The Star Wars fandom was broken. At least, that’s the way I saw it then. It was dysfunctional. Harmful. Dangerous for some of us, sometimes. And it didn’t have to be that way.
That’s what I kept telling myself, over and over. That was the mantra that kept driving me forward.
The fandom is broken, and you can do something about it.
I thought I was going to change the world. Or, at the very least, the very small corner of it in which I spent so much of my energy and time.
And that’s where the beginning of my mistakes began.
Creating Project Stardust was, to be clear, anything but a mistake. It’s here to stay. The people working behind the screens to maintain and expand it are like family to me. We’ve come so far, and still have so much growing to do. I have no intention of (ever) leaving it behind.
My relationship with Twitter, however, is changing. It may have played a major role in Stardust’s creation and will always be a part of the story of its launch. But in the 11 months since we chose a name and began building it from the ground up, I’ve spent an alarming amount of time tweeting about everything wrong with this fandom. Thinking, somehow, it would change something.
I simply cannot justify dedicating my energy and hours to that practice anymore. For the sake of the fandom as a whole, for the well-being of the friends and teammates I’ve come to know and love … but also for the health of my own mind and body.
Because, in case you weren’t already aware … social media, though it has many perks for people across various online communities, is rarely used in moderation. And it really shouldn’t be used in excess. By any of us.
I’ve learned this the hard way one too many times. Especially in the moments I thought a tweet crafted intentionally to start fires would somehow build bridges instead of incinerating them.
This actually isn’t about (for once) being targeted by people who find no shame in insulting, harassing, even endangering strangers online. That often comes with the territory when you’re trying to speak honestly about your struggles in fandom and how you want to see things change. That doesn’t make it right, but here we are.
Though I’ve had death wished upon me in Twitter DMs enough times that it barely registers as a threat to my brain (that’s … not good? But I digress), the thing that pushed me from “maybe Twitter is bad” to “this is not a place I want to hang out regularly in” was an unkind response from a fellow fan whose work I followed and even sincerely admired.
Death threats in DMs … and a rude comment from someone who I assumed had always been genuinely nice to me was the thing that finally made me “get it.”
It took someone I admired who inspired much of my creative energy humiliating me in front of all her followers for me to finally understand that on Star Wars Twitter, quite literally everyone loses.
Men belittle other men for liking animated shows. Women tear down other women to feel they’ve earned their place in the fandom. Men harass women. Women misjudge and misinterpret men. People form circles and exclude those like them, different from them — for all the reasons, and none at all.
We’re all desperate to feel we belong and that we matter. So much so that sometimes without even meaning to, we tell other people they can’t stand where we’ve stood.
All of us are guilty of it. Every single one of us.
It’s those who think they aren’t that need to read these words the most, and the ones least likely to do so. So who are these words for? Anyone who, like me, has gone about this all wrong … and might be coming to terms with that far too late.
I’ve written and said many things over the past year that I’m not proud of. I take my work and my achievements very seriously, as one should — you have every right to be proud of your accomplishments. But you should, as I have on several unfortunate occasions, never use whatever status you feel you have to gatekeep another fan or group of fans, even unintentionally.
Everyone in this fandom has their specialty, the one thing they can do or talk about or inform about better than most. That’s something that makes the Star Wars fan community shine. Anyone can take this fictional universe they love and make something out of it that’s unique to their skills and interests and connect with others who vibe with that niche within a niche, so to speak.
But within that there’s all the negativity that threatens and often disrupts these spaces — not necessarily negativity of the “I think this movie is trash” variety, but real-world toxins: Jealousy. Exclusivity. Selfishness. Wanting status and power, even if that’s not what you think you’re after.
There are so many of us who have achieved great things within this community, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating that — celebrating you, celebrating each other. But no one is immune to the very human quest for more of what you’ve tasted. Once you’ve seen the power of your own influence, it’s very common to instinctively want to see it again. And again.
What we rarely consider about the high ground is that the longer we stand there, the more our fall is bound to break us.
Twitter is where we so often see these things play out in real-time. And it sometimes becomes vicious. More than once I’ve tried to reach out to someone to have a civil conversation, and that person is so used to being hurt and humiliated and harassed that they immediately assume I’m there to cause them pain. Which I never am. Intentionally.
There’s always that danger that we suddenly become the very thing we’ve sought to destroy. It’s happened to me. I can’t take it back. Nor, likely, can I ever make up for it.
When I reached out to that mutual fan and content creator, I wrongfully tried to offer support — it wasn’t my business, admittedly; I should have stayed out of it. But the response suddenly made me question every tweet I sent after the fact. I poured over every word. Will this be taken the wrong way? Is this too stupid? Should I even be telling people what I think or feel at all?
It’s no fault of one person or thing that sent me spiraling. It is the platform in which we exist and the written and unwritten rules we all follow on it (or don’t).
Whether you realize it or not, you often tweet to impress. We all do. And if you’re a perfectionist like me, a people-pleaser like me, terrified of being misunderstood or accused of saying something other than what you meant … constantly seeking to impress, inspire, motivate … it will destroy you from the inside out.
To say that Twitter broke my brain really is an understatement. After a while, I think I forgot who I was outside my Twitter profile. I’m still learning how to best communicate my ideas in short bursts. I’m still practicing how to take criticism constructively when warranted and brush it off when uncalled for.
The Star Wars fandom — especially the online spaces Star Wars fans occupy the most — may be broken in several fundamental ways. But it’s not my job to fix it. Perhaps I can do something to make it better, but not like this.
Maybe when I do better understand how I personally can use Twitter to both celebrate my fandom and constructively draw attention to (and present solutions to improve) its flaws, I’ll feel more comfortable expressing my opinions and ideas again.
But until then, though I admire the confidence and bravery of those using their platforms to be honest about the things that aren’t right in our community … I simply cannot be there with you. Not the way I used to. At least not right now.
Perhaps my place for now is here, taking the sparks of ideas I used to tweet in haste in hopes of making some kind of difference among those in the Twitterverse and presenting them in a way I’m better trained and suited to. I think it takes a lot more effort and care than many realize to present a solid argument for or against something in a single tweet. Or maybe in a document I will be less inclined to target an individual or an idea and instead can look at these problems at a much larger scale.
I have no intention of canceling my own activism, of staying silent on the issues that are important in our fan space and beyond. I still believe and stand for the things I always have: That everyone deserves the same human rights, that we shouldn’t be judged by our looks or identities or the things about us we didn’t choose.
But Twitter simply does not feel like the best place for me to advocate for all these things and more while I think more deeply about fandom as a whole, the different roles we play within it …. what it all means, and how we can make the most of it.
My hope is that in focusing less on my presence and more on my projects, I will find a healthy balance between loving Star Wars and its fans and wanting Star Wars and its fans to be better. Maybe some of you have found that for yourselves, and that’s great, it really is. But I’m not there yet. I have a lot to learn, and a lot of room to grow.
Contrary to what I may have believed a year ago, I don’t know everything. I’m not good at everything. I’m not the prime example of a “good fan” that everyone else should follow.
I am simply human. I think Star Wars is cool. I like to write and podcast and create across mediums. I may not be happy with the way certain fans treat each other. But I’m not sure a series of tweets from someone like me can even begin to solve the many faults in our space.
I’m still here, figuring out how to exist here, how to make it better, if I can. That’s all I ever really wanted. To find happiness in Star Wars through helping others find their own joy in a galaxy far, far away.
I hope I can do that, at least for one person outside of myself.
That, to me, would make all of this worth it in the end.