Refuge From A Political Fandom

Unlike many of the other servers I’m a member of, the Iyashikei Discord server doesn’t have a “debate” or “serious discussion” channel. Channels like these are often used to discuss more serious real-world topics, and as a place for members to hash out their disagreements on subjects like politics, religion, current events, and social issues.

This was a deliberate decision I made when creating the server, and it’s a decision I’ve made in almost all discussion spaces I control since starting my first online community back in 2008. On that forum, the rules included a guideline that advised against political or religious discussion not directly involving the forum’s topic, gaming. It was never the kind of rule someone would get banned for, and I never really ended up having to take anyone to task for it, but it was important enough to me to put on the rules list.

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Wherever you stand on the 2014 “GamerGate” controversy, it was a harbinger, if not a catalyst, of the encroachment of real-world social and political issues into our hobbies. To those of us who turn to our hobbies as a place to rest, away from the real-world issues were bombarded with in real life on a daily basis, this encroachment poses a legitimate threat.

Some fans’ idea of a solution is taking up the political extreme opposite that of their opponents, which only ends up further muddying the waters by turning a slow encroachment of politics into a full-blown culture war. To them, the newfound interest in their hobby from a political angle is an attack, warranting an equal and opposite defense.

The problem is that fighting politics with the opposite politics only serves to escalate the fighting and polarize the community further. It doesn’t do anything to bring the hobby back to where it was before things got political. Instead, it drives wedges between people and makes things worse.

People need an alternative, somewhere they can talk about their hobbies without the looming threat of the discussion getting political. That’s why the Iyashikei Discord doesn’t have a channel for “serious discussion.” There are (unfortunately) many places where political discussion can and does coincide with anime discussion. Iyashikei doesn’t need to be another place like that.

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There’s something to be said about the stress of information overload. That goes double when that information is negative, irrelevant to your goals and interests, and outside of your influence. It’s well-known that news outlets deliberately polarize and sensationalize to drive views and ratings. And when the subject is something the viewer can’t influence, it only causes further stress.

That’s why many people take refuge in hobbies in the first place, and it’s also why hobbies need spaces where political discussion is actively discouraged. It keeps people from burning out and gives them a way to disengage from the political discussion other than just taking up the opposing politics.

On a greater level, however, it’s important that people be allowed to prefer not to engage in politics. A lot of shaming happens around people who like to separate politics from their hobbies. People will attempt to impose their political or social views on people who want nothing to do with those issues, and will accuse those people of being ignorant, uninformed, or apathetic for their resistance.

It’s an attempt to enforce specific ways of interacting with media as “right” or “wrong,” and it’s a good way to get people to want to disengage completely from the community.

It’s important people have a place where they can de-stress when even the community at-large is a bit much for them. I’m happy to let Iyashikei be that place.