Otaku Diaries Part 8: Friends don’t let friends watch Akikan!

#0099
I still have a few friends that I knew before I was heavily into anime, but they are few and far between. Most of the people I consider my friends I did meet, in one way or another, through this medium.

Thomas Wolfe said “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.” As an anime fan that is also a lonely person I think on that quote and wonder how alone am I in feeling alone? Is the otaku by nature a lonely beast? How much do anime fans have friends? How often do they watch anime with others? Do anime fans still go out there and try to recruit everyone they meet to get the word out about these amazing Japanese cartoons? Is there still reason to do that? I don’t think this will answer all of my questions but I do think we shed some much needed light onto how social the average otaku is.

#0019
Several days often go by wherein I don’t actually vocally speak at all. Before, back when I didn’t use instant messaging, I more or less had zero interaction with anyone.

#0042
I talk to my forum friends at least once a day. I feel that they are close acquaintances that I would get a long with if I met them in real life.

Ah, camaraderie. It was one of the first reasons I came to love the Internet in my youth. The ability to find like-minded individuals with your hobbies from all over the world and you didn’t even have to leave your room was a rather enticing prospect. And it certainly made many times less lonely or even expanded my knowledge. It also had the greater effect of making me appreciate when I could have those people or conversations face to face or watch that anime with another. Ideally you get to participate in both experiences because they both have positive attributes. I think anime fans want to be social for the most part, atleast social within a circle of people who they feel think like they do, and with the combination of technology and real life meetings, there is an outlet for it.

I found it fascinating that the answers were all over the board with the number of close friend people had. We had a good range of answers with unfortunate people who had no close friends to social butterflies with a vast pool of people they considered close. The largest group were people with only one or two very good friends. I myself can’t see having more than 3 or 4 close friends outside of college but that is a personal constraint of how I am. 48 percent of the survey had 5 or more close friends so I feel there is no sense that being an otaku doomed you to being friendless. When people did hang out with others in real life they would only do so a few times  a week at most. So while there might have been a few people who were in constant contact with their friends most people spend at least half there week or more alone. I do wonder how this relates to the average person. Do otaku go out more or less than the average. I don’t see anything to say that is would be radically different from anyone else as well.

#0030
It’s always changed the relationship in a good way. We talk more and get along better after meeting in person, and the friendship feels much less awkward.

#0009
Even with a real-time voice program like Ventrilo, it’s not the same as interacting in person because of the artificial constraints or voice-only or text-only communication.

#0016
I recently met one of my best online friends at a convention, and I can’t say anything has really changed — we were just very happy to finally be able to meet in person.

#0049
All the friends I make now, I make over the internet.

There is a desire that I saw throughout the survey of wanting to solidify an online bond by meeting, many times at gatherings like conventions, and talking face to face. It was great to see so many people that had gone out of their way to do this had a positive experience. Though it wasn’t without folly sometimes and some people even said that wouldn’t want to meet people. As an aside, I only really started meeting people online when we started the blog. But everyone’s comfort levels vary and so there is really no right or wrong when it comes to such preferences. But because there was an abundance of desire to seek people out, I felt it further went to show that otaku want other otaku around, even if they are complaining about them.

#0081
Knowing the person behind their Internet persona is always a nice thing to try and do, and most of the time, the people I’ve met haven’t been disagreeable with me, and I hope that I haven’t been disagreeable with them.

#0014
. . . I find I express myself more fluently and eloquently with written text than with the spoken word.

#0040
People AFK bore me more than people online. I just don’t feel like getting to know people anymore. I just know that there are people who are articulate and share my interests online so I don’t have much of a social drive anymore. I really don’t mind being alone.

#0065
Conversations can get pretty intimate online, but I’d say I have more close relationships in real life than I do online.

The most intriguing part to me was the divide on online friendships. Only 17 percent pretty much avoided the rest of anime fandom online. Most everyone else regularly talked to a few fans online and has a decent bond with people over the ether that is the Internet. But even more interesting was that when asked the younger the respondent was the more likely they were to regularly chat online and the more likely they were to consider their online friends just as good or better than their real life friends. As people grow up more and more with online communication being part of their lives I think people finding friends they really connect with being more and more natural. I think this goes doubly so for tech savvy people like anime fans tends to be.

#0096
I am always trying to get someone into anime. I prefer to watch with other people who enjoy it.

I wish I would have asked out right how many of the close friends people mentioned were also into anime, it would have been a further look into its significance to everyone’s lives. But the fact that so many people atleast attempt to share the joy of anime with those around them is quite nice actually. I think both of us here at Reverse Thieves heed such a call to arms, we even run a panel about bringing people into the fold! I don’t know how many other hobbies boast such a large amount of people spreading gospel. Even if there were not as many success stories as one might hope, there was still a feeling that they were able to show people exactly what their hobby was and making it less foreign to non-otaku.

#0027
I tried to get a friend into anime, but they were too entrenched into American culture to fully embrace otakudom.

#0015
I’ve been more successful with my aunt, though she is already a SF fan. Originally she was under the impression that most anime was pornographic (I’m sure her only previous exposure to it was some of Manga UK’s release in the mid 90’s, stuff like Overfiend).

