I remember something Clint Eastwood once said in an interview, expressing his distaste for people who said they wanted to be actors instead of movie stars. He said, "if you're working, there's no difference." It's a refreshingly working-class attitude about the art of acting, one which indicates a professional understanding that in certain trades, such as showbiz, an audience is a natural by-product of working in the field. There's no arrogance or faux-humility anywhere near it. Just a simple acknowledgment that a certain amount of fame is part of the job of any working actor.
And with this fame, comes a certain amount of fandom. Any given actor anywhere in the world, at any time in the history of dressing up in costumes and pretending to be somebody else, is going to have a fanbase.
We all have our favorite actors, people we simply enjoy watching onscreen. We might even choose to watch a particular film based entirely on our favorite actors' participation in them. We've all given a chance to a film that might otherwise be unappealing to us, for no other reason than the fact that an actor we like is in it. Even if it's only a small part.
We're all fans of something. An actor, a fictional character, a movie director, a band... all these things and more have a fanbase. It's only natural.
In direct contrast to the fan is the phenomenon of the follower. The follower is somebody who, at best, hopefully, is merely interested in what any given YouTube pundit, for example, might have to say on any given topic. At worst, a follower is somebody who is monitoring the activity of any given YouTube pundit, for example, for reasons of tracking them, gathering information to use against them at a later date, drinking the deadly Kool-Aid they're about to serve, receiving their marching orders, or any other dubious purpose.
It's the opposite of a fan.
I recently made the surprising mistake of posting a video of my landlord's kid showing me the newborn puppies in the garage. I was surprised to get a text message from my landlords asking me to take it down because they didn't give me permission to post videos of their kid on YouTube. I realized my mistake and apologetically complied with their request immediately, but it occurred to me:
When did my landlords start following me on YouTube?
They're not fans, you understand. They have expressed no appreciation of my music or writing, and as far as I'm aware, have never heard it (though it's available on the same YouTube channel as the now-deleted puppy videos). They're cool people and I enjoy doing business with them, but that's the extent of our relationship. I give them money, they let me keep the keys.
So, even though they were right to ask me to take the video down, and it should have occurred to me to never post it in the first place, receiving the request creeped me out. It was like getting a transcript of one of your recent phone conversations in the mail, in a blank envelope with something cryptic written on the front. "We're watching you," perhaps, with the atmospheric tone of a Roman Polanski film, or Eyes Wide Shut.
I have an aggressively-uninterested and disdainful relationship with social media of all kinds. I re-joined Minds in 2018 (after deleting my original account) for the sole purpose of promoting The Poor Man's Nick Cave Tour. In hindsight, it was a ridiculous reason to re-join it, but in my dated ignorance I figured, who knows, maybe it will bring some traffic and interest to the music. The music, which is my trade and which requires a fanbase in order to survive. A year or so ago, I quit Gab again, deleting all my posts and "unfollowing" everybody, based on the insufferable, presumptuous mediocrity of heart, mind, and spirit on display by the self-absorbed exhibitionists who think a "free speech" police-station bulletin board is a "refreshing alternative" to the Big Tech variety. Like drinking a synthetic diet soda to lose weight, instead of abstaining from soda altogether. Somebody on Gab actually felt the need to tell me, a total stranger, that "you'd have more followers if you posted 'content' people wanted to see." Not fans. Followers. Instead of telling me I'd have more fans of my individual artistic vision who enable me to make more art by paying for the art I've already made, and encouraging me by expressing his appreciation of my work either verbally or financially, he presumptuously told me I'd have more "followers" if I kissed the ass of the collective in the ridiculous hope that somebody in this virtual pork chop factory will stop staring at their own reflection long enough to give my art (not content) the attention it requires to survive. Clearly, he was irritated by my posts of my own videos, music, and articles to the point that he took it upon himself to presume to enlighten me on the readily-apparent mediocrity inherent in the system he thinks is such a refreshing change from... itself.
It's like locking yourself in a zoo full of idiots. I have no interest whatsoever in a fake community made up of people half my age who don't know each other sharing frog memes about social issues of any kind. At least they're half my age. It's worse when they're your peers. Those people are genuinely hard to believe.
