Whether you’re new to being a geek, or you’ve been one your entire life, there are issues that arise within each community/fanbase/subculture that could do with a little bit of fine-tuning. We’re living in an age where being a nerd has never been more popular: from comic books to TV shows, to films, to video-games, almost everyone can find some piece of geek culture that they can relate to. That being said, it’s important that we all keep a few key rules in mind when it comes to our favorite realm of geekdom, lest we fall prey to the dark side. In order to ensure we’re all fostering healthy discourse, and welcoming environments for newcomers, we should all follow these 5 simple rules!
#1: Be Cool
The most hurtful stereotype of being any kind of nerd, or geek, is that they are not cool. Superheroes are in fashion now, but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a more likable person by default. By all means, know when it’s time to get upset about something (from bad ships to poor/offensive casting choices, we’ve all been heated) but for some things…just learn to let it go. Your favorite superhero just got the axe in favor of a new legacy hero? Brush it off. It’s comics, your hero will be back in no time, and more than likely that legacy hero exists as a way to help some new readers (probably younger readers, or someone who was just like you at some point) get into the same stuff you like. Inclusivity is important to reflect the readership!
Does someone disagree with you about how the season finale of your favorite show should’ve ended? Discuss it, but don’t name call! People have different opinions than you, and that’s okay. There’s no need to get up in arms because someone thinks differently than you. If you really listen, sometimes you’ll find someone else’s idea is actually better than yours. Bottom line: relax. Know when it’s time to get legitimately upset, and know when you’re just being petty. No one will take you seriously if you’re being rude about an already pedantic point.
#2: Be Open-Minded
This is similar to a point made in rule #1, but it needs to be said more specifically: “open your mind!” I’m talking to you Ghost Busters fans! And Doctor Who fans. And Spider-Man fans. The list goes on, but the point is clear as day. Your way isn’t the only way! Embrace change! Nothing lasts forever. This is not only the nature of most of the comic-book industry (and all things fiction), but of life itself. Most of your favorite characters have been alive since before you were born, and pretty much all of them will exist sometime after you’ve left this world. They will change, and so will their stories. They’ll find themselves in new situations, with new friends, new enemies, but they’ll still be themselves! If you don’t like a change, that’s cool! See rule #1, and simply don’t continue to consume that piece of media anymore. But don’t go around spoiling it for those who do like it just because you consider yourself “a bigger fan.” If it weren’t for change, we wouldn’t have characters like Mary Jane Watson, or Kamala Khan. We wouldn’t have new films like “The Force Awakens”, or shows like “The Legend of Korra.” This isn’t to say that all change is good change, but it is to say that you should remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Heroes have to save everyone else, remember that.
#3: Be Thoughtful
Remember the song from Adventure Time? “Empathy, empathy, put yourself in the place of me!” Just take a second to think of other people. That includes spoilers, other people’s feelings, and being aware of other people’s resources. Be conscious of how you speak to others in discussion, and be aware of whether or not you’re spoiling anything for anybody around you! I once had a very pivotal moment from Season 4 of “Orange is the New Black” spoiled for me before I got to it, and it left me fuming. I mean sure, everybody knows Vader is Luke’s dad at this point, but for more current affairs, it’s best to just be cautious at all times. And again, don’t resort to name-calling, or hurtful behavior if you’re not getting your way. That’s just embarrassing. And even more important, keep in mind that not everyone has the same resources as you. Not all nerds are treated equally, sadly enough, so just because you can afford those amazing tickets to Comic-Con, and somebody else can’t, it doesn’t make you a “better fan.” Which brings me to my next point…
#4: Be Welcoming
No gatekeeping. Seriously, just don’t do it. We all know what it’s like to not feel welcome somewhere, so don’t make new fans feel bad for not knowing something, and don’t assume you’re a bigger fan just because you’ve read more comics than someone else. I like Spider-Man. Do you like Spider-Man? That means we’re both Spider-Man fans. It’s as easy as that. There’s no prerequisite for simply liking something, no list of books, or films that are required readings, so don’t be “that guy” and claim to be the end-all-be-all of a fandom just because you’re older, or you’ve read more, or had more experience. If you have a suggestion for somebody, suggest it! But don’t hark on them for not knowing all that you know, or make them feel less than because of how much longer you’ve been a fan of something.
#5: Be Yourself
Seriously, just be you. If you don’t know something, or if you don’t like something, don’t pretend otherwise. Be upfront about your likes, and dislikes. Being open about who you are is the first step to not only figuring out what you like but also discovering others who like the same stuff as you. Remember, the whole point of being a geek is that you’re allowed to be who you want to be without anybody telling you otherwise. Stand up for yourself! Whatever it is you like, I guarantee someone else will be in the same fandom/ship/headcanon as you. There are dozens of you, DOZENS!
This short list of guidelines will help you become more conscious of how you interact with those around you and will continue to help bring in new fans from all over to get engaged with the specific content. Share the article if you agree, and comment your own guidelines you think can help keep things positive, and open!