Words are a powerful tool. They can be used to hurt, to heal, to confront or to comfort. Words themselves are hardly the culprit though, it is the people who wield them and how they wield them that cuts to the meat of the matter.
I bring this up because I feel at times that words are used and abused to the point of having no meaning, or at least having their original meaning perverted and twisted to fit an agenda.
Since we are dubbed a “nerd-tainment” site though, I won’t delve too much into word play in other areas of life. Instead, I would like to focus on one word today that I think has lost all meanings in its current form thanks to the internet.
That word is “fanboy.” You all know the word. Knowing the world that exists today, you’ve probably been called it at some point or heck even used it against someone. But have you ever stopped and wonder why you are using it or what it really means? Has the word come to mean so little while being used so much?
Fanboy is an interesting term. It means many things to many people, but I believe it’s core definition actually has very little with a person’s fandom. Instead, it tends to refer to how they react to competing or similar products. I mean that a fanboy by a rough definition is a passionate and dedicated fan to the point of obsession. But those qualities isn’t what defines them, it’s their reactions and interactions with fans of other products that really drives home the point.
Fanboys tend to be so in-love with their product of choice that it sometimes blinds them to flaws or short-comings. They also have a tendency to be ill-informed or don’t care enough to learn about competing products. So they tend to be more hostile and venomous when confronted with opposing tastes or views.
That is all well and good, and fanboys of course still exist. The problem I have with the term is when people begin to use it as a word that is synonymous with fans. You can be a fan of something, lovingly, without being a fanboy. You can think something is great and amazing and special without being a fanboy. You can be passionate about something without being a fanboy.
How do you do that? By being able to critically evaluate your fandom.
Let’s look at some examples.
“I think the Xbox 360 is a great console.”
“I think the PlayStation 3 is the best console of this generation.”
“The Wii offers a great mix of unique content.”
All of those are fairly neutral comments. They can all be turned to showcase a level of biasness, but would only make the speaker a fan not a fanboy. Now watch as we simply morph these phrases to an extreme.
“I think the Xbox 360 is a great console because the Wii is only for casuals and the PS3 has terrible sales.”
“The PS3 is the best console of the generation because it doesn’t have kiddy graphics and nothing but shooters!”
“The Wii is amazing because the other consoles are only for graphic whores and don’t offer fun experiences.”
Notice the key difference here is that the speaker has to justify their own tastes by making blanket statements about the competition. The speaker also doesn’t really give examples as to why they like the product only reasons why they dislike the other products or find them lacking.
Now that we have the distinction in mind, can we please stop using the term “Fanboy” to designate anyone who shows passion towards something so that you don’t have to argue their points? Can we stop calling people “Fanboys” for expressing their happiness or joy or content with a product? Can we stop using the word “Fanboy” as an offensive tool to try and invalidate someone’s opinion?
Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should say something. And remember that words have meanings and those meanings need to be kept for them to continue having meaning!