Many otaku will lament that otaku hobbies and tendencies are often not socially accepted. This lack of acceptance overwhelms some otaku, causing some to shave away parts of their “otaku-ness” in order to fit in socially, and causing others to go off the deep end while shutting themselves off from society.
This is a result of a faulty premise.
People wrap their social acceptance (or lack thereof) up with various forms of identity, and hobbies are no exception. This is the wrong foot to start off on, as it binds social acceptance to your engagement with your hobby. Suddenly, being accepted socially becomes a function of whether or not you’re “too into” this or that.
This works both ways, too. Just as many people connect being an otaku with low social acceptance, many otaku see low social acceptance as part of being an otaku, and thus internalize their own social ostracism. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection.
The key is to disconnect social acceptance from your hobby entirely. It’s possible to be a perfectly socially-acceptable person who also reads Kodomo no Jikan. These two details of your life are completely different and there’s no need to link them.
The impulse to link hobbies with social acceptance is partially passive, as a background radiation of fan society, and partially active, as a socially-reinforced thought pattern. The idea is that you “trade” social skills for fandom expertise, so that the most knowledgeable, most highly-committed people in the subculture happen to also be the least adept at engaging with anyone but each other.
Under this false premise, people see a fork in the road: Either give up some level of expertise and commitment to get some social skills back, or go all-in on subculture, abandoning any aspirations of greater social acceptance.
The fact is you can have both.
This kind of thing is a “crab bucket,” in that any time someone tries to transcend this false dichotomy, people still stuck in it try to drag them back down.
The people who abandoned parts of their hobby in favor of gaining social acceptance will insist that the hobby is what causes social rejection, and that commitment to the hobby can’t co-exist with social acceptance as a result.
The people who abandoned social skills in favor of commitment to their hobby will insist that social rejection is an intrinsic part of the hobby itself, and that seeking social acceptance, by its very nature, betrays the subculture.
Both are trying to reconcile their lack of satisfaction with the decision that they made under false pretenses.
You can have both. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy:
- Separate your concept of “social acceptance” from your otaku identity.
- Understand that social skills are skills, which means they can be learned. Commit to learning them.
- Provide value to people.
- Be pleasant to be around.
- Do interesting things.
- Associate with people who build you up and encourage you.
And if some people are petty enough to still reject you because they don’t like that you like anime, you reject them. Because at that point it’ll be their loss.