Has social media changed theme park enthusiasm?

Discussion in 'Corner Coffee' started by Matt N, 15th Jun 2019.

  1. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Hi guys. I was just reading through a thread and I heard someone mention "the GP". This made me think to myself; has the rise of social media changed theme park enthusiasm? From my perspective, I personally think it has to a certain extent, even since I first became an enthusiast and started loitering around enthusiast sites in around 2013/14.

    The first reason why I think the rise of social media has changed theme park enthusiasm is because I have personally noticed a massive change in the way we receive things like construction updates and reviews of attractions. When I first started viewing enthusiast sites, I mainly relied on forums for things like updates and reviews. To be fair, I still do to some extent. When I first became an enthusiast, theme park YouTube channels and social media pages didn't really exist in huge abundance like they do now. I'd say you only really had POV channels like CoasterForce and Theme Park Review and the occasional different channel like Theme Park Worldwide or Coaster Studios. But now, there are tons of different types of theme park YouTube channel. There are about umpteen different theme park vlogging channels, and there are a similar number of Coaster Studios-style channels. If you want an update or an opinion on the latest ride, there are now at least 20 different channels that can give you that in some form.

    I also think that the rise of social media has changed theme park enthusiasm because I think it's almost introduced a sort of hierarchy among theme park enthusiasts, if you get what I mean. I'm not sure whether you'd agree, but I'd certainly say I've seen a rise in levels of superiority so to speak within the community in the last couple of years or so. For example, I've noticed that among the enthusiast community, there are certain opinions on certain things that become the accepted norm so to speak, and anyone who goes against the grain seems to get criticised and called "wrong". A particular example of this type of thing that I noticed recently was that when Taylor Bybee uploaded his top 25 coasters onto YouTube, there were quite a few YouTubers who posted videos reacting to his list and criticising his opinions and placement of certain rides. Now while I admit that these can sometimes be humorous, I do think that it sort of undermines the concept of everyone being entitled to their own opinion. Linking in with this, I'd also say I've seen a rise in the perception that enthusiasts are superior to your average theme park visitor, or "the GP", as many enthusiasts refer to them as. Now, I must admit I'm not a massive fan of this idea nor am I a fan of the term "the GP", as I personally feel that it almost undermines the sole purpose of theme parks as places to go and have fun and forget all of your ideas of politics and superiority. Also, not everyone has to be interested in theme parks, if you ask me; we all have our different interests. We just chose to be interested in theme parks, and in my mind, that doesn't make us any more superior than anyone else.

    But what are your opinions on this matter?
     
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    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  2. Tom

    Tom TowersStreet Member

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    It's allowed people to congregate, meet and discuss much more freely I guess. When you consider how the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain used to operate from its founding to before the modern - and certainly social media - it is quite extraordinary how they held together as a community.

    With regards to how parks struggle to keep things as much of a secret, I think that it has taken away some of the mystery and wonder around new rides, particularly at Alton Towers. I think enthusiasts are worse off for it, but this is just my view. I'm sure the parks see social media as a positive in terms of their marketing and how they are now able to reach people in a more targeted way.
     
    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  3. TakeYourMedicine

    TakeYourMedicine TowersStreet Member

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    I mostly agree with you and saw the same kind of thing 10-15 years ago as forums became more popular. I guess really it's been around in all sorts of things not just parks, and becomes wider spread the more 'visible' and easy to join it is. It's now easier than ever to get swept into all this 'enthusiast community'.

    It has its pros and cons. The biggest cons are the rampant groupthink, factions of people all thinking along the same tramlines. I remember when I started memorising all the ride statistics when I was young—what did it have to do with anything? Nothing, it was just the 'expected' thing to do.

    There are also many enthusiasts trying to win status & influence among other enthusiasts, with some strange results. Again this is nothing really to do with theme parks or entertainment

    There's also the rise of huge Facebook 'closed groups', run by random admins who dont necessarily have any sense of democracy or fairness when running these things and where the level of discussion gets so far removed from reality that it's silly. Yet there's an expectation for young fans that you need to join them. I guess the same can go for forums, but the discussion is public here and much better.

    YouTube videos are always an awful platform for honest discourse really. It's very easy to make quick basic YouTube videos, cut it together in a trendy way and make yourself look good, do a 'Top 10' video and get 1000s views, etc. Doesnt take much, but still social media 'influencers' get idolised.

    At the end of the day, most the enthusiasts that take it too far and start warring at each other are usually young. They hopefully grow up, and go back to enjoying theme parks rather than defining themselves by it?
     
    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  4. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    I must say, I do watch many YouTube videos and channels, and I do definitely think social media has many positives! I don't know whether you'd agree, but the main thing I'm not really a fan of is the hierarchy of sorts that has been created between enthusiasts and "the GP", as some like to call them.
     
    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  5. TakeYourMedicine

    TakeYourMedicine TowersStreet Member

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    It has some positives like fast communication but it doesnt suit any real discussion and you can do just as well without it too. In terms of enthusiasm in general, a positive is that you can meet people and that's a great thing.

