From Mozart and Madonna to the Beatles and Harry Styles, for as long as culture has existed it has been built on the backs of fans and the creators they admire and obsess over. And while our access to culture has rapidly progressed and recycled over the decades (disco is in, disco is out, disco is back in, etc.) via seismic shifts in technology and media, let’s ask ourselves: Has being a culture junkie gotten any better? Or just more toxic and complicated?
Anne "Well" Ouellet is the chief marketing officer of Galxe. This article is part of CoinDesk's "Culture Week."
As pop culture became “a thing,” fandom followed down a winding path towards the challenging and even dangerous. Beatlemania turned so manic that the Fab Four said “no more” to performing live in front of actual people. Later, the world lost John Lennon due to a fame-hungry fan. Swifties have waged swift war on Ticketmaster and the U.S government, Beyonce’s Beyhive fan base is ready to sting at a moment’s notice.
Over on TikTok, toxic fandom is nearly as powerful as its algorithm, where fandom has been deafening, destructive and downright confusing. Is it any wonder TikTok will now impose a 60-minute screen time limit for kids? And why stop there? Most would agree that we need fewer feeds in our lives.
In an industry that has the potential to disrupt everything we know about the meaning of being a fan (and its potential), what is it that we are really fighting to change in Web3?
Kill your idols
We don't need to spin a broken record and wax poetic on how Web3 technology will save music, sports, designer fashion and the film industry. In the spirit of Web3, DYOR – do it your own research.
Instead, to truly fix fandom we need to rethink what it means to be a fan – both in Web2 and Web3. What drives brands to pay celebrities seven figures to pose with skin care products or swan dive into a bag of potato chips in a tuxedo? For the most part, brands aren’t banking on an influencer’s ability to comment on the levels of high fructose corn syrup in a product, they’re banking on idol worship – and idol worship is dangerous.
From pop culture to politics, things eventually go downhill when people put all of their faith into an individual. Yes, Web3 has had its fair share of influential and well-intentioned leaders, but the power of Web3 is that influence does not (should not, even) need to lie in the hands of a centralized entity or deity but rather with a community that owns the tools to govern itself.
Let’s be real, though: There is a lot of idol worship in Web3, and fandom often revolves around it. Would you be so shocked to find a Bored Ape altar in some crypto bro’s living room? Or hear that someone is living their life due to the 10 Commandments of Logan Paul? Are we so surprised that Sam Bankman-Fried followed Do Kwon? Why put our blind fandom into people and platforms when we can fly the flag of what our industry promises to achieve?
The promise of fandom in Web3 is not to blindly follow and obsess over the words or actions of those we admire. The promise is to help push forward and benefit from the ideals we align with. When fandom has substance driven by ideals – not likes, follower counts and the loudest, most controversial voices in the room – people might start making important stuff again.
Make it feel good to be a fan in Web3
A meaningful future of fandom in Web3 can mean many things: a culture of loyalty, financial freedom, collective ideals and ownership, shared success and even challenges. While we've come a long way as an industry and community, we still have a long way to go to pave a new path for fandom, whether around technology, communities or creators. An innovative culture of fandom in Web3 has the potential to be about more than just your pfp [profile pic], favorite Discord, oversized hoodie or who's at your dinner table in that picture from NFT.NYC 2021.
Full disclosure: I write these words while proudly wearing my Forgotten Runes hat and PoolTogether T-shirt – communities I'm proud to fangirl over because they are about more than idolized leaders but the people who put in the work to create something bigger than themselves. We can be more than the symbols we display, which sometimes can feel like a recycled version of the herd-mentality fandom we critique in Web2. It's up to us to dig deeper.
As an industry, Web3 is at an inflection point where we need to “do” a lot more than we “show” and especially “tell.” Actions speak louder than words, so let’s actually build things we are proud to be fans of. Our culture deserves it.