How To Make Other People Like What You Like (Spoiler: You Can’t)

It’s great to be a fan, to have something you love so much you want to tell other people about it, something you can’t wait for the next book or next episode or next installment or next album of. But being the social creatures that we are, it’s natural that we want to share that love with the people around us and in our community, and sometimes it can be frustrating when they don’t seem to want to listen.

I’m not talking about your friend who kind of chuckles when you play your Nicki Minaj album, the one who inexplicably loves those cheesy classic horror films. I mean more when you’re invested in a community and the things you like in that community aren’t what the majority of people gravitate toward.

If you’re following the news from SF fandom these days you probably have an idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to get embroiled in all of that. (If you don’t, search for “sad puppies hugo awards” on the Internet and you will have enough to read for days.) So I’m going to keep it abstract, but you can imagine something like “I like science fiction in the furry community but everyone just wants to read romance/relationship stories!” or “I like romance/relationship stories in the science fiction and fantasy fandom but everyone just wants stories with amazing settings!” Or even “There are these amazing masks in the furry fandom but everyone just wants fursuits!” Stuff like that.

So here’s the main thing, and the thing that seems to escape a lot of people (not my fans, of course, because you are all kind and understanding): everyone has the right to like whatever they want, and those likes will not necessarily align with yours. There you go. It is one of the trials of being a fan that not everyone will share your fandom. It can be frustrating when you’re in a community of people who seem like they should enjoy (science fiction/romance/masks) but remain obdurately ignorant or unappreciative. It can be tempting in those situations to ascribe other motives to those likes.

“People only like romance stories because of the porn.”

“People only like those fursuits because the owners are all over social media.”

“People only like this thing because someone popular told them to like it.”

And maybe there’s a little bit of truth to those things. But those are still their decisions to make.

I took a marketing class in college in which the professor explained to us that objectively, Pepsi tastes better than Coke. He got lots of strong arguments from Coke-preferrers in the class (including me), but pointed out that scientifically, in taste tests where people didn’t know the brand of cola, they tended to prefer Pepsi. When they knew the brands ahead of time, they preferred Coke*. This is the entire reason Coke changed its formula in the eighties: because people objectively did not like the taste of their cola as much.

* (Now, there are a lot of mitigating factors here, among them that Pepsi’s sweeter flavor works well on a first taste but often gets cloying over a full can; also I participated in a blind taste test run by a friend last year and my favorite of the colas was Coke Zero, so these things don’t always work.)

And yet, Coke was and remains the most popular cola brand. This is probably somewhat frustrating to Pepsi executives, though Pepsi is doing very well so they’re probably not all that broken up over it. But Coke’s marketing makes their brand so desirable that people enjoy drinking Coke more than Pepsi, and when they know the brand, to them, it tastes better.

That does not mean that those people are stupid for liking Coke. It does not mean that you can convert them to Pepsi by waving test results in their faces and saying it tastes better–as evidenced by the people in my class objecting to being told their favorite soda doesn’t taste as good. Because–are you ready for this point again?–it is their choice what to like.

In fandoms, the choices aren’t always as clear-cut as soda brands (if slight variations on the sweetness level in a cola soft drink is clear-cut). But the main point remains: sometimes you’ll be lucky enough that the thing you like is beloved by a lot of your community*. Sometimes you’ll just have a little group of your friends to discuss it with. There’s always that push to convert other people, and you absolutely, absolutely should talk in positive terms about the things you like. Be an evangelist for furry SF or romantic SF or masks or Pepsi or whatever you like.

*I have been extremely fortunate in finding a passionate fanbase, one which was motivated to vote in popular awards, and in being welcomed at most furry conventions I attend. I love all you guys.

Just don’t get negative about the thing you don’t like that everyone else does. Find new and creative ways to show off what’s great about your thing while allowing that other people like their things (and hey, try the things they like once in a while, too). Don’t press people to love what you love; lead them to the Pepsi but don’t get mad if they don’t drink.

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