Today Ethan Kaplan, ethank to most of us knuckleheads, reminded the R.E.M. Fans United Facebook group that it’s been 25 years since he founded the beloved fansite Murmurs.com. The site, now gone since 2014, was an incredible resource for both the casual and obsessive R.E.M. fan. Need to know how to get tickets for the next show? Boom, we got ya. Desperately need to declare your love for the uni-browed drummer of your dreams? Bill’s Tractor poetry was there. Needed to message the admin about getting in touch with a band rep so your college radio station could get in touch with the band’s publicity folk for an upcoming event? That happened.
But man, Facebook is just not a good place for my fandom. At least, not like how spaces like murmurs.com and my other love atu2.com could be. Both are now gone forever. On one hand, I’m glad no one can now see 18 year old Jordan’s writings if they’d figured out my username. On the other hand, I feel more disconnected from my musical tribes than ever before. I say this as someone who actually runs several fan pages on Facebook, has this here blog, and a twitter account with decent reach. I FEEL ALONE IN MY FANDOM AND THIS SUCKS.
One of the great joys of fan run sites, especially the good ones mentioned above, is the ability to curate your experience. I don’t care what the members of U2 are up to in their daily lives, that kind of attention gets a bit stalkery to me, so instead I wind up reading through the art sections of the forums, seeing great works like Achtoon Baby pop up next to some little kid’s version of the Vertigo logo. Or instead of seeing the same link to a popular R.E.M. song copy/pasted into EVERY R.E.M. fanpage on Facebook, I could venture into the Other Bands We Like section and get recommendations for new music.
These days, I have to wade through hundreds of posts saying things like “I love this video” or the thousands of fake t-shirts for sale to get to an actual conversation. But there’s not much room for nuance or disagreement. Y’all know me. I will sit and talk about how underrated NAIHF, Up, and Reveal are all day. But on fbook I would be buried immediately under dislikes and lots of disagreement. The back and forth gets flattened into a yes/no scenario and I hate it.
Sure, U2.com has the official fan forums and they’re….fine. I have to pay to access a lot of content on the main site and I can’t find a gang of regulars to hang out with. But once upon a time we had m2 and John and Kelly or TheWrongChild and DriverNate and inspectorjason. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still real life friends with a lot of these folk thanks to Facebook, but our experiences now are so disjointed and weird. It’s like walking past the bar you used to go to at the end of every day to find it’s been replaced by a WeWork.
I really wouldn’t be the person I am without these places. Some of the best moments in my life have been traveling to NYC, Seattle, and Ireland and meeting up with the folks behind the usernames, being able to bring them small tokens from Athens and beyond. These people are my friends and I miss our ability to log onto these places and just shoot the breeze. I started this blog, itself a relic of another time, partially because I wanted to be able to let my friends know what was happening in Athens in addition to R.E.M. related nonsense. I owe Matt and Ethan a tremendous debt. But sites like those take so much time, effort, and money to run. I can’t blame them for leaving it all behind.
I miss what the internet used to be but I guess we all do. Older fans lament the departure of zine culture, tape trades, and mailings. All things fade and pass. I’m just glad I got to be part of it for a little while.