On the Topic of Community

Fair warning – this MAY be a bit of a ramble. Just follow along with me here, if you don’t mind. 🙂

So for a few months now, I’ve been really focused on the idea of “community”.

As I mentioned in the Discourse: Eliminating Toxicity post, I’ve been in fandoms of assorted kinds for all of my adult life. Gaming, LARPing, sci-fi, etc – but one of the things I’ve done that I am most proud of is working for assorted local conventions.

There is something so very satisfying to me about being one of the organizers of an event that brings people together. Seeing everyone enjoying themselves, united in some kind of common love for something, truly brings joy to my heart. I stepped away from working for conventions back in 2018 for assorted personal reasons, but I haven’t stopped attending (except for when we were all forced to due to the pandemic).

When I got into K-Pop in early 2022, I talked with my friend Marley about wanting more local events in New Orleans to bring more people together – and luckily, more events started happening here! Lots more cupsleeves, a couple of K-Pop nights at a local bar, Junction, and a few trading events. We even have K-Pop Club Night coming here in a few weeks (which I already bought my tickets for because I NEED to shake my booty).

Over the past couple of months, I began wondering if I could be someone to bring the community together too.

Community is important to humans. Not just in-person, either – I believe online communities and groups are just as viable and needed. We thrive when we are surrounded by people that love the same things we do. Whether that’s a general love for K-Pop overall, or love of a specific group or artist, we love being involved in those communities and knowing others love the things we do.

Having said that – I see the bad things that can come out of a community as well. The chance for bullying, sasaengs, stalking. And of course, this is always fed by the media. How many of us still hide our love for K-Pop from people we know in real life, or in our professional lives, because there can be SUCH a negative connotation of it? Especially if you’re an older fan, like myself. A lot of people see K-Pop fans as immature, childish, petulant, stalkers, and online bullies. I will not lie – that can be the case. Since I’ve been making the rounds on Twitter and other social platforms, I see those stereotypes online daily.

Does that make me want to STOP being part of this community?

Absolutely not.

Communities can do great things together. I believe that the positive K-Pop fans could very easily drown out or discredit the negative or problematic ones, if we all came together. I truly do believe that there are more uplifting, friendly, fun, meaningful fans in this community than there are the “bad” ones. I also believe that we can change the stereotype if we just come together.

I have seen friendships be developed across the country, and across the globe.

I have seen people coming together in joy and love at concerts and other events.

I have seen fans pulling together to support other fans that they have never interacted with, fans reaching out to do community service, or support charities that mean a lot to the group or the artists – or even to drive positive change for the future. I believe this is within us all.

I asked my Twitter and Instagram friends what they associate with the K-Pop community – good OR bad – and what this community means to them. I got some good – and thought-provoking – answers. (I edited the below comments for proofreading, spelling, or punctuation issues, but did not add or change words.)

I’ve been a fan of Kpop for 14 years already, so it’s basically my whole youth, 2009 – 2NE1’s debut and I have been hooked since. So yes, when I think of kpop, the word youth, memories and safe haven comes to mind. Youth and Memories because I grew up with it as my main music in life. So many memories were made with a single genre of music. I made friends, met idols that I didn’t think was possible, developed my passion and confidence in performing and found my true passion in design and event production too. My youth was full of dreams that came true thanks to kpop. Safe Haven because I found ultimate comfort in artists I came to love. Yes, they are not perfect since they are still human beings, but their words and their music was enough to pick me up when I am sad, make me smile, and make me feel like someone can actually listen and understand me. But of course, Kpop isn’t perfect, the fandom culture of it is insane that I just can’t comprehend why idols are just not as free as they want to be, like they’re humans, relationships shouldn’t be a scandal, sasaengs also should not exist and the blatant disrespect these idols got like we don’t own them, we’re fans who choose to love them but we don’t control them at all. I really don’t like that aspect at all. – Neko

Mutual screaming
In my experience, acceptance

Mob mentality
Cancel culture
Unsafe and unrealistic expectations
– Sammie

It means a lot, I’ve met some great people here and some lovely friends who will be friends forever 😘 there’s always downs with highs but we come together when it matters. The fact people from all races/backgrounds come together to share a love of music I think is amazing. – Frankie

It’s family to me. I’ve made so many friends from liking the groups that I do, even met several in real life. Concerts & cupsleeves are exciting because we all get to be together. There’s always gonna be negativity somewhere, but I don’t engage with it & block when needed.
– Dazzy

Fun, Community Hive Mind, messy – Era

I think of the friends I’ve made through k-pop, I think of the sheer beauty and artistry of it. And I also think about the fanwars which are sometimes kinda funny when they don’t take themselves too seriously.
– SugarCookieNay

I think of community as a place where I can find commonality, camaraderie, and unity. I’d like to think of it as a safe space, but that’s not often the case in the kpop community. While I acknowledge the fantastic friendships I’ve forged in this community, I also can’t ignore the struggles of being a POC kpop fan. – Teddy

I want to be known as someone in this community that is uplifting, positive, supportive, and understanding. I want to be known as someone who boosts others up and shows them to be the best person they can be, whether that’s in the fandom or in their everyday life. So I am going to work on my end to bring this community together – both online and in real life. I want to organize and work with others to host events that bring people joy and happiness, even if it’s for a few hours. I want to inspire others to participate and have fun, and provide a safe space for ALL people, no matter what.

I can’t do it alone, though. I need others to come with me on this journey of creating a better community for us all, everywhere.

As ATEEZ says in “Intro: Long Journey”:

“Will you join us?”

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