Precursor, this topic drives me nuts.
As a 23 year old Star Trek fan, I have heard every twisted reason in the book as to why my appreciation of the fandom is lesser than another’s.
…and so on. The reason this topic makes me grind my teeth is because I’ve personally dealt with it on many occasions, and I’m sure I haven’t heard the end of it. There seems to be an odd need to prove oneself among certain fans. They want to know the most Trek lore, quote the most Trek episodes, and have met the most Trek stars.
I think that’s ridiculous. Now, don’t misconstrue my words; I am all for diving deep into the Star Trek fandom. I am consistently wowed by the passion of many that hold Trek near and dear to their hearts. There just isn’t, and should never be a hierarchy to Star Trek fans. It’s not about being better than another fan—it’s about coming together and celebrating the thing that you both love. So if your goal is to be the best Trekkie in the world, you’re doing it wrong.
Let’s take it a step further. Hear me when I say: GATEKEEPING CAN COME FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE. How, you might ask? Here’s two possible examples:
So what went wrong in example 1? I placed my love of Star Trek Discovery before showing respect of another’s opinion. That wasn’t very Star Trek of me, was it? I don’t have to be overjoyed that someone doesn’t like Discovery, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I should attack them for feeling that way. But let me clarify this: the example changes if the individual that does not like Discovery is being hateful, attacking those that do enjoy the show, targeting/threatening others, using crude language, or any other facet of cyber-bullying. That behavior has no place on the internet, and I’ll do my darnedest to keep it that way. But why did I list this example first? It’s because this is the side of gatekeeping that can sometimes be overlooked. We think we’re advocating for Discovery, but we’re really dismissing the valid opinions of others.
Moving onto the alternative example:
2. In this example, I am not a fan of Star Trek Discovery. It is my life’s goal to emotionally destroy those that do enjoy the show. I’ll break them down any chance that I get. I’ll be commenting on all their posts when they say how much they enjoy it, I’ll be calling them names, making fun of them with the others that are on my side of the argument, and I’ll go to lengths even after they’ve blocked me to make their life awful.
Now I know you’re thinking: “There is no way that those kind of people exist.” Think again. I’ve come across many in my years of being active in the Star Trek social media community. So what went wrong in this example? Well, pretty much everything—starting with the ethical treatment of other human beings.
For those of you reading this that are not fans of Discovery, know that I hold nothing against you. It’s not your cup of Earl Grey tea, and that’s fine. Just please don’t be like the ridiculous example shown above. It pains me that I even had to write about it. I shouldn’t have to remind anyone of how to be respectful to others.
Star Trek Discovery has brought this whole gatekeeping argument into the forefront, and it’s toxic. There have been times where I simply don’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. But it’s in times like those where I am reminded of how important is that I do speak up when I feel it is necessary. I’ve seen some talk lately revolving around not engaging gatekeepers on social media. I hear that. It gives them a platform, it makes everyone involved angry, and some people are literally just out to hurt others. They relish in the anonymity that sits behind a tweet. Because let’s get real here, I don’t think that the talk that happens on social media would happen in real life if we were all face to face. It’s at least my hope that it wouldn’t, but who knows in today’s landscape.
The other direction that I view the “not engaging them” idea is that by not doing so, we are in a way enabling them. One of my personal goals is to advocate for a positive Star Trek social media community, and if I see that someone is deliberately trying to destroy that, I am probably going to say something. Am I going to fire hate right back? No. Do I want to? Maybe, because I’m human. But instead, I’ll explain the situation respectfully and ask the person in question to remain civil in their social media debates.
I’ve done this before and had two things happen.
Social media can be a force for good. I know this because I am a better person and a better Star Trek fan because of it. I’ve formed numerous friendships, been encouraged to pursue my goals, discovered artists and vendors, learned about conventions, heard from Star Trek stars, and more. It’s a huge part of my life. Is that silly? Maybe, but I’m human.
Can we all make an effort to be kind on social media? Because I really don’t think that it’s too much to ask.
Don’t be a gatekeeper.