Lately, a discussion topic has been making the rounds of various idol commentary blogs with the subject of hiding the fact that you enjoy idols in your everyday life. This subject hits a bit of a nerve with me, as I’m a strong advocate of the mentality of supporting the things you love in every walk of life, and I think it leads to to being a happier person in general and with more pride in yourself.  Some people may say that having pride in yourself may be a pre-requisite of being able to openly display your support for the things you love, but I’d like to argue otherwise.

It seems a very common occurrence within fandoms of any type to have a somewhat introverted personality and use the fandom you love to comfort to your self-imposed loneliness unless you’re around people who you know also openly embrace the same fandoms as you. This is a bit of a self-diminishing way to live and a way that perpetuates your loneliness and introverted nature into more advanced levels without having any way to branch out and possibly overcome this mentality. I’d even say its very dangerous to your mental health.

I could see some idol fans saying “well, all the Japanese wota hide their fandom as well, so why is it so wrong?” The glaring fallacy here is first assuming that Japanese idol wota are some kind of role model for overseas fans (or anyone, for that matter…) This idea is sadly actually becoming an accepted “go-to” excuse for overseas fans being too irrationally obsessed with idols. Sad to say, but most Japanese fans are even worse than most overseas fans, when it comes to leading healthy, productive lives, and their society has just as much pressure as any other world culture regarding following traditional, accepted societal roles and interests.

Remember, these are the people that harass and insult idols at events, are disrespectful of other fans, and cover their face in every picture or video they take that has anything to do with idols in the same picture. If you think those are things that someone who is deeply proud of their interests and is a good role model does, look again.

The saddest part of this situation, regardless of what society you live in, is that all of these mentalities basically boil down to a simple case of peer pressure, but exaggerated beyond the bounds of just the people you encounter on a regular basis, and being on a bigger scale of some kind of widely-accepted tradition or standard by society.

I have a deeper problem with societal expectations in general, as I think they ruin and oppress more lives than they actually help, and that’s something that I see affecting us on an everyday basis, especially in our modern culture that is facilitated by the internet and world-wide connectivity. The internet takes on the form of a double-edged sword as far as helping people who allow themselves to be pressured by these expectations.

On one hand, the internet can help some people overcome these pressures by joining together and communicating with people (often not local) who have moved beyond these pressures and provide a good example of how to overcome them. On the other hand, this also creates a community of people who often group together and share these qualities with a hive-mind mentality and wallow in their shared fears and insecurities instead of finding ways to truly overcome them, and it often ends up in an endless spiral of overly-emotional and reactionary online posts, huge amounts of money spent, and further falling into the depths of helpless obsession with something that is, at it’s core, a consumer product.

There are dozens or even hundreds of fandoms in our world today associated with entertainment media, from video games, Harry Potter, Anime, and Star Wars to Japanese idols, Kpop, and Justin Bieber. The one common thread between all of these fandoms is the element of fantasy. We all want (and arguably need) fantasy in our lives to escape the monotony and stress of everyday life in our current society, and these various fandoms allow many people to healthily embrace fantasy and have happier experiences in life than they would by just following current news events and everyday human drama.

The unhealthy issue creeps up when the supporter loses sight of what is reality and what is fantasy, and loses the ability to balance the two. The fantasy and joy of fandoms start to overcome the reality and responsibilities we innately have by existing in the world today, and we begin the spiral of obsession and potential delusion regarding the fandoms we love.

For most of our early lives, we’re constantly (and unavoidably) subjected to pressure and being told what to do and what is accepted, at first from your parents, and later on by your schoolmates, once you reach that age.  At these young ages, its rare for people to fully grasp the concepts of being an independent, thinking individual, so we just assume the things we’re told are correct and follow them. The more you’re exposed to information from all over the world and take it with an open mind, you can start to establish your own personal values and standards, and many of the things you’ve been told lose their weight when you realize you are your own person and that everyone else’s standards may not be best for you.