    The hierarchy is between enthusiasts too, in that some idolise others (when they dont necessarily do anything to deserve it).

    You're right about GP, the word is banded around by enthusiasts like "the GP" are an alien race who's actions are all the same and can be second-guessed (and often spoken about like they're inferior), when really they forget that enthusiasts themselves are part of the visiting public.
     
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  6. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    I personally feel that we're all part of the general public unless we work in the industry! Besides, I also feel that calling certain people inferior to others just because they don't know as much about theme parks kind of defeats the purpose of a theme park; theme parks are places to have fun and forget superiority and politics, right?
     
    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  7. TakeYourMedicine

    TakeYourMedicine TowersStreet Member

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    Yes exactly.
    I think many fans believe that they 'know' everything and have it all worked out, so their opinions are quite high and mighty. But really they might have no clue and would probably make a hash of it if they worked in the industry. (I only say this after being a 'fan' for a long time and seeing it year after year, and making a few silly assumptions myself over the years!)

    That's always been the case really. But what is pretty new is some fans using social media to make it look like theyre mega involved 'in the industry' when theyre not.

    It's also easy now for parks to manipulate fans to say how good everything is too. Give loyal fans free tickets and they'll say anything you want them to (and their followers will blindly listen?).
     
    Last edited: 15th Jun 2019
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    Posted 15th Jun 2019
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  8. pluk

    pluk TowersStreet Member

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    At the risk of sounding unduly negative, pretty much the whole of the enthusiast social media world is just vapid tedious noise. A bunch of nobodies wanting to be popular so saying the popular thing, and trying to project themselves as insightful and influential when they are neither. That's just how social media drives people to be, and I find it mostly a huge embarrassment. And yet here I am.

    Its one big plus is its ability to put like-minded people together, and I mean actually coming together and meeting in real life in meaningful way, not just clicking a like on a faceless strangers comment as you scroll past. Being actually social, not just media social.

    Pretty much everything else is a negative. I genuinely believe the world was a far better place before the internet (in everything, not just enthusiasm) and if I could switch it off I would.
     
    Posted 16th Jun 2019
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  9. Danny

    Danny TPWW's no.1 Fan

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    The main positive is it enhances the connectivity between people that was originally started by forums in the early days.

    As with the majority of social media platforms however, it creates a vile impression to some that they have to appear to be above everybody else.

    It irritates me that some people use it to heavily promote their own content on a tediously dull and excessive basis to the extent I no longer read their material. I'm all for you being proud of something you've done, but when it's frequently rubbed in people's faces under the guise of generating engagement, when in reality it's purely a "look what ride/park I've done that you haven't" jab at other enthusiasts, I lose interest in both the content and that individual.

    Social media has created and enhanced monsters that simply would cease to exist and whittle back to their pathetic little lives without it.

    Having worked in it from a Merlin perspective, it poses itself as a vital communication tool. Whilst you're never guaranteed to reach every single person you intend, there were a number of occasions in the job where we needed to communicate urgently in order to make guests aware of sudden changes or incidents out of our hands.

    On the other side of that coin however is the complaints and abuse. You need to be thick skinned to work with social media at the best of times (social media teams for rail companies will certainly confirm that).

    Ultimately yes it has changed theme park enthusiasm; it was inevitable. For the better or the worse? Well both. But that's why many of us still use the forums. The discussion on them tends to feel deeper and more involved than social media.
     
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    Posted 16th Jun 2019
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  10. Alsty

    Alsty TowersStreet Member

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    Forums such as this one have more of a community feel, whereas Facebook groups don't seem to have that same spirit. Social media always seems to bring the unsavoury characters to the forefront and seems to pit people against each other.

    Regarding "us vs GP", that discussion has been going on ever since the first forums; it's nothing new. I don't think it's exclusive to the theme park or coaster enthusiast communities either. I'm sure there are rail enthusiasts who belittle the travelling public because they don't know if their train is a Class 707 or a 717. I think it's just human nature that when some people learn obscure bits of knowledge then they feel like they're superior to others.
     
  11. NachoBob

    NachoBob TowersStreet Member

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    Speaking from someone who has a very small youtube channel (Theme Park Life) I am by no means an expert in any aspect of Theme Parks and I never intend to be. I started out by filming my days out with my family and uploading them to youtube just for my family to watch. I then found I enjoyed sharing my visits to different parks and watching others do the same. It is definitely a labour of love for myself and when I tire of it I shall stop.

    The thought of becoming a "BIG" youtube channel is definitely in the back of your mind because for myself the thought of being invited to VIP events and such (as an enthusiast) excites me. Who wouldn't be excited to be one of the first to ride a new coaster ?

    I totally agree that there is a certain unwritten hierarchy when it comes to youtube channels. But then this sort of thing happens no matter what profession someone is in. I see my youtube channel as an extension of my love for theme parks and its just part of it all, its irrelevant how many views, etc I receive because its for my enjoyment alone.
     
