A few of my recent posts on this blog have been about Beatles-related material. It reminded me of how much effort I used to put into being a fan. I sought out Beatles information as if it were the holy grail, and reveled in every piece I could find. I read books, bought t-shirts and posters, and clipped articles from the newspaper and saved them in a brown manila envelope. I must have been about 15 or 16 when Beatle-mania took hold of me, which would have been about 1993-1994. This was an excellent time to be a Beatles fan, because this was a time that could probably be best described as “Beatles, take 2.” This was when the Beatles Anthology came out, a 10-part television documentary with corresponding CD & book releases. The Beatles were all over the place, and I think a lot of this material was aimed not only at people my parents age, who had been Beatles fans since the beginning, but at a new generation of fans, like me.
Early on in my Beatle-mania, every new piece of information I found out about the Beatles was kind of a triumph. This definitely was not hidden or secretive information, but it was a process to get it. I had to go the library or a bookstore, or wake up early on a Sunday to listen to a radio program dedicated to the Beatles. Then came the internet, and there went the process.
I remember the first time I ever saw the internet, at a friend’s house, the first thing I did was search for information on the Beatles. And I found it. I don’t remember what the search results were then, but today if you type in “The Beatles” on Google, you get 7.5 million results. Back then, it was very exciting to think of all the information I could find at the drop of a hat. I think if the technology had been around, I would have much preferred being able to post articles and videos and comments on my very own Beatles blog, to just clipping articles and keeping them in a manila envelope.
Or maybe not. First of all, I have concerns even now about who might access my blog and my information. Most probably the concerns are unfounded, and have in fact been somewhat alleviated by a statement in my program that anonimity is extinct and the question now is not how to remain anonymous but who you should trust with your information. But back in high school, I was very guarded with my tastes – particularly my music tastes – because being a Beatles fan in the ’90s was not exactly the in-thing. (The anthology helped, but only somewhat.) To this day I sometimes uncontrollably and inappropirately laugh when someone tells me what music they are a fan of, because I think they’re kidding. My point here is that collecting the information would have been fun but I would have been hesitant to share it with the world.
Secondly, while I’m still a huge Beatles fan, I’m not the active participant in fandom that I used to be. And for a while I thought that was just part of getting older. But I’m nothing if not a teenager at heart, so now I think it’s because the thrill is gone. There is no challenge to finding out information on the Beatles, and there’s no point in me cataloging and archiving Beatles information because it’s already been done. If I ever want to find a fact or article, all I have to do is google it, and there it will be. Forever. Long after my newspaper articles have disintegreated. And it’s more convenient for someone else to store that information.
I am also a fan of people who are far more guarded than the Beatles. David Letterman and Paul Simon are two examples. But even then, I know that if I cannot find what I want to know, it is not information that is available. The thrill of the search lasts for the 230 milliseconds it takes for Google to return those results.
Being a fan used to be such a huge part of my identity and that part of me is gone. Or as we might say in my program, I now relate to that part of my identity in a fundamentally different way. I am still a fan-girl, and when asked (or not) I will gladly spill my opinion on things I either love or hate. But EVERYBODY does that now. Every Joe Schmoe with an opinion, a computer, and the inability to construct a coherent sentence. And to me that makes it less fun. As the old Groucho Marx joke goes, “I wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member.” (And yes, I used to be a big Marx Brothers fan. I still recommend Duck Soup as their best movie.”)
I guess the moral of the story here is that I was, and always have been, ahead of my time.