Follower or Fan by Ron Steinman
There have always been fans. In the heyday of print, many magazines doted on the fans who read them. Print is almost dead and the Internet is the substitute for the once glossy, celebrity-filled pages that covered everything from Hollywood to baseball to fashion. There are still fans. There always will be fans, but now there is something new, especially with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a plethora of lesser-known sites. These are followers. A follower is well beyond a simple fan. Followers expect deep worship, a commitment that brings with it something akin to religious fervor. The simple fan or fanatic lives for the object of his or her affection. The follower runs blindly with the group as part of a base that signals the loss of the self. Athletes. Movie stars. Rock stars. Political junkies. Name it — they all have followers. They also have fans.
Now I will split some hairs. Some may think or believe that fans and followers are the same. They are not. A fan has a passion that is often a one-on-one relationship, at least in the fan’s mind. A follower may think he or she has the same passion as a fan does, but he follows to be part of the pack. A follower is not a disciple. All he or she has is a desire to fill an otherwise empty life.
The fan does not care what anyone else thinks. He or she bases loyalty on a love that is usually unrequited. The fan wants his fanaticism rewarded with a life inside the object of his affection. A follower cares very little about the purity of love because his or her participation in following whatever it is he swears allegiance to is less in who he follows and more in the act of following. Being one with the collective trumps the single fan’s simplistic concept of love. This does not mean the follower’s love or the team spirit for his object of desire has any reciprocal benefit. The follower never gets any love in return.
Followers are blind. They are pack oriented. Community is more important than self, though even in a crowd they would not recognize each other. Followers never fill arenas. That is the work of fans. Followers join namelessly with others of their ilk to bow and scrape at the feet of those they follow. Most fans know they will never fulfill their fanaticism, unless, as sometimes happens, they decide to try to form a bond though violence.
A fan can have the freedom of one. His or her taste is in the particular. Fandom revels in the peculiar. Knowing everything about the object of his or desire is more important than sharing in the object’s success.
The followers lives in the world of many where the individual does not exist. Followers follow because of a fear of being alone. Followers feel good knowing there are others, sometimes in the millions, with them in their pursuit of togetherness.
However I cut it, I am neither fan nor follower. For that I am thankful.