We’ve entered the new era of personality politics. Social media and content sharing platforms have opened the floodgates for the everyday girls and boys to become internet celebrities. It’s a new medium, a new media in it’s infant stages, flip-flopping between being treated with kid-gloves and unchecked disdain. It’s also brought about the notion of ‘fandom’ to everyday vernacular – and even though it’s most certainly not a new concept, the accepted ferocity of some fans entitlement is something I’ve only seen in the very deep, murky depths of otaku and sasaeng culture***. And that’s not something I like seeing.
Content creators end up in a bit of a catch 22 situation: they like/want/need their fans, and their fans like/want/need the relatable content produced… but because the content is so relatable, and often centred around the creator’s’ personal life the fans want to know more. Everything.
But everything is dangerous, and not enough draws criticism, speculation and the need for clarification. Where’s the threshold? When does becoming comfortable with the audience tip into oversharing?
If you were looking for a definitive answer, then I’m sorry, I don’t have one. If you ask ‘how much is too much?’ to a group of content creators the answers will vary wildly; trying to hash out a ‘general’ through analysis would be a waste of time. There will always be outliers, and attempts to police content is something I’m not down with.
The overshare threshold shifts with each content creator. It’s a personal thing, so a ‘one size fits all’ approach to gauge an idea of whether something is suitable to publish or not for an individual is a bit of a non-starter. Some are really open with the idea of sharing the ins and outs of their daily lives, others are far more private. It’s about knowing personal boundaries and adhering to those rather than the fetching little gremlin that comes hand in hand with self-made decisions.
A pressure different from the responsible professionalism other careers expect. It’s more nuanced than stated, coming from multiple places. Anyone who creates content that is predominantly about themselves and puts it online will have probably experienced at least one source. The internal, manifesting in self pressure: the should I talk about this even though I want to? Is it too much??; and familial pressure: how will it affect, or reflect on, the family? The external: blogospheric pressure: there should be more content talking about x,y,z – talking about things helps end stigma and lowers or removes boundaries, it helps create a culture of understanding, vs people calling for less on topics that make them uncomfortable; and fan/reader/viewer pressure: the desire to know everything about their favourite people.
It’s hard to draw clear-cut boundaries in the proverbial sand, things get moved around and blurred as situations and circumstances change. It’s very hard to switch off, especially with the forever expanding list of social services being used to interact. It’s a constant go which can make stepping into ‘overshare’ very, very easy.
And once you’re there it’s almost impossible to claw private ground back.
Once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever.
Then on the flipside, private people are treated as though they have something to hide, or that by only sharing the happy moments they’re curating unattainable standards. Not real enough. Too perfect. Too fake. An alternate existence that isn’t really them, unrelateable, and they must be held accountable for showing young, impressionable audiences cherry-picked content.
You shouldn’t believe everything you see.
Where there isn’t a one size fits all for what to publish, people sure do like to separate what’s already out there into camps.
Generally, I think that our inherent nosiness as a species coupled with the new accessibility to information makes it harder to resist the pressures. Most particularly fan pressure. I honestly do believe we live in a world that is increasingly controlled by the feeling of entitlement – that we deserve to know everything, regardless of whether that ‘thing’ is a person or not. Returning to the catch 22 – if people know more about the person, they’re likely to continue consuming what they’re putting out into the world – the rise of blogging and youtube is down to the more personable feel over magazines and TV, so tapping into that does help if that’s the direction you want to take. But it also creates the issue of fans expecting a level of knowing that some creators may not feel comfortable sharing, and then we’re right back to circling pressures.
It’s a weird concept, I guess, but one that I’ve been thinking about more recently. Personally, I think it’s a case of creators: you do you and don’t let anyone push you around; fans: remember that creators are people and entitled to their privacy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether you agree, disagree or if there’s anything you’d like to add!
*** otaku and sasaeng culture are considered, in Japan and Korea respectively, to be extreme fan cultures. They’re not looked upon favourably. Whereas the meaning of otaku has lessened somewhat in western translation from the original Japanese concept, it’s still not a casual term to be thrown around in relation to Japanese fandoms, especially not in a cutesy way.