It’s hard for me to imagine what it would have been like to have lived when all of my interests, namely mid-century rock bands, were at their peak. As it stands, I can listen to records, watch videos, read books, and hear the stories of people who were there to piece together what that experience would have been like.
I’m 27 years old, a millennial raised in the Internet Age, and until recently, I felt that if I couldn’t have actually lived as a boomer in the ’60s and ’70s, at least I had the amazing benefit of technology to allow me to live vicariously through that generation. But as you will read, my relationship with this wonderful means of communication has been largely strained, and it’s had a rather negative impact on my love for mid-century music.
The Internet is really a fantastic resource for anyone whose interests are on the retro side. YouTube allows me to watch old concert footage, clips from bygone television programs, interviews, and more. Just a simple google search connects me to thousands of images for any particular band or artist, archived articles, fan websites, and so on. I can go on eBay to find vintage concert tees and back issues of magazines that no longer exist. All pretty great.
The most important corners of the Internet that nursed my obsession with older music artists were always the social media sites. In high school, I started with LiveJournal, where I met many fellow fans my own age who loved the same bands I did. I’m still friends with many of them today. We fed each other’s rabid fangirling, sharing images, videos, inside jokes, fanart, and general information. It was like a cult, but I didn’t feel brainwashed and, if anything, for once I felt more socially normal than I ever had before. I also began to expand my interests based on what my friends liked and exposed me to. It was wonderful.
I continued to use LiveJournal throughout my college years, but eventually there was a mass migration to Tumblr, the big new site for obsessive people like myself. I met more people on Tumblr while continuing my relationships with other former LJ users, and I just felt so comforted by the community and sub-communities I found myself a part of, loving “classic rock” bands, vintage fashion, and anything generally nostalgic.
But when I was exiting my college years and finding myself going to more live shows where I met fellow fans who were often my parents’ age or older, I became more interested in befriending people who actually lived the life I wish I had, people who went to all the concerts I wish I could have, who met the musicians I idolized so much, and who just had so many cool stories. I valued such information. I began to resent the fangirl culture of Tumblr and fans my own age who seemed more interested in sharing pictures of cool rock stars rather than discussing the value of the music itself; I feared that my interest in the music was becoming superficial and I didn’t want people to reduce me to that classic but inaccurate stereotype of the female music fan who is really just a hormonal, sex-crazed poser. (This, by the way, is something that infuriates me. Implying that someone likes a band because they’re just attracted to the artist is demeaning. Allison, REBEAT’s Editor-in-Chief, tackled this topic before in an amazing article that you should check out.)
I was looking for something more sophisticated and mature, so hanging out with an older crowd became ideal. I slowly phased myself out of the Tumblr world and spent more time on Facebook discussing music with people who could be my parents (and possibly in some cases grandparents). I joined fan groups and, for a while, I was happy with my online social environment, surrounded by people who really cared about the same aspects of a band that I did. It felt good.
That has been my existence the past few years. But it hasn’t been the paradise that I expected. You see, my idea that older music fans would be more mature was way off. If anything, I’ve seen more bickering, name calling, and mudslinging among the 50-70 crowd than I ever did with people my own age. I’ve seen more accusations of people only liking a band for their looks, more music elitism, and ageism than I’d care to admit. I’ve seen more and more fan groups for a single band crop up just because no single group can exist where everyone gets along. I’ve seen people call each other fake, posers, and wannabes. I’ve seen people try to assert themselves as a domineering voice in the community, as authority figures, as key sources of information that other people are apparently not allowed to possess. And perhaps worst of all, I’ve seen people close to the artists have to deal with all of the fan bullshit that goes on, acting as mediators, sometimes ignoring issues to keep the peace, and other times picking sides whether fairly or not; in the end, someone somewhere ends up alienated, banned, blocked, and so on.
And these people that I’ve grown close to, some of whom are really lovely people in person… well, I’ve seen them devolve into the worst kind of people as well. I’ve seen fellow fans preaching kindness and tolerance on one forum while talking shit about someone in another. I’ve seen hypocrisy at its finest. The us-against-them mentality is incredibly widespread, and that is so disappointing. There are fewer cliques in high school cafeterias. I’ve seen the constant friending and unfriending, blocking and unblocking of people who can say the absolute cruelest things about one another, then pretend that no such thing was said when it becomes convenient to have a particular ally. It’s terribly convenient, this Internet thing, when you can easily delete things and “start fresh.”
And for what? I thought it was all about the music. It turns out it’s really just about people’s egos. I’ve stopped posting in groups. I’ve lost the will to care and it’s the attitude of the fans that drove me away. If I want to discuss something about a music act, I’ll post about it on my own Facebook wall and people are free to comment if they wish. I realize now that my best days of music fandom were probably among people my own age back on LJ and Tumblr. I don’t recall ever people acting like such children, even though I was largely interacting with a 20-something crowd that theoretically should have been less sophisticated. The worst thing that ever happened to me in those days was some 14-year-old in Spain once tried and failed to take credit for my fanart on Tumblr. That’s about it.
My interaction with fellow fans often gives me anxiety now. I don’t want to lose friendships, but I also don’t want any involvement in the constant bullshit that exists in the fandoms. And it becomes hard to balance when I still see so much stupid crap pop up from time to time on my news feed, and I know that I still have to see many of these fans who are otherwise nice people at shows. I just don’t have the energy or patience to interact with other fans anymore.
But I’ve realized the biggest consequence of all is that it’s hurt my relationship with the music itself. I’ve found myself avoiding commenting on anything anywhere lest I get caught in the middle of something. I get anxiety just thinking about certain things about a band, and it’s slowly becoming my avoidance altogether of anything related to the music that was and still is such a big part of my life. I feel somewhat robbed of the positivity.
Recently, I’ve been rediscovering the groups of my youth, bands that I “should have been” listening to growing up in the ’90s (Blur, Oasis, etc.). But I have largely avoided seeking out any kind of online community of fans. I want to keep this mine. I don’t want to become overwhelmed by the fan-created politics of these bands that could make me resent them as much as I’ve felt as of late for my “classic rock” bands. At the same time, what point is there in loving something so much if you can’t share it will other passionate people?
Perhaps my anxiety will pass and eventually the love I feel for these bands will rekindle stronger than ever. It tends to happen. But I wonder if I’m alone here or if other millennial-aged mid-century fans have experienced the same kind of internet-culture surrounding their vintage interests. If you’re out there, know that you’re not alone.