I wasn't always a good person. I've spewed my fair share of garbage. I will concede that I never went so far as to write death threats nor have I ever taken actual physical action against someone I had disagreed with about some aspect of fandom. However, I could have been considered a toxic fan nonetheless. What is toxic fandom? Not an easy question to answer. From what I have read/seen and learned from others, it's the place beyond the line of reasonable criticism and is fringe zealotry. The toxic fan is the one who doesn't stop at expressing an opinion; they push and shout and barricade any and all who oppose their narrow world view. I include myself because toxicity is pure mental entropy. It wears down everything exposed to it. I used to rant and rave about Magic: The Gathering, Furries, Cosplayers, and basically all aspects of geekdom I wasn't interested in or really knew what it was. (Note: I am now an MTG player-in-training, I founded a cosplay group, and I have come to embrace my inner animal self.)
So why the change and how do I manage toxicity personally?
Firstly, most people, geek or otherwise, do not like negativity. There's drama and then there's DRAMA. The person who has a constant black cloud over their heads is a black hole of misery and need. They complain constantly or criticize to the point where you just want to beat them to death with their own shoes. The "Grumpy Gus" or " Debbie Downer." Nothing makes them happy and they let everyone know it. I am blessed with friends and family who have tolerated my negativity and have actively sought to tamper it down. Not everyone is so lucky, but there are those in your life who do have your better interests at heart. LISTEN TO THEM. I'm not saying submit or outright abandon your beliefs. Advice is free guidance; take it or leave it. Get over yourself. Ego is wonderful. It is the the center of self. Egomania is a exaggeration of self. You are not a pretty little snowflake. You are a flawed sack of flesh and bone like the rest of us. Be unique by being yourself. (Unless you insist that your true self is a jerk at which point I would recommend to enjoy being a pariah and alone.)
Secondly, I have conditioned my brain to process negativity through my creativity. If you've seen my work, you will notice I have a skewed view of plot and structure. That's my style. It's taken me years to develop this ability. I'm not sure if it's a teachable thing. It's become instinct for me. Negativity is energy. Electricity is negatively charged. We light and heat our homes with it. Take the feeling behind the negativity and separate it as best you can from the thoughts attached and shape it. Maybe writing isn't your thing. It works for almost any form of self-expression. the more you do it, the more you will recognize the feeling and be able to funnel it properly. It's like a form of meditation. I will admit even Zen Master G has his limits. Sometimes the bull is too thick or keeps coming in rapid succession. It's like drowning in crazy. Stay calm or as calm as you can and move through it.
Which leads to another way I deal: don't give in. It's too tempting to raise a hand or fire back. Toxic fans only have power over you if you let them have it. A threat is a string of words meant to elicit fear in the target. I'm not saying ignore them. Don't respond. Don't engage. Let the fire burn itself out. If I let every single thing I read on the internet influence my decisions, I'd abandon society and go live in a log cabin somewhere far from the works of Man. Report repeated abuse. Many websites like Facebook have options like "Unfollow" or "Ignore" or "Block X." Use them. Unless the actions of some faceless idiot is actively directly affecting your life and/or ability to live, step away from it mentally. Unless the law changes, everyone has the right to express themselves. More importantly, the right to be stupid. Within a certain book is written , paraphrasing, "Treat others as you would be treated yourself." Now the trick is to reverse that. instead of becoming a troll yourself, use understanding and an open-mind. Maybe a troll does what they do because they have a legitimate reason like mental illness or they themselves were bullied as children so it's an inversion of repressed emotions. (<Raises hand>) I lashed out because for a good chunk of my life I was in an emotional coma of sorts. When i "woke up", I had loads of repressed garbage come spilling out. I have put a lot of it behind me. Ghosts are only ghosts because they can't let go of half-forgotten feelings or memories. Nowadays, I try to leave the day's events behind before I go to sleep.
There is a fine line between apathy and not being affected. Apathy is almost pathological. I do tend to wonder if people who are apathetic may also be sociopaths. That is an article for another day.
I'm no expert of the human condition. I still get angry. I still have buttons which are triggered or deliberately pushed. It's my confidence in myself that I hold to keep me grounded. The world is going slowly insane. More and more toxicity is leaking into all aspects of media. The fringe is gaining a louder and louder voice. Eventually the outsiders will become the insiders and reason will be replaced by madness. It's not too late. If you listen to any voice, listen to the one inside your head screaming for you to stop and make a reality check. Look around and try to see yourself through the eyes of those around you. Your feelings of entitlement are hollow. Nobody owes you a damn thing. It's easy to make demands. You want to really get what you want? Work for it. Write the screenplay in your head, even if it's only a set of scenes. Get some people, a camera, and make the movie. Stop railing against Hollywood for not doing things the way you want them to be. Don't like a restaurant's food, don't eat there. Don't like a band's music? Stop listening. Even better still, pull your head out of your backside and remember this: you could be making that music or writing those books. You are the reason you don't succeed in life…or you can go back to bitching about the latest Star Wars movie while Disney counts your money. Last I looked, it's still a free country.
You can keep up with Geoff's skewed sense of plot and structure as a regular contributor to The CineMasoCast!