On Social Media and Insulting Fans

There’s a good chance I’ve talked about this or similar issues before, but whatever.

Pretty much no one needs reminded that the internet, social media, and Facebook especially can be very negative places. Personally, I’ve done a pretty good job of paring down my friend list and cutting out the biggest offenders, from racists and bigots to a man who personally attacked me for my beliefs to a former classmate who referred to transgender individuals as “shim” or “it” AND said Penn State students deserved settlement money from the Sandusky sexual-abuse case for their student loans to frenemies. But Facebook is still full of people who act like assholes simply because they can, or maybe because they’re just really unhappy and don’t know what else to do. Seriously, I am a firm believer in the idea that excessive complainers and trolls are really just unhappy and are either trying to bring everyone down with them or are just lashing out because they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

But I digress.

Arguing with such people is often pointless and exhausting, but I’m also a firm believer that if you stay silent in the midst of racism or sexism or homophobia or just plain rudeness, you’re only a small step down from the one doing the talking. You’re letting it happen, for the most part, at least in the context of the internet. Naturally, the issue isn’t quite as simple when speaking up might endanger you, and granted, on the internet, things like calling yourself a feminist can get you death threats.

I choose my battles. I deleted all those friends because I was tired of the negative impact their posts were having on me as a person and because frankly, much as I believe we all ought to speak up, it can be really damn hard–not everyone feels like jumping into an argument every time the opportunity presents itself. Whether or not I do so is random. I’m more inclined to, say, jump in and call my brother out on something shitty than I am a distant relative, although my brother is fortunately not that much of an asshole that it’s an issue. Just don’t tell him I said that.

A huge, huge part of why I believe in speaking up is because I would hate for someone to be scrolling through their Facebook feed and be hurt by comments made about their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, pretty much anything. If they have to see it, I’d like them to see something positive, too, to know that there are people supporting them and that care.

And even though in the grand scheme of things, a dude trolling a band and its fans is very, very minor, I couldn’t just sit by and watch a guy be an asshole today.

I’ve been a fan of local band Punchline for probably more than 10 years now–I remember hearing local DJs play “The World” at middle-school dances, and then in high school, they opened for I think Anberlin at Mr. Smalls theater. They played “The World,” and I was like, “Oh, those guys!” and have been a fan pretty much ever since. So has Brandon. We stopped counting how many of their shows we’ve been to, and my favorite April Fools’ joke I pull every year is that they broke up. He believes me every damn year.

They’re putting out a new album. They’ve been alt-rock/pop-punk up to now, and they said they’re gonna go in a new direction now–like how Mumford and Sons ditched the banjos and went electric, except Punchline ditched their electric guitars and went a little more electropop. I was nervous about the switch, but their newest song, “Tell Me How You Sleep,”  is really catchy and well-done, and I’m pleased and excited to hear more. If anything, I just miss their kind of unique take on pop-punk–I was a fan of their guitars–and I’m wondering how the live shows will be. It’s what happens whenever a band makes a pretty big sound change, honestly. Almost anyone who’s been a fan of any musician knows the feeling. It’s not about disliking the new stuff, it’s not about preferring one era over another, it’s about an adjustment period as a fan.

I fully expected some backlash to the song, and I’m sure the band did, too. Not everyone’s gonna like it, especially when it’s so different from what we’re used to from the band. So when I was doing a Facebook scroll-through and saw the post about “Tell Me How You Sleep,” I figured I’d pop in and see what people had to say.

Honestly, it was mostly positive. Some people admitting it wasn’t their thing but wishing the band the best, some polite expressions of not really liking it. But I kept noticing this one dude’s name pop up over and over again, like he just couldn’t stop letting people know how much he disliked it. He started by comparing the song to Owl City–which I personally find to be a strange, almost outdated comparison since I haven’t even thought about Owl City in years and because with the electronic sound so big in music right now, there are so many other more accurate and more relevant comparisons one could make. But whatever. The problem was this guy just kept going, and he was going beyond mere dislike of the song to insulting both the band and their fans. And I couldn’t just let him keep on keepin’ on. It was annoying. It was rude. It was unnecessary.

So as politely as I could think to, I told the guy that he’s free to dislike the song and free to express that but that he was getting a little mean for no reason, that it was a really, really different sound and some people weren’t going to like that but there was no need to continuously leave negative comments. He came back with saying it wasn’t different at all, that it sounds like tons of other stuff out there–which wasn’t what I meant–and that it was an embarrassment to the band. Another guy chimed in agreeing with me, calling the guy an embarrassment to the band’s fans, and the guy said he wasn’t a fan. The post was a sponsored one that popped up on his feed and that he was doing us all a favor by pointing out how bad it was.

I correct him on the point of the sound being “different”–I told him I’d meant that it was different than their previous material, under the assumption that he was a disappointed fan, but that I now saw he was really just interested in insulting anyone and trolling, really. And unless he was being sarcastic, he admitted that and essentially said the band abandoned their previous sound to latch on to what’s popular right now. In retrospect, it was long-winded way of calling them sellouts. And I don’t think any adult trying to have a legitimate discussion about music should be talking of selling out, no matter how roundabout the words they use for it.

In retrospect, it’s also kind of fascinating to me that he makes all these statements about the song and the sound and the band’s intentions as an admitted non-fan who knows nothing of the band’s background or the long post that made the rounds on the band’s social media the other day about the new sound.

But I didn’t think it was right to just sit back and let this guy shit all over a band and their fans. And insulting fans of just about anything is off-limits to me. I think we all get not understanding how/why something could even have fans, but it’s another thing entirely to insult them as people, unless we’re talking about things like fan behavior. It may be a tiny issue, but it’s still rude and condescending and it has zero place in a discussion about music.

The thing is–and I guess in some ways, this isn’t surprising–this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen with music. What’s more alarming, though, is that the last time I was bothered by it, it was actually comments a professional writer made in a professional review of Amanda Palmer, where insults really have no place or bearing. It was an interesting review all round. The writer sounded as though she went in already hating Amanda Palmer and only intended to rip her to shreds from the start, and rip her to shreds she did. But it wasn’t limited to Palmer’s music or even her performance. She actually went so far to say that Palmer’s fans are so blinded by their love for her, so stupid, that they don’t realize her music is actually terrible. Which again brings up the question of why you’re reviewing the show of a musician whose music you hate, but I also fail to see how that opinion of the fans is relevant. In fact, it’s downright unprofessional.

In the end, Punchline’s frontman validated my reasons for speaking up in the first place–he actually sent me a private message, saying he and his bandmate were wondering if anyone would stand up to the guy and thanking me for being the one to do it. It was nice to know they saw it and were maybe a bit uplifted by it.

On a related note, one of these days I plan to write an open letter to a girl I heard making fun of people at a Jukebox the Ghost show.

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