Looking at the trend of furcon cancellations around the world, it is worth noting that this would definitely take a toll on the furry fandom, given that conventions and meets are essentially “cultural centres” for furries to celebrate the fandom.
What kind of impacts would this pose to the fandom, and how did the fandom react? What are the kinds of attitudes the fandom have towards this?
Today we are going to analyse the data we’ve received from 154 respondents in a mass survey we recently conducted, to answer the questions, “What has COVID-19 done to the furry fandom? Is there more things down below the surface than we actually thought?”
So, there would be 4 parts that we would be going through, “Furries and the Pandemic”, “Furcons and the Pandemic”, “Fandom Culture and Psychology”, as well as “Future of the Fandom”.
Let’s start with the first one:
I. Furries and the Pandemic
This is where we want to see the overall awareness of COVID-19’s impact on furry fandom.
Question 1, on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being no, it didn’t’, and 5 being ‘yes, it did’, “Do you think that the coronavirus has adversely affected the furry fandom”? 90.3% of respondents hover around 3 – 5 here, with a small number saying “no, it did not”.
These responses, though may be based on individual perception of their local communities, definitely tells us that the pandemic’s impact is large and widespread.
When we talk about what COVID-19 did to the fandom, it might also be good to think, “Does this affect furries’ livelihood?” Due to the severity of the pandemic, fandoms around may be adversely affected, be it financially or psychologically, which we will cover later on.
That leads us to question 2, “Do you think the situation could adversely affect the livelihood of furries?” 51.9% of the respondents said yes, 37% said maybe, and the remaining 11% said no.
The word “livelihood” here is quite a big word. So does it seem a little bit too much to put it in the context of furry fandom? Not exactly. To furries, socializing in fact is important, something they cherish – friendship, support, care and warmth, and COVID-19’s recent developments could mean more problems on this aspect, as well as to those who mainly earn income through the fandom.
So, how did furries deal with it?
Well, there has been a trend of online events recently, from online furcons to meets, meant to bring the atmosphere of furry cultural icons to wherever the internet can reach.
On that note, we asked whether or not furries attended online events. 61% of the respondents said no, while the remaining 39% said they only attended either online furcons, meets or both.
Over here, majority of the respondents said they did not go to online meets. It may correlate to the online events’ relatively new and obscure publicity.
II. Furcons and the Pandemic
This is where we asked about the experience at online events, as well as whether or not people think that furcons as well as furry dealers can be affected by the pandemic.
Note that the 60 respondents who indicated that they went to online events would be given these questions.
One thing about online events is definitely, no physical experience. So that means no hugs, no boops, no belly rubs. However, these events adopted numerous ways to replicate or at least bring the experience closer to our living rooms. With that, let’s see whether or not the experience is good or bad to them.
“If you’ve attended any of those events mentioned in the previous question, do you think they are effective?” 88.3% said yes, the remaining 11.7% said no.
On top of that, we asked respondents to rate their experience on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being not good and 5 being good. 55% of our respondents who went for these events rated 4 out of 5, forming the majority.
These questions strongly relate to the lack of things like physical experience at these online events. Of course, this is of no choice given the coronavirus’ ease of spread and therefore a need to socially distance. However, it also relates to the fact that these events have in numerous areas a big advantage over physical events.
With that, that leads us to the next two questions asking respondents the one big thing that makes online events so good as well as those which they fall short of.
For the good areas, out of all the choices given, 10% said that the activities provided made these events good, while 21.67% said ease of connection with friends, another 21.67% said convenience, and the majority of 45% said all of the above, which includes the ability to use e-payments at (virtual) Dealers’ Dens.
Moving on to areas that online events fall short of, out of all the choices given, the majority forming 40.83% of the pie cited the lack of physical experience being one major shortcoming, followed by 11.67% saying time zone problems, 5.83% saying internet stability, 5% saying security issues (protection from hackers, trolls etc.), and lastly 1.67% saying the inability to physically buy things at Dealers’ Dens. One more thing to see here is 1.67% saying that it’s better than nothing.
