Social Media Community

My Experience in the X-Files Fandom

This blog is adapted from Heart Eyes 4 David Duchovny: Creating a Social Media Community in the X-Files and David Duchovny Fandoms, by Pamela Stafford, M.A. and Cathy Glinski, J.D., presented at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association annual conference on February 21, 2019.

My name is Cathy Glinski.  I’m an avid X-Phile. I was a fan of the show when it originally aired, and I’ve been rewatching it continuously since the summer of 2015.  I joined Twitter 2/19/16 to talk to others about The X-Files, and I first saw David Duchovny in person one year to the day later. This blog recounts my personal experience with developing a social media community within the X-Files fandom.

Social media allows you to interact with the world, but narrowed to individuals with common interests. It makes your world bigger and smaller at the same time. What is community?  The definition I’m focusing on here is “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

I was drawn to social media by the need to talk about The X-Files with others who shared that passion (this was at the time leading up to the revival of the series in 2016). I was looking for this “fellowship as a result of sharing common interests” that makes up a community. I was already on Facebook.  All middle aged moms are. So I tried an X-Files Facebook group, but I didn’t really like the tone of the conversations I was encountering, and there was no way to tailor my interactions.  I was either in the group or not.

That’s where Twitter came in.  I knew from a podcast I listened to that there were fans on Twitter talking about The X-Files.  So I set up a Twitter account, and I started following a few people, and that led me to others who led me to others.  Before long I was interacting with a group of people who seemed to be just as obsessed with The X-Files as I was.

My Facebook friends are all people I know personally. I can talk to them about all the things going on in my life, and they’re somewhat interested. But almost none of them are interested in talking X-Files with me. By contrast, I know very few of my Twitter friends personally, and I wouldn’t share much about my life on Twitter. But I can talk to them about X-Files nonstop and they will never get sick of it. We recently spent a full week in conversation about when Mulder and Scully first had sex, and that’s ok! That’s still a community.  It’s a broad group of people with limited common interests.  It’s shallow, but it’s meaningful on the level it exists. It’s a different type of community, but serves a valid function.  It’s fun.

This shallow community has led to deeper interactions as well. One of my mutuals put together a private chat group with others who had similar reactions to posts about David Duchovny.  That was the start of what I came to appreciate as true community. This very small group started by talking about our appreciation of David Duchovny and The X-Files, but soon we were sharing our personal stories as well. We found we had other things in common. We’re of similar in age, professional women, who share attitudes about not only fandom but other aspects of life.  This deeper level community group has become very important to me.

And it was this community which led me to step out of my comfort zone and try new experiences. When our group first started chatting we talked about how we would never be able to meet David in person. We wouldn’t enjoy a comic con, we’d never have an opportunity to attend a concert or book discussion, and even if we did we’d be too nervous to talk to him.  But now we’ve done all those things!

In the past two years I’ve attended two of David’s concerts, a book discussion where I got to ask him a question, a meet and greet, and two photo ops (one with Gillian Anderson as well). I’ve also attended two fan conventions and met all the major stars of The X-Files. And I attended a fundraising event where I met the creator of the show, with whom I had an actual conversation.

I’ve also discovered and pursued a new found interest in podcasting.  I started with contributing to The X-Cast, an X-Files podcast, first with ideas but then as a guest on the show.  And that community led me to a classic movie podcast hosted by another member. I’ve been a guest on The Movie Palace podcast twice, as a legal expert discussing classic courtroom movies.  I never would have imagined myself doing that, and it’s a direct result of engaging with the X-Files fandom on social media.

One of the conditions I made for myself when joining Twitter was that I would only post positive comments. I think I’ve stayed true to that.  I’ve never had any negative comments made to or about me—that I know of. And that’s really key for me. On Twitter I can scroll past negative tweets, I can mute, unfollow, block.  Simple steps that make a world of difference. We have less invested in relationships in this type of community.  It’s not as significant or painful when they end. And there’s no reason to let these relationships cause pain or discomfort.

For me, participating in a social media community has truly been self-care.  It gives me an outlet for positivity, an opportunity to spend some time on something I enjoy.  And a real source of joy for me has been developing friendships that extend beyond fandom interests.  So I do my best to avoid negativity and would leave completely if I couldn’t.

I’ve never really kept my fandom a secret from friends or family.  I just don’t talk about it a lot with most of them because they don’t get it. I’m not trying to keep anything hidden though. My close friends and family all seem to be enjoying my obsession, I think because they can see how happy it makes me. But also because it’s not something they would have ever expected from me.  I get the sense people enjoy that I seem to be acting out of character.

My take away from evaluating my experience in a social media fandom community is that through social media I was able to expand my world by narrowing my focus. I’ve found that this concept, while a revelation to me, is considered obvious to others somewhat younger than I am.  I think these generational differences in expectations regarding social media would be worth exploring further.

What’s more, and what’s most important to me, we have the ability to shape the community we engage with, both by limiting who we interact with and by the types of interactions we have.  My life is better because of the community I’ve found through engaging in a fandom on social media.

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