This is where my current mentality comes in, where I love and respect entertainment media for what it is, but I don’t let it blur the lines between the reality of my life and the fantasy of enjoying the arts. By establishing my own values and guidelines to live my life by, I find great pride in all of the things I enjoy and spend my time on, and display my interests at every turn I can possibly find with no concern about what other people will think.

I learned at an age in late middle-school to start pursuing my interests above all else, regardless of what everyone else was doing. Maybe it started as a bit of a “rebellion” mentality, but I soon realized by early in high school that what most of your peers think of you really has no bearing on you and your life, and that there’s a lot more important things in life than fitting in or meeting other people’s expectations of you. It just gets better once you escape the oppressive, captive environment of family and public schooling, and go into higher education or the real world, where you can create your own means to explore the things you like at your own leisure.

For example, I currently wear idol t-shirts every day, constantly listen to idol music around everyone I know, have my entire desk at work decorated with idol materials, my entire apartment has idol imagery all over it, my car has idol stickers all over it, and I even create idol cover songs and write long, ridiculous articles about idols (like this one) in my spare time.

If someone can’t accept others’ interests and be respectful of them, then you should probably be ignoring that person and moving on to find others that can at least think of your interests with an open mind, not continuing to attempt to impress or “fit in” with other people you’re not compatible with.

Sure, it can get daunting trying to find friends when you have somewhat niche interests like idols, but as previously mentioned, the internet can be a good tool for finding other people who enjoy the same things as you, and if you talk to the right people, they can help further your interest in the subjects you like for those times when you really need someone to talk to about your interests (we all do sometimes.)

Conventions based on or including your interests can also be a great way to meet new people and have good experiences related to your interests, but you shouldn’t limit your outward support of what you enjoy to once or twice a year. It should be an everyday thing.

This kind of open, independent thinking may just be something that comes with age and experience, but I think it may be possible to have people be more educated at independent thinking at younger ages with the proper influence, the hardest part is just getting people to accept that influence.

As a question to ponder: If you constantly hide your interests from the world, how will people know that you like it and approach you about it? We’re always quick to flaunt our interests on the internet at the drop of a hat, yet we hide it from the real world and act ashamed of it. This is somewhat inherent of internet culture in general, where people use the internet to have a different personality or face than they do in everyday life; saying, doing, and displaying things that they would not if it was a real-life interaction. This is, in itself, another form of living a fantasy if the person gets too reliant on the internet for their interpersonal communications.

For another related anecdote, the other day I was walking around at the grocery store and a girl randomly approached me to talk to me about my AKB48 t-shirt I was wearing that day. And this wasn’t nearly the first time this has happened to me. Contrary to the fearful, overly-conscious mind’s quickness to hide the things you love, there are people out there who share your interests who can make your life a nicer place if you show the pride enough to make the connection.

If you truly love and are passionate about the things you outwardly display, any criticism that comes your way should be easily dismissed by explaining your reasoning, and it shouldn’t make your interest waver when confronted about it. If you get scared and want to avoid criticism at all costs, you may want to deeper explore the things you support and find your own personal reasons that you can easily give to anyone who questions you. If you can’t find any true reasoning for your interests that you’re comfortable with telling to other people, you may want to consider getting some new hobbies or interests.

Welcome the challenge, support what you love, and explore the reasons you personally love those things. Break down your truly passionate interests and figure out just why you like them so much. It can not only help you to share the reasons you enjoy those things with other people, but it’ll usually help you learn a lot more about yourself and your own mind.

To put it simply, I believe that the mentality of being ashamed and thinking you have to hide your interests from the world if they’re not the most accepted interests in whatever society you live in just comes from being a victim of societal peer pressure, which is something that can be overcome or ignored by not putting too much stock into what other people in society think about you. You are your own person, and its in your best interest to start acting like it and being proud of it.

So, after all this nonsense and explanation of the core issue, what I’m really trying to say is to like what you like (as long as its not something destructive to yourself or other people) and flaunt it like crazy instead of living in fear of judgment from others. Try to find as many people who truly like it as you can, and it’ll ultimately make your life a happier place.