February’s Otaku Diaries entry over at Reverse Thieves explores otaku and socialization in all its forms, whether it be hanging with friends after school or work, or chatting with them online. It should be no surprise that the friends otaku tend to find online are fellow otaku; after all, you don’t “bump into” people on the internet, but rather typically seek out like-minded people, or at the very least ones who can understand your interests.
I still remember the first time I had access to real (non-AOL) internet. The first thing I did? Look for websites about my favorite video game, NiGHTS into dreams… I always figured that I was the one and only fan of SEGA’s greatest game, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out there was an entire online community devoted to NiGHTS. Of course I joined, and it provided me some great memories (as well as some drama, which was perhaps inevitable). Memories are mainly what they are though, as I don’t really keep up with anyone from that period in my internet life. Still, I remember the joy of being able to actually talk to fellow fans from all around the world and revel in our mutual love of purple flying jesters. It reminds me of when I first started using e-mail, when I was so excited to use it that every night I would write up a bunch of thoughts and send them to friends and acquaintances and classmates.
Some might argue that the fact that online friendships tend to start from just liking the same thing makes them particularly flimsy , while others might give the counterpoint that sharing that common ground can make online friends as close if not closer than “real world” friends, especially if those internet buddies are more comfortable opening themselves up through chatting than through speaking. Of course, the line blurs when online friends meet in real life, or close real life friends interact mainly online, and evidently blurring lines are getting more and more commonplace. Personally, I’ve met some of my closest friends from online, and I have friends dear to me that I’ve met in the real world too. At that point, the internet is mainly a tool and it’s up to the person how they use it, whether it becomes a way of connecting with others, or a method of disguise and insulation.
I’d like to make an aside at this point and clarify something I said in the Otaku Diaries response I made about relationships. There I said that sharing a hobby makes for a “weak and flimsy foundation” for a relationship, and some took it as me saying that finding someone because you both like anime is no good. What I really meant was that I think sharing a hobby makes for an excellent starting point, and even provides some mutual understanding, but that it cannot be the cornerstone of a relationship, which is instead built on trust and compassion for each other. I hope that clears everything up.
Now another interesting point that came up is the question of whether or not the participants had ever tried to bring others into anime, and the response was for the most part a resounding “yes.” This I think links directly into that desire of wanting people with whom you can share your hobby. What’s more intriguing, however, is a comment someone made.
Is it really right to assume that 75% of respondents actively trying to draw in new anime viewers is a good thing?
What we have here is the idea that bringing in new anime fans to the fold might be a mistake. Think about that: once upon a time everyone would have agreed that trying to draw in new anime viewers was a good thing, even if fans might not agree on who they thought was good to draw in. I think that the very idea that the desire to introduce others to anime might somehow be detrimental to anime and its fandom speaks volumes about where we are at the moment, this state of being more widely accepted and yet still very much niche, even if it’s just one person’s opinion.