EDIT: Oops! Excuse my language. What I really meant to talk about was phyg.
This started out as a comment responding to this article about overcompensating for worshippy behavior by not showing admiration for anyone.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, partly because I participate in a number of internet communities that sprout up around a central person and I definitely feel the pull toward fangirling (such as this community! I admit it!), but other times I think I overcompensate and don't fangirl enough when the person is actually pretty cool. I also have a tiny brother (13) and he's operating in that phyg mentality right now: the moment you tell him that you don't *really* want to watch videos by his favorite Youtuber because you (gasp!) don't find them very funny, he takes it as a personal attack and starts arguing away every single flaw you bring up. (Ray William Johnson is perfect in every way!!) So I've been trying to come up with a good procedure for reacting to people you admire without under/overcompensating for the drive to worship these celebrities.
Here are some stuff I've tried to do
- Try to avoid accidentally caching the name of the community into your identity -- this will make criticism of the central celebrity feel less like a personal attack. I try not to be an 'X fan' or a Whovian or a part of anyone's Nation. I'm just a person that occasionally consumes media X. Or regularly consumes media X. Or sometimes gets addicted to media X. Media X is something I do and community X is something I participate in. That is where I stand with respect to media X and the rest of the world.
- Once you start trying to be aware of identity issues, you can spot which celebrities actively avoid being the center of a community of people who identify with them and which celebrities do things to intentionally suck you in. I don't think that's a good enough reason to conclude they're a phyg leader because there's a pretty big gap between fans who want your autograph and a mindless drone army, but I feel like it's useful to be aware of.
- Then, once you're just a person who consumes media X with some frequency, you can try to formulate precisely why you like media X, along with any flaws you feel like media X has, and then make a list. You can remind yourself that celebrity X lives in a pretty small blob of thingspace by reminding yourself of all the things that aren't on your list. For example, I can think Obama is a 'reasonably competent' president. I sure as hell don't know how to be a president! But I have very little evidence to think that he is also a nice person. Or fun to hang out with. Or good at sports/math/music/science/ethics. Or that he's going to save the world. This lets you safely go around saying that you admire these properties of media X, which is not a fangirly thing to say at all.
- Once you make the list, you can sorta feel the halo effect happen! It's a lot harder to reject some of those than others! One thought experiment is good-looking actors/celebrities that you like in movies that are also being smart or doing something good for the world. (I really want to think JGL is also a nice person. But all I know is he was good in that one movie ...)
- The list also lets you put your likes in context with respect to value. For example, I appreciate that the SourceFed team admitted when they didn't know certain facts during the presidential election. But that's *less* valuable than someone who does have facts and sources, though definitely better than someone shamelessly making stuff up.
The original article asks:
So rather than guess any further, I'm going to turn this over to my readers. I'm hoping in particular that someone used to feel this way—shutting down an impulse to praise someone else highly, or feeling that it was cultish to praise someone else highly—and then had some kind of epiphany after which it felt, not allowed, but rather, quite normal.
Until I started going through this process with the media I consume, I did feel pretty sketchy expressing admiration for things. Now I feel like I have pretty good upper and lower bounds on my admiration for things, so I feel oriented when people try to either accuse me of being a fangirl or accuse the things I like of sucking. I'm permitted to like stuff that sucks in some dimensions or doesn't address others! Not everything I like has to be flawless!
But this leads me to another question. Is there more stuff to be done?! This only works as well as individual people can poke around in their own brains and be honest with themselves. Is there a way to push back at internet mini-celebrities and get them to actively resist becoming a phyg? That is, should something be done about (2)? Or is this an individual 'responsibility' and not really a community issue? Or is it part of the bigger push to teach application of rationality to everything and therefore not something to focus on?