I was writing this whole long rambling post about responsibility, and apologizing for and trying to minimize accidental harm, but then it changed tangents and I think what I most want to say is this:In fandom, please be careful about how negative you are, and how you are negative.
This relates to anything from offering unsolicited crit on a fic (or heck, solicited crit) to hating on a part of canon, or to being an anti, or to discussing your dislike of a popular fic trope.
I'm not saying this for reasons of courtesy and manners, though I think that counts for something. But it's really for a much more selfish reason: Negativity can make people disengage, and that's overall detrimental to fandom. Which I selfishly care about, as a fan.
Spoilers: fandom is a really fucking emotional
thing for most people. Our interests and obsessions are a pretty core part of our identities, and we wouldn't be devoting time and energy to them if we weren't mentally and emotionally engaged. Hearing that someone hates something you love can hurt, even when there is no hurt intended. That's even before we get into the question of fanfic and fanart and vids and other fan creations, and how personal one's art is to most artists. Especially for amateur artists, who aren't getting paid and so the only impetus to share our creations is for emotional validation.
There have been more than a few fic writers who have quit writing because of crit -- because getting crit is really hard even for many professional writers, and people writing for fun may not have the emotional energy to deal with it, or just don't want to, and so they stop, or stop sharing their work publicly. But it's not just direct crit that can do this. If you're writing a trope you love, or a pairing you love, and then you see people talking about how much they dislike that trope or how gross that pairing is, it can make you hesitate to keep writing, or at least hesitate to share your work, knowing you might be inviting crit. Or even just thinking that no one is going to want to read it. (Then, some of us are the opposite and such things inspire us to keep going out of pure spite; but even for me that's something I have to work myself into and it takes its own emotional toll.)
And this hurts, not just the writer, but the fandom as a whole, because someone quitting writing means less fic in the fandom for the rest of us. And even if it's not fic that you like personally, that you'd be happy not to see any more of -- someone else surely would like it, and want more, and do you want to spoil their fun, too?
Likewise, talking about disliking canon can stop discussion, because it can be hard to contradict someone -- especially someone with whom you share a fandom, so there can be that sense of comradery, being in the same community. So if you see a fan friend talking about how X canon thing sucks, rather than argue back that you love that thing, it can be easier to not rock the boat, to not say anything -- but then not feeling comfortable to talk about what you love in a fandom can drain your interest in it, and with it the fandom; and then you drift away, and the fandom shrinks.
To be clear, I'm not saying don't be negative. For one thing, sometimes it's important to do so. Calling out things like racism or toxic behavior can be seen as negative but can also be really crucial for the overall health and safety of a community and the members in it. Pointing out that a fic isn't sufficiently tagged can be a type of criticism (and can hurt a writer) but may help many other fans who could be impacted.
For two, complaining about what we dislike as well as what we like is a big part of fanning for a lot of us -- for me definitely; I enjoy a good hard critical analysis, and I'll be honest, sometimes I take guiltily gleeful pleasure in shredding something I didn't like. And sometimes, too, it feels great to talk about and find out I'm not alone in hating X thing. But I try -- have been trying harder -- to limit how I do it. When I criticize canon, I try to tag/mark it for negativity and squee-harshing, so people who don't want to see it can avoid it. When I criticize fanworks (either a specific fic I don't like, or a trope/ship/etc) I try to ensure it's not personal, and/or to keep it in more private locked channels that won't get back to the writer(s), because that's really all about me and what I like; it's not another fan's fault that I have my preferences, and the last thing I want to do is get in the way of the fun of someone else who is enjoying the fandom as much as I am, if in a different way.
I'm far from great at this -- I've hurt friends on more than one occasion without meaning to because I got too into a fannish debate and didn't realize the feelings I was provoking. I have no doubt that I've discouraged other fans from fanning on and writing things they enjoy, and I'm sorry for that. But I'm trying, and will keep trying -- I've been trying harder especially lately because my current fandom is quite small; just about all of us non-lurkers in it have interacted with each other to some extent, so it makes any interactions more personal than they would be in a larger fandom in which many people don't know each other. I'm not perfect but I'm doing my best. And hopefully my fandoms will be a more encouraging place for it.
tl;dr: make squee, not war?
ETA: this post's original subject was "not-so-vague vague-posting" because I was originally inspired to write it by a mess in my current fandom. My original intent morphed in the writing of it, though, to be more about my own changing feelings about how I interact with the fan communities I'm in, for better or for worse, so I've adjusted the subject to match.Cross-posted at https://xparrot.dreamwidth.org/188155.html with comments over there.