Amidst the pandemic’s impacts on the fandom, it definitely is better than having no meets or furcons at all. At the same time, online events are much more flexible and convenient than their physical counterparts.
“Do you think the coronavirus could adversely affect physical furcons?” 70% said yes, 3.3% said no and 26.7% said maybe.
Furcons are definitely strong when everything goes to plan, but are definitely not completely immune to whatever that could be thrown at them when they have to cancel due to COVID-19. Furcons may be charged by the venue because of the change of plans, and in worse case scenarios, it could ultimately lead to the downfall, or bankruptcy of the event.
However, as with all rules, there are exceptions. Events can cancel by something called “force majeure”, meaning that they can cancel without any penalties because of natural or unavoidable catastrophes that are unforeseeable, some examples include war, natural disasters and pandemics. However, conditions may be getting tighter, since according to Investopedia, questions about what is and is not “foreseeable” in a legal sense have been raised given the increased awareness of both man-made and natural disasters, such as pandemics, asteroids and nuclear warfare.
With all that talk about dealers’ dens in the previous question, we also wonder whether or not people think that furry dealers would be affected by the pandemic. 76.7% said yes, 20% said maybe, and 3.3% said no.
Well, it is true that things like fursuit making and drawing art are things that could be a hobby, or it’s mostly for personal enjoyment, and commissions could be something like a side job, or a second flow of income. However, there are those who do fursuit making or draw art for a living, and with that comes a major risk for them: what if their queue stops?
As the pandemic starts to affect work, people’s income flow may start to slow down, therefore resulting in people feeling more reluctant to commission, which further worsened the risk.
“…because in times of trouble people want to hold cash, so there is a shortage of cash which is bidding up interest rates, which is exactly the opposite of what you want in the current situation…
…the problem with the current situation is, people are so scared that they are not spending, and if they are not spending then that means businesses aren’t getting revenue and that’s bad for everybody.
If it’s one business, it’s not a problem. But when all the businesses as we have now all the world, are shutting up shop, then it hurts everybody and it’s a big dwindling spiral.”
– John Carter, Senior Editor, Political Economy (SCMP) (source video below)
If you look at our COVID-19 Furcon Updates sheet, you could still see that there are still furcons that have yet to cancel for this year.
Now I’m going to ask, “why didn’t they?”, given that furcons near the end of the year are starting to close up shop, for example, Malaysia’s Furs Upon Malaysia, which was expected to be held from 13 to 14 December. And as I said earlier on, it might be just the big question of “To risk or to not risk?” for organisers. Is that the case? We asked the chairman of Mexican furry convention Confurtiva for his view on this matter.
“I believe that the situation is sometimes that you cannot cancel without having appropriate resolutions or information so that you know actually if you can cancel (the event) with the hotel, or cancel the activities that you may have with the vendors.
So basically it is very important to understand (that) that is not something that conventions (feel like) wanting to or not wanting to cancel, but sometimes they need to fulfill some sort of previous advice that they’ve got regarding this. And not all furry conventions have insurances and securities in order to conduct proper cancellations.”
– Aoi Kuma, Chairman of Confurtiva and FurryMX
The keywords here are “insurances” and “securities”. That said, furcons are not guaranteed safe from possible setbacks that may be incurred on them, unless they have set good measures to keep them at least alive after subtracting the costs when it comes to cancellations.
So we thought how furries thought about furcons that as of now not intending to close. Is it okay or not to them? Majority (35.1%) said no, and as we can see, a decreasing trend from the left to right side of the graph.
A scenario: say that the pandemic ended before year end, and there are furcons still on plan. Would you still attend furcons that are not yet affected? 61% said yes, while the remaining 39% said no.
On top of that, would you go to furcons immediately after or wait for a while after the pandemic? 72.1% said immediately, while the remaining 27.9% said to wait for a while afterwards.
