Are some things more acceptable to be obsessed over?

We are voracious consumers of media, and something I noticed is how society seems to have a kind of heirarchy in terms of acceptability. One of the biggest defenses people will have when teased/criticized about having certain (usually really nerdy) interests is to compare their interest to something more mainstream- usually sports. In their mind, being obsessed with _____ should be just as acceptible as being obsessed with sports/wrestling/sitcoms/etc.

Maybe. But I think acceptibility of hobbies, even going beyond the fact that different people like/dislike things for different reasons, seems to operate on a continum. These are the categories I noticed people base their acceptibility of hobbies/interests:

How well known is it?
Is it age-approriate?
Is it gender-appropriate?
How much negative stigma is attached to it?
How much does the person define themselves by it?

For example, someone could have a conventional hobby, say watching baseball. This might not seem weird. But someone obsessed with baseball might get to the point where baseball becomes their identity. People seem more ‘accepting’ of hobbies/interests they consider normal. I think a big part of this though is because they understand what the hobby is about ahead of time. They can probably relate a little bit or find some common ground with why someone else likes baseball. But for really obscure hobbies, if a person has to exhaustively explain what it is/why they like it/etc, to other people it may seem more ‘weird’ because they’ll have a much harder time understanding why someone would be into it.

Another problem I noticed is that often times people are not just a ‘little’ into an obscure hobby, they are obsessed with it. This creates even more dissonance because to other people it may seem unusual that the person is so into something they have never heard of (possibly prompting questions like, “Why?” “Whats the point?”). If the hobby is something that isn’t conventionally age/gender appropriate, it will raise more questions/judgements.

Anecdote: Last week I had a guy in his thirties get on my bus, with a t-shirt that said ‘BRONY’ on it. Immediately after he got on he started talking about this show My Little Pony, and without any response from me started going on and on about it- who his favorite pony was, all the little in-jokes in the show, how the show is some sort of analogue to his own life, etc etc. People can like whatever they want, but it was interesting how someone would be so candid about liking something most people had 1.) Never heard of 2.)Was not age-approprate and 3.)Was not gender-appropriate. Without being prompted at all he went on and on about it, most of his conversation subtly justifying why a 30-year old man would enjoy watching a little girls show about cartoon ponies. At some point, someone behind him (probably impatient about having to wait for this guy to finish rambling) asked him incredulously, “You like a show about cartoon ponies?” and the Brony guy got huffy and sat down without incident. But after a little bit he started talking to people again and basically used my earlier example (sports) to try to justify his interest- why is it ok to say, “Hey, how about those Giants?” but not “Whats your favorite pony?” “Do you think the ponies on the show should be anatomically correct?” :eek:

I didn’t really want to get in a debate with him at the time (being on the clock and all) but it got me thinking about the issue- are there some things more acceptable to be obsessed over?

Ideally, no. A level of obsession that is bad for one thing is equally bad for any other. A man so obsessed with baseball that he spends everything he owns except for what he needs to pay for his house/food/etc on baseball memorabilia and visiting games should be no more (and no less) acceptable than one who is equally obsessed with My Little Pony, or collecting stamps, or model mecha, or Warhammer 40,000.

Saying that one should not be more acceptable than the other doesn’t imply in itself that such an extreme level of obsession is acceptable anyway (although, to a stranger, this should be irrelevant; it should be only family and friends who judge someone’s hobby as acceptable or otherwise based on the level of obsession, since their concern is presumably with the well-being of the hobbyist and ensuring that he doesn’t take it to destructive levels) but it does mean that levels of obsession should be equal regardless of the object of that obsession (provided, of course, we’re talking about things which are harmless to others).

On the other hand, a ‘normal’ level of obsession is fine in either case. Someone who really enjoys baseball, brings it up in most of his conversations, but doesn’t spend an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about it is no more unacceptable than one who relates everything to Transformers and always has a comment comparing things to what a Transformer did in a particular episode/movie/etc.

I think the obsession–the state of being obsessed with something–is far more important that the thing being obsessed over. A person inclined to such behavior will fasten on anything convenient, not for its intrinsic appeal but because it offers enough complexity to satisfy the obsessive drive.

As far as one obsession being more “acceptable” than another, I would think that an obsession that is beneficial to the individual, such as exercising, or one that is beneficial to society as a whole, like spending a great deal of time in charitable work, would be more acceptable than behaviors which were pointless and/or destructive.

I fully expect to see you, having this non-conversation, on a future episode of “Loiter Squad**”. :stuck_out_tongue:
**Cross between Candid Camera and Jackass

Anyone who walks onto public transportation and immediately starts expounding on their likes and dislikes to a stranger should be avoided. It doesn’t matter if they like football or MLP. I like World of Warcraft, but I wouldn’t get on a bus and start talking about how cool pandas are or how much I want to make a monk when the expansion comes out. Because that’s a pretty freakin’ odd conversation to have with people who don’t explicitly share my hobby.

Tangentially, more than a few guys like MLP because they fetishize it. I don’t know a lot of guys who are into football because they want to have sex with the players, but a lot of the guys into MLP, well… they tend to obsess in a very creepy, sexual way about the ponies. And for these guys, talking about MLP to strangers is a way of sneakily indulging their fetish in public (like how brushing up against people in a crowded bus indulges someone’s secret frotteurism fetish).

It’s cool if you are into, say, BSG because it’s a good show, and you would also like to have sex with Starbuck. But if you *only *watch BSG because you want to have sex with her, and talk about the show unasked all the time (even to strangers), you’re undeniably creepy. That’s where the line between hobby and fetish blurs and makes people uncomfortable. And frankly, every single one of the bronies I’ve read about online are on the wrong side of that line.

Yes, there are. I know guys who love talking sports. “Did you catch the game last night?” is how they greet each other in the morning. There’s this one guy at work who–even though he knows I know nothing about sports–tries to entertain me about some wonderful baseball moment he saw on TV. I’m expected to sit there and nod politely and not think these people are freaks.

But if the women in the office talked about soap operas with the same passion, there would be much eye-rolling and shaming. I’ve brought this up before and people tell me that it’s somehow “different”. No, not really. It’s still people worked up about something that’s trivial and “fantasy land.”

If I had a muscle car as my desktop wallpaper, people would think I’m a “cool chick.”

But I have a LOL cat instead. So people laugh at me.

I agree. Bronies are the only fandom i’ve heard (besides evangelicals) that will just go on their spiel unsolicited. Other people have their own interests, but theyre at least socially aware enough to share in context, or confident enough not to have to preemptively explain and rationalize it.

As for the Lolcats wallpaper, that could fall under familiarity- if nobody gets the joke but you, it will affect people’s responses. And as for sports vs soap operas, I wonder if its about majority rule and how many people are discussing what subject.

The show somehow managed to tap into the bottom of the internet barrel. Most are generally nice and decent people, but a few are so utterly lacking in social awareness that the old Trekkie stereotype would have given them the stinkeye. Even then, they tend to be nice, just kind of odd.

Even then, it’s not so much about the show as it is the people themselves. A fandom, even the brony fandom, contains folks like that as well as quite successful and normal people you’d never suspect of liking odd stuff. The difference is that normal people are socially aware enough not to talk about their interests that the people around them don’t share.