me that I am "wrong" a lot because of past experiences with trying and failing to socialize in some social circles as a kid and teen.

To help myself, I try to think that they are correcting because their experience is probably in a different shaped bubble within the interest. So they have a different "lens" when they engage with it. I think about how just as they can say my opinion is wrong, I can say that theirs is wrong to me because we have different lenses. I think this applies even more to special interests that involve media like TV series because there is a lot of personal interpretation that viewers can get from character design, dialogue, plot, etc. As a viewer, you can choose for yourself how you want to enjoy the story. You can think more about the opinions that they share if you want to try and experience the series through a different lens but you do not have to do that. You can keep your own version of interpretation that you are happy with. They were not in your mind when you were reading and watching so they don't know if you said anything right or wrong about what you feel.

But you could also try and avoid the conflicting stuff in those communities. Not gonna lie, that is what I do. There is no use in arguing over an opinion about a hobby once I have already shared mine. I interact in my special interest online only to hop in when they talk about something I like and then hop out when it changes topic. When my specific interest gets dissed on, I just click away from the discussion bc it's online and I don't have to abide by irl manners lol. But ig that might just be easier for me because I mostly engage with my interest when I am alone and don't care much for sharing it unless it is to bring it up randomly with people around me that probably don't care oops.

I hope you are still currently enjoying your own interpretation of the series that you love. Your interpretation of it is what makes up a lot of the relationship you have with it so you can protect it or change it as much as you like. The people that keep correcting your opinion are mostly talking to themselves anyways because they don't actually care if a person online changes their interpretation of a series. They're kinda weird if they do care so much.



Renalani
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20 Feb 2024, 6:04 pm

Thank you so much for your kind response! It's really encouraging to know other people struggle with socializing when it comes to special interests even when it's with people who share that interest and even more so when it is a number one special interest. I definitely felt really stupid during the debate because no matter what I actually feel or believe if a bunch of people are all simultaneously contradicting my opinion I'm going to feel in that moment like I must be the one who is mistaken. I know that my low-self esteem is what makes it hard to not judge myself for my opinions and I have to fight against the thoughts that tell me if I found a scene too intense and uncomfortable in a piece of media that I'm just not as strong as the other fans and thus my opinions are less valid.

I really liked what you said about people viewing media through different lenses and how someone else will never fully know what my lens is like because it comes from my own background and personal experiences with a piece of media. My black and white thinking (which is my most severe autistic trait) insists on believing there are right and wrong opinions on everything when that isn't the case and there isn't anything inherently morally wrong with viewing or preferring a story a certain way. Getting my mind to accept this will take consistent effort, but I deserve it to be able to best enjoy my special interests.

I should still also be more mindful when engaging with fans of my number one interest with what opinions I share and whether I am currently ready to have them challenged. I shared an opinion not knowing how divisive it would be and without knowing how much it would hurt me mentally to have people disagree so strongly. I mostly share my excitement over my special interest with in-person friends who don't also have it as one of theirs. They're really sweet about it and will send me pictures and buy me gifts of it, but they aren't generally personally invested. While it can be really exciting to talk with someone who shares that excitement over the interest it is riskier because we are both invested in it in our own unique ways and that can lead to debates and misunderstandings.

This was no doubt a painful experience, but my love and connection with my special interest is too strong for anything to break it. My relationship with it gives my life more vibrancy and meaning and that's what really matters.



funeralxempire
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20 Feb 2024, 6:08 pm

Renalani wrote:
My black and white thinking (which is my most severe autistic trait) insists on believing there are right and wrong opinions on everything when that isn't the case and there isn't anything inherently morally wrong with viewing or preferring a story a certain way. Getting my mind to accept this will take consistent effort, but I deserve it to be able to best enjoy my special interests.


It's good to be able to recognize internal issues like this.


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