Given this, we could see that there are some furries who really want to go to furcons. So what is it about furcons that makes them want to go there, some even seemingly “desperately”? What kind of meaning does furcons hold to the hearts of furries? We conducted a little response poll asking our audiences and followers this question, and here are some responses we’ve got:
“For me, I like having a space where we can be the cool kids. In real life a lot of us aren’t so well off socially, financially, etc. But for a weekend we can live our dreams. For one thing we can have the wild house parties we were never invited to in college.”
“To me it’s about being a part of a community. A piece of something big and awesome and fuzzy ;)”
“It means being around like-minded people and being accepted into a group, no matter what”
“It’s a nice way to reconnect with old friends and meet new people, see and experience a way to take a pause from the world”
“It’s a good way to be with people that think alike and enjoy good times sharing the same good vibes, meet new people, have great moments with people we already know, see new art styles, show yourself to the world but also see the other worlds out there, the other members worlds.”
“For me it’s a weekend to truly be myself, free of judgement and make friends I truly connect with.”
These responses resoundingly shout one big thing they have in common – that furry conventions are places not just for socialising, but a place where furries can come and celebrate together as one community, one heart and one mind. That thus explains some of the results that we’ve got, and now we see the value conventions have to furries, that which makes them really want to go to furcons.
III. Fandom Culture and Psychology
This is where we would be exploring from a cultural and psychological aspect how would this pandemic affect the fandom.
The pandemic indeed has impacted so much in the world and created a whole new normal, no matter is it work or social connections. That could impact us too, and might even force the replacement of one of our most cherished traditions.
“In this new era of the coronavirus and the practice of social distancing, there will undoubtedly be a cultural shift in the way we all greet one another,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, Doctor of Medicine (MD), an internist and health expert, in a Reader’s Digest report.
After the pandemic, do you think traditional furry social practices (like hugs) would forever be changed, replaced or altered? 67.5% said no and 32.5% said yes.
Moving on, on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being no and 5 being yes, would you accept so if it does get affected? You can see there’s a general upward trend here in this graph with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest portion, but the middle rating, no. 3, is the second highest.
Or maybe it wouldn’t change permanently after all. It might be just a few months to even a few years post-pandemic, owing to extended social distancing to make sure the virus is fully in check. In a report by Global News (Canada), “social distancing could continue for quite some time depending on how much the virus continues to spread”.
When we have to distance from our friends, family and peers, definitely FOMO (fear of missing out) comes in. Even though we may have the internet, physical interactions still champion in the field of emotional bonding – something people would really yearn for. With this said, the pandemic did limited the amount of time furries can spend time together in real life, so how did furries deal with it?
On a scale from 1 to 5, do you agree that the pandemic could adversely affect furries psychologically? A generally increasing yet relatively irregular upward trend can be observed here, with the (imaginary) plotline dipping slightly every two ranks on the scale from the start, as we move from left to right.
As said before, social distancing could create FOMO among the masses. That can definitely bring about loneliness in many cases. With that,
Do you feel lonely during this period? 46.8% said sometimes, while 31.8% said yes, all the time, and 21.4% said not at all.
One thing to point out here is that for many furries, the fandom is a source of social support, according to numerous studies conducted by the multidisciplinary furry fandom research team FurScience (see Wellness – FurScience).
On another study, FurScience found that, for the most part, furries agree that the furry fandom fulfills a need to belonging to a group larger than oneself, a very important social need.  In fact, the figure below suggests that belongingness is a stronger motivator of fandom participation for furries than for members of other fandoms  (See Furry Motivation – FurScience)
Plus, furries felt equally connected to both furries and non-furries, as a group (See: Inclusion of Other in Self – Furscience). This could be one of the big reasons for the strong social element present in the fandom.
With the above examples mentioned, we can now see some of the big reasons and motivators that makes socialising so important to furries. The strong presence of social support, as well as a strong sense of furry belonging and therefore a high amount of energy for furry fandom participation could drive furries to wanting to socialise with one another more. Hence, this also explains for some furries the drive of going out and meeting each other as soon as possible (that is, after the pandemic).