3/4 of the participants had actively tried to get someone they knew be it a family member, friend, or coworker into anime this reinforces my conviction that as much as some anime fans might reject the fandom they want other anime fans to talk to. How easy this is can be very different from person to person. But while many people had tried to get people they knew into anime over half the participants still ended up watching anime by themselves most of the time. So while anime fans might want a constant viewing companion it is a task that is easier said than done.

#0063
More emotional anime, I want to be alone to watch since I tend to be much more of a joking and conversational person when I’m watching with others.

#0044
I consume anime at a rate that almost no one can complete with. So while I do often watch anime with other people, it makes up a small percentage of my anime viewing because I simply watch so much.

Personally, I can’t image being an otaku without the interaction between other fans, even in my earliest moments, I was right there on the Internet trying to find people and this has only expanded since my fandom has. And I have to agree with Hisui’s statement earlier, with newer and younger fans continually coming in with the Internet as a central part of their lives, there is only going to be more and more interaction without leaving your house. But as fans grow, so too has the convention scene, proving that just as much fans want to come to face to face and embrace their love of anime with like-minded individuals in toe.

I do feel a bit better about the situation of anime fandom in general. It seems that no matter what forums might have you believe being an otaku does not set you on the road to be a lonely hikikomori. You can make friends inside and outside of the fandom. Let us not forget that there were some people who were sadly lonely and isolated. I felt their pain and wish them well. But it was not anime that forced them into that lifestyle. It was always some other unfortunate factor that has kept them cut off. My real question is how will the Internet impact this. It seems to make it easier for people to find people with similar interests but can promote an odd sense of disconnect without direct physical interaction. We have already seen the Internet take the place of anime clubs for bringing fans together. Forums, image boards, blogs, and a million other places have formed for people to talk about anime and sometimes even meet up in real life. But is it a true substitute for the social bonds that were formed with an anime club? Only time will tell. But no matter what I hope anime fans use what ever means to continue to connect and spread the mutual love of animation.

6 thoughts on “Otaku Diaries Part 8: Friends don’t let friends watch Akikan!

  1. Evan Minto (Vampt Vo) says:

    This post is depressing. Too many people seem to define themselves exclusively by their interest in anime, a decision that shoehorns them into a marginalized social group and limits their ability to interact.

    If you see yourself as nothing but the sum of your hobbies, you will find it hard to befriend people who don’t share those pastimes. Looking outside of the strict delineations of hobbies allows for a much broader (and more fulfilling) range of social interaction.

    • reversethieves says:

      @Evan

      I don’t know if it is really evident from this that people don’t socialize outside of their hobby. Most people’s close friends probably share their interests which isn’t a bad thing. People like to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. The key here is close friends, most people everyday interact with a variety of people, and may have acquaintances that don’t share their hobbies.

      -Narutaki

  2. Matt Brown says:

    This is one instance where sharing the words behind the numbers is a double-edged sword. You see 14 people deciding that being around people doesn’t need to happen every week, and it’s tempting to marry it with the guy who finds the physical presence of other people boring. Further connecting of the dots leads to bitterness of recruiting gone wrong and a sprinkling of superiority complex. Then anime becomes as alcohol to a drunk: something to be enjoyed alone, and in great quantities. Not that the social drinkers are much better off. They’ll claim to have a hundred friends and not share anything deep with any of them.

    We all know that I just made all that up. Data doesn’t tell a story; we craft stories to fit the data.

    Who really knows how the story should go? Is Evan’s story wrong for reading the data as a case of entrenchment, since one of the respondents seems to project same on his friends? Notwithstanding interpretation, is it wrong to feel depressed by some of the responses themselves? Is it really right to assume that 75% of respondents actively trying to draw in new anime viewers is a good thing?

    I think, in the end, how we read the numbers says more about us than the people who make up the numbers.

  3. Yuji says:

    If I’m with others I will not want to show emotion (whether that be a mainstream movie or anime) and I want to be free to, therefore I WANT to watch things that move me alone.

    If i’m alone, i’m 100% in the story, and that’s where all the fun is.

    • reversethieves says:

      @Yuji
      There are some series I like watching on my own but in general I like watching things with other people. One problem is finding other people to watch shows with. I am currently watching Double Zeta on my own because no one would watch it with me. The other problem is often there are just some shows you cannot watch with certain people. I know several people that you just can’t watch emotional stuff around. But if you are comfortable with certain people it can really enhance the experience. The fun of watching things together is part of the reason Narutaki and I do the blog as a team.

      But as always the best way to watch something is in the manner that you get the most out of it. If watching things alone does that for you then that is the way you should do it.

      – Hisui

  4. Narutaki's Secret Admirer says:

    One problem with people deeply entrenched within their hobbies is a lack of exposure to stuff beyond it. Like, my problem is that I have trouble at times making conversation with people if it itsn’t relevant to video games, anime, entomology, technology, etc. As a guy who has very limited social interaction, I don’t really know what I would make conversation with people about. That said, I do have a close companion who has minimal interest in this kind of stuff. She is a good listener though, and seems interested no matter what I am talking to her about. Friendship is a lot more than just chatting, but communication can certainly be an important aspect.

    btw elementary/middle school girls tend to find me cool and sophisticated. I do not know how it happens, but I have a history of little girls falling for me. Mt RL friends can confirm this. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the topic, I’m just bragging.

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