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  12. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    That's great! Nice to hear from someone who actually runs a channel in this discussion; thanks for posting @NachoBob!
     
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  13. Britford

    Britford TowersStreet Member

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    Personally, I see "The GP" as just a useful term to easily describe the large block of people who are, well, "The GP" everyone knows what it means and it is a real thing...so why not!

    (Its essentially the same as "Normie" if you think about it)
     
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  14. Lurker

    Lurker TowersStreet Member

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    One thing I've noticed, and it's been posted in other threads (by Rob I think), is a move from photos to videos. I often want to share a great looking coaster with my partner, but can't expect him to watch a video really. So I wish we got a few more photos and a few less videos.

    I think it's worth mentioning I don't have Facebook or Twitter. However I do use Twitter, the forums, reddit and YouTube.

    I think YouTube has provided a fantastic opportunity to some creative and hard working enthusiasts to create an income from their videos. Divisive as that may be, being a coaster enthusiast can be a very expensive hobby, especially when venturing abroad, so I respect the effort that goes into turning their passion into a money maker.

    As for the GP, I think the difference is in the way people enjoy the attractions. I actually think the GP usually have a bit more perspective over what's important than enthusiasts. But that's a big generalisation.
     
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  15. Stuie

    Stuie TowersStreet Member

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    Surely GP is just a term for people that haven't transformed into enthusiasts like @Matt N yet?
     
  16. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    What do you mean?
     
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  17. Sauron97

    Sauron97 TowersStreet Member

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    Two posters above I think are really on the ball when it comes to the effect of social media. Yeah, there is such thing as a fantastic you tube video, but its god damn rare in my experience. This IMO, is primarily because of the fact that the culture and format of social media has made delivering 'successful' videos more about gaining a fan base, attention/viewers/subscribers/likes, and not experimenting or exploring new or more esoteric topics, which is particularly the case with theme parks. The content is so dumbed down and restricted to POVs or 'top 10s' when really theme parks are about so much more than that and so much of the talent that goes in to these parks is overlooked. In a conversation with a few attraction designers the other week, one of them told me something that really hit me "It's a real pleasure to know someone is interested in the creators of these attractions. Pop stars play to millions and are recognised. Over the years our shows touch millions but we remain anonymous." Obviously the point isn't about becoming famous, but the prospect of millions going on your rides and not understanding what goes on behind the scenes is disappointing, especially when you're considering so called 'enthusiasts'. (of course everyone has their own interests in different areas but the ignorance is clear) overlooking or being unappreciative of your work.

    Without sounding like an Orwellian nihilist, I agree with the above that we live in an age of 'groupthink' where individuality is thrown out of the window because social media has driven people in to living lives as shallow posers and attention seekers. Look at all these instagram models. What is life about for them? Ok fair enough some of them might be decent people, but given what their goals and aspirations are, I wouldn't mind betting most of them are low life snobs who look down on anyone who doesn't share their lifestyle.
    I completely see what you're saying here, but I wouldn't use the word perspective. Nowadays, I go to a theme park just to to sit back and enjoy my day, nothing else. I allow myself to get sucked in to the stories and experiences of rides, and I enjoy seeing the reactions of people who've never done rides before. Ok there are different types of rides and we are quite good at naming which ones we enjoy more than others; there's nothing wrong with doing this sometimes so long as it's not overbearing, but at the end of the day nothing is stopping you from enjoying the experience of it at face value. And when you enjoy it at face value, you'll discover it's so much better than over analyzing and focusing on useless statistics. The 'GP' go to theme parks for exactly this reason. I wouldn't say they are more 'aware', it's just a side effect of the fact that they aren't driven by obsessive statistical nonsense, attention, views, and all the other superficial reasons out there.
     
    Last edited: 19th Jul 2019
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  18. rob666

    rob666 TowersStreet Member

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    Sorry Sauron, your post sounds as if social media is compulsory...it isn't.
    "Sandbrooke and co are the overlords brainwashed enthusiasts aspire to be like."
    Having met the guy several times, he is very down to earth and decent, about as far removed from an overlord as I could possibly imagine.
    And brainwashed...in what way is putting up a video of your recent trip to a park brainwashing?
    I do not do social media apart from two websites and YouTube...so I'm not really in a position to comment at length.
    Don't like it?
    Don't want it?
    Don't do it!
     
    Last edited: 19th Jul 2019
  19. RicketyCricket

    RicketyCricket TowersStreet Member

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    Yeah Sanbrooke is pretty sound in person.

    This hobby was always a very small community before the social media boom. It was rare that you would bump into another geek in parks unless it was a planned meet, or you got chatting to people in SRQ's. Nowadays there are Smiler T Shirts and Icon jackets all over every park in the UK.

    YouTube and social media has definitely led to an increase in the number of coaster enthusiasts, which can only be considered a good thing IMO.
     
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  20. Alsty

    Alsty TowersStreet Member

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    I think that just shows the success of marketing and strong brand identities. Things like Smiler t-shirts and hoodies are popular but I think it's a stretch to say everyone who wears one is an enthusiast.
     
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