So, what's the difference between a fan and a follower? Ask yourself: whose work do you appreciate and enjoy to the point that you can genuinely say you're a fan, and whom do you merely follow on social media because you think they have interesting things to say, or make cool videos, or whatever?
For example, I'm a Nick Cave fan, but I only subscribe to Millennial Millie on YouTube. I'm a Ramones fan, but I only follow Candace Owens on YouTube. I follow ASMR people, Christian channels of various kinds (including many in which the person is simply talking to the camera while sitting on a lawn chair), assorted political voices, channels about aviation, Mexican news, scuba diving, or anything, but in no way could it possibly occur to me, even subconsciously, that I'm a fan of any of these people.
I even "follow" Russell Brand, a professional entertainer who needs a certain amount of fandom to survive. I follow him, I like him, and I think he's intelligent and sometimes even interesting, but I am definitely not a fan.
A fan is something entirely different from a follower.
Shane MacGowan is my all-time favorite frontman, and I'm a fan, but I merely get some interesting perspective and information from Good Fight Ministries, whom I follow on YouTube. I'm a fan of Lila Downs, but I merely appreciate the information and perspective I receive from Kent Hovind, or the Arizona Deliverance Center in Phoenix, both of whom I'm subscribed to on YouTube.
It would be ridiculous for anyone to say they're an "Arizona Deliverance Center fan," or a "Kent Hovind fan," as ridiculous, perhaps, as it would be to consider oneself a "Nick Cave follower" or a "follower of the Ramones." If someone told you they were a follower of the Ramones you'd probably look at them sideways and take a couple steps back in the event it became necessary to defend yourself.
And yet, I'm expected not only to read, but to actually take the patronizing advice about how to increase my followership to heart, instead of disregarding it as the toxic, myopic side-effect of the like-button dopamine hit for people whose work doesn't require an audience that it obviously is.
And I don't know about you, but I think it's long past time for an unexpected 90-degree segue into hardcore music-video wonderfulness:
Lila Downs' videos are so much fun and the songs are so great, I don't even mind the occasional Illuminati all-seeing eye symbol painted on the wall. She's the only artist I can say that about.
And appreciate the way Shane MacGowan's mouth falls lazily to one side at the end of the word "wall" at the 48-second mark as much as I do, if you can:
That guy has aged like wine. Literally. There's not much I appreciate more than the hard, howling Irish "R" in a Pogues song.
With the possible exception of this piece of Rock 'n Roll perfection:
And don't forget Jeanette. She's playing in Mexico City at the end of April. I allowed myself to get excited about it for a few minutes before I realized that, unfortunately, I will be too self-conscious as a tall, obvious gringo male dressed probably entirely in black to attend the girly-pop event alone. I already regret not being there. So it goes. I did miss Iggy Pop for stupid reasons in the late 90s, so at least my Iggy regrets won't be lonely anymore.
Contrast these examples with a dry, overwhelmingly informative Kent Hovind lecture, which will change your life as much or more than any Jeanette or Ramones song, but which it is impossible to apply any amount of fandom to.
If artists are underappreciated to the point of being totally invisible, to the point that they're considered "arrogant" (by people who are neither aware nor appreciative of their work) for not being able to survive on a total lack of that which Clint Eastwood flatly states is necessary for basic survival, and content creators are the pigs whose lips we're being trained to apply the inappropriate, undeserved, fawning lipstick of fandom, then what are we?
Are we anything more, truly, than base, faceless social media experiments vying for the attention of the other animals caged beside us?
Have we "evolved," really, beyond the need to think critically in order to solve problems of survival, and, now that we've finally "figured it all out," for the first time in history, will spend an indefinite eternity in unquestioned, utopian bliss while strapped face-down like cattle on a conveyor belt to hell, just as soon as we've disposed of those pesky Jews/Christians/dissenters, as we've been trained to?
I doubt it.
Anyway, enough. I need to take a shot of subscriber-count steroids so the other animals in the pig zoo don't turn and rend me into pieces after taking the daily injections of mindless rage and directed-energy idiocy they willingly subject themselves to.
To the followers, I see you. I will adjust my sunglasses so as not to trip over your shadows in the future.
To the fans, thanks for listening.