But in this situation, as said earlier, social distancing may last for quite a bit of time, depending on how much the virus continues to spread. This would leave us with the one and only viable option for active socialising – the internet. If you talk about the furry community, you definitely can think of Telegram, Twitter and Discord as being the platforms that is really popular among furries. The data chart below is consistent with this as well.
The survey question is a checkbox-type multiple choice question, meaning that every vote by respondents of the survey will accumulate either of the Platforms variable depending on the choices selected. As you can see, Telegram, followed by Discord and Twitter are the top 3 platforms that are popularly used by respondents.
To point out, the results obtained under “Others” are quite interesting – since they included items such as phonecalls, letters, (amateur) radio and even satellite communication.
Most of these audiovisual platforms have a variety of communication modes – like texting, video calling and audio calls.
So we wonder, what kind of modes did furries use during this pandemic, since the price to pay for physical modes are getting higher? 33.8% said by texting, 6.5% indicated voice calls (inclusive of voice chats in-game) and just 1.3% said by video call. The rest of the 58.4% said all three modes were used.
Sure enough, all three modes were indeed used to compensate for the lack of physical communication – exactly the way virtual furry conventions and events used to facilitate communication and emulate experiences that can only be had at physical furcons. (See GFTV Furcon Special – Down Home Furcon 2020)
IV: The Fandom and the Future
Now, we’re going to see how furries think about the fandom’s recovery post-pandemic, in spite of the damages that the pandemic has done (and may continue to do so).
This pandemic can be said as a test to, if not all, of the integrity of furry fandom’s established social connections, channels, cultural institutions, and above all, cohesion and strength.
So we asked respondents whether or not they think furry fandom can recover quickly post-pandemic. 62.3% said yes, 32.5% said maybe, while the remaining 5.2% said no.
And also their confidence on their choice, on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being not confident and 5 being very confident. Here, we have a generally increasing trend. But this time, we can see three groups here – ranks 1 and 2 being the lowest, ranks 4 and 5 being the highest, while 3 is right in the middle.
Through these two results, we can see that the current conditions of furry social channels and connections are mostly good enough to most furs. However, since a big part of furry fandom’s socialising channels lie in the physical world, the gradually diminishing trend of chances to meet in real life would lead to doubt on the fandom’s post-pandemic recovery process too. Granted, since as said earlier, furcons are really important to furries’ hearts, as well as mutual socialising.
The results presented above may seems so grim and hopeless, since as you can see, the pandemic presents a lot of risks and challenges to furry fandom’s social and cultural functions as well as the so-called furry-economy. However, given the fandom’s strong sense of social belonging being instilled in the hearts of each furry, the fandom on the most part can make it through the pandemic together.
For furry dealers, they may make it through too, since nowadays, more furries are encouraging each other among furry social media to commission their favourite artists to keep them afloat during this situation.
As with online furry events and conventions, they may not be able to become that popular as with the physical furcons, but they are definitely here to stay and become part of furry fandom’s online engagement and socialising channels. As technology advances by the years, who knows, we may even holographic furry conventions? All from the comfort of your home. I’ll leave this for your imagination to go wild.
The pandemic’s end may not be a very clear one – one that’s foggy and difficult to confirm.
“When people ask, ‘when will this end?’ they are asking about social ending,” says Dr. Jeremy Greene, medicinal historian at John Hopkins University in a New York Times report.
Quoting the same New York Times report,
One possibility, historians say, is that the coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically. People may grow so tired of the restrictions that they declare the pandemic over, even as the virus continues to smolder in the population and before a vaccine or effective treatment is found.
As disagreements fly around between governments and public health officials on whether or not to loosen measures and restrictions early, we may never be clear when will COVID-19 completely ends, for now. Trying to define the end of the epidemic “will be a long and difficult process,“ says Dr. Allan Brandt, a Harvard historian.
Edited by Pawsry Hamktxchuzhni
7/6/2020, 2:37pm UTC+8
GFTV COVID-19 Furcon Updates: https://tinyurl.com/covid19furconupdates
South China Morning Post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX8N0u2iCLo
Global News (Canada): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cGLrSpaf4o