Arts, On Campus, Column

Why Superfans Don’t Show Up

‘Support’ is a scarce resource at BC, and the more done to force students to care, the less it means.

It requires remarkably little to show your support at Boston College. Supporting the football team is easy as sticking on a Superfan shirt. Supporting the University is easy as sharing a video on Facebook. Supporting social justice is easy as swiping away five dollars at a dining hall. Supporting your friend’s a cappella group is easy as showing up for her concert, and at least staying till her solo.

And for how simple it is, we’re exceptionally bad at it. There are tables literally covered in free food and apparel in the Superfan Zone before home football games, left there with the thought that maybe, just maybe, some downtrodden freshman—excluded from the entirety of tailgating festivities—will wander aimlessly into the stadium and pick up a free t-shirt and chicken tenders, and listen to some live music. Said freshman is still hard to find, and if he does show up, good luck getting him to stay for kickoff.

Perhaps if the parties responsible for getting students to games in a timely fashion were to walk around Alumni with a bucket of dollar bills, paying anyone in the student section on time for the National Anthem, things would be a little different, but then again, maybe they wouldn’t.

If you don’t have the luxury of bribery, finding “support” at BC grows into even more gargantuan an undertaking. The fact that the University incentivizes so many activities makes it all the harder to persuade friends to come to an open mic night, for example, when there’s no free t-shirt on the table. There’s no point system for visiting that Impressionist exhibit at the McMullen, no photo opportunities with Jerry York at your friend’s murder mystery comedy night.

The shortage of support at BC, at first, appears to be an issue of quantity: when everyone has a cause, there’s not necessarily enough support to go around. And with not enough people to care about whatever your thing is that needs caring, the result is a more dodgy, quick strategy for drawing people in, whether it’s candy or costumes. Not to fully discredit the dancing banana man who offered to give me candy in Mac last week if I helped finance his solidarity trip, but at some point, it’s worth asking whether “supporting” a cause out of coercion is really supporting it at all.

At its heart, the lack of support at BC is an issue of quality. I’ve grown distrustful of that fateful swiping machine at the entrance to dining halls, if only for the reason that I’ve seldom felt that my support meant all too much to anyone after swiping.

People become donations, numbers. A big audience might not be better than a dedicated small one, but it looks better. It makes for better photos, and if you care enough about something, you find reason to hope that superficial support can be converted to something real, even if the crowd only showed up for the free pizza.

To actually find support is an extraordinary task, because there honestly isn’t enough of it to go around. The first step toward it is to give up on the numbers, which is perhaps easier said if you’re playing music rather than collecting donations—and this is especially tough if part of the reason you cared about what you were doing was the competitive side of it.

Until the culture of promotion at BC shifts away from the numbers game, there’s little room for improvement in how students support each other. It requires remarkably little to show your support at BC, and that’s most likely our problem. To actually care should be a challenge. It should be rare, uncommon.

Because there are some convictions you can’t swipe away.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration

October 29, 2014

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