I’m a nerd. A big old nerdy nerd with a dash of geek and dork thrown in there, too. I like things that many people consider nerdy, like sci-fi, video games, British comedies, and comic books. I discovered most of these things long before the Internet was a part of daily life, and so for years, I felt like an oddball, a weirdo with bizarre interests.
Fast-forward fifteen years or so, to a time when I spend more time in front of my computer than away from it. I’m hooked into pretty much every form of social media out there, and as my network of “friends” keeps growing, I discover that I’m not a weirdo! (Well, mostly.) Other people like the same bizarre stuff I do! I can talk about my nerdy pursuits with all sorts of people who get it, who get me. Being able to share these interests and talk about the things I enjoy with so many people just causes me to get more in-depth. I get recommendations for books and TV shows and movies that I might not have discovered otherwise. This is great, right?
There comes a point when I reach complete saturation with some of these things, when the people I interact with don’t seem able to discuss anything else. By only focusing on one narrow subject per group of peers, there begins a self-perpetuating spiral of attention that brushes the line of obsession. One TV show, one movie universe, one game. And that’s all anyone talks about. It’s fun at first; people discover neat little things that relate to the fandom (I really hate that word, by the way) — drawings, crafts, hard-to-find props, funny T-shirts, that sort of thing. And then people start interacting with the universe in their own ways. They write stories related to the subject. They start “shipping” the characters (creating non-canon relationships). They create, and discuss, and, to someone on the outside looking in, it seems like obsession.
And slowly, I become so inundated with information and discussion related to that one interest that I begin to get annoyed with the discussion or community, and then I turn my annoyance to the TV show or book or movie or whatever it is that’s being obsessed over. Soon enough, I can’t even stand to hear the name of this thing that I once loved, and I start to resent the people who are discussing it.
That’s terrible, right? How dare these people make me hate what I once loved? Well, it’s not their fault. They have a passion for this thing, and once their passion surpasses the point of my own enthusiasm, I need to take responsibility for myself and step back to the point where I can still enjoy the TV show or comic books or movies that I once loved. So I manage my own damn Internet. I stop going places and reading things that make me roll my eyes with what I see as a single-minded focus. I use various tools to avoid mentions of these things so I don’t get burned out on them. And little by little, I regain my love for my nerdy little pursuits.
Having instant access to people all over the world is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to get carried away, though, and let an interest take over your online life until it reaches the point where you turn from loving it to hating it. The key is to find a balance; still enjoying the source material and participating in the community without the kind of overexposure that makes you cringe. Each person has a different level of tolerance, and it usually takes being pushed past your limit at least once to learn where that limit actually is. Until you find that point, tread carefully, and don’t let someone else’s passion diminish your own.
(This post also appeared at Persephone Magazine.)