I've been thinking lately about what our stories say about us... and, more broadly, how the way we act and the roles we take within the fandom relates to who we are on a "whole-person" scale. Click down below the break for some of my thoughts.
It's not exactly new news that people act differently in different groups. This is often thought of in derogatory terms; "wearing a mask," "hiding who you really are," and the like. And it's true that there are plenty of times when people do pretend to be something they aren't... but it's also true that, when people act differently in different company or situations, both can be healthy expressions of who that person is. The way I interact with my friends at the card table is completely different from the way I interact with the students at school (I'm not in the habit of trash-talking kids), but it's not like one is the "real" me, and the other is just an act.
I think the pony fandom brings out a different side of people, for a lot of different reasons--I'm going to focus specifically on the fanfiction community, but a lot of this is broadly applicable. Part of it is just the fact that most authors (and commenters) are building a "personality" from scratch; whether someone chooses to use their real name or not, the community they're participating in is going to be composed mostly or entirely of people they've never met in real life, and often of people they've never "known" outside of the context of ponies. Part of it is different expectations within the group (this can fall into "wearing the mask" territory, but can also encompass more neutral or positive choices, like not cursing in a G-rated forum). There are plenty of other reasons as well, some broad, some highly individualized. The net effect, in any case, is that how someone comes across in the context of ponydom can be rather dramatically different than how they might be known to some--or all--of their real-life friends.
Case in point: xjuggernaughtx. If I was asked to describe his personality based on his stories and my fandom interactions with him, I'd say he was very deliberate, receptive to criticism, and thoughtful, but still basically lighthearted and more inclined to laughter than tears or drama (I also had it in my mind that he had a puppy, for reasons to which only my subconscious is privy). So it was a bit of a shock to read his RCL interview, where he confesses "I’m combative... I was the message board flamer and the loud-mouth in the bar," traits I would never have associated with the guy I've seen bouncing around the comments section here, and whose stories I've read and enjoyed for their punnery and ability to blend comedy and empathy.
This sort of disconnect can extend to who one "is" within the fandom, too. More than one person has commented to me that my fanfiction and my fanfic reviews seem like they're written by two completely different people, and I can see why; if I had to put it into words, I'd say that my Pony Ramblings are a cleaned-up and more structured version of how I respond to the world around me, while my stories are more of... more of what I aspire to, for myself and others, if that makes sense. I'm not sure it does, but I'm not quite sure how to express the relationship between my stories and who I am. They're me, this blog is me, and the differences between the two are part of who I am.
I still find it hard to believe that xjuggernaughtx was a brawler, or that Cold in Gardez is in the military, or that [so-and-so author--seriously, there are dozens] is, like, fifteen years old, or some garbage. I mean, do you know what I was doing when I was fifteen? Whatever it was, I promise it wasn't good.
Anyway, I'm constantly surprised by what I find out about the people in this fandom, and how it does or doesn't match what I would have expected. And I'm sure that for many of us, the way we act within the fandom is rather different from how we act most anywhere else. It's true, that can be done in an unhealthy way. But for myself?
Dwight L. Moody once said "Character is who you are in the dark"--a quote and
attribution I happen to know off the top of my head thanks to Dragon Magazine, which probably says something about me itself. The internet gives us all a dark place to be ourselves in, and... well, I don't think I'm not being myself in real life, but I suspect there are more sides to me than any one person has seen. I think that's true for all people. And who I am in my writing--who I am on this blog--is at least as much the "real" me as anything else.