2020 has changed the way Gunpla builders connect. But just because you can’t visit your local hobby shop or anime convention doesn’t mean you can’t still be a part of the community. Let Megaplamo introduce you to a few of the ways you can continue to meet other Gunpla builders on social media.
These are strange times, my friends. As I’m writing this, we are about five months into the age of social distancing. Although I am thankful that I have been able to stay safe and healthy, I am starting to get lonely.
Last year I wrote an article on how to connect with your local build community and possibly start a build group of your own. This year, it is safer to stay at home and follow CDC guidelines. However, there is another great way to connect and make model-making friends: social media.
The virus has made it so that we require technology in order to connect to each other. As Amber Case would say, “We are all cyborgs now,” and that is true this year more than ever! This pandemic has also shown us that we really need that social interaction for our mental health. For model-makers and Gunpla builders, we can use those same tools to connect with other people like us and even make friends we didn’t have before the pandemic began. Here are my tips on getting started.
Start Your Search Locally
The first thing I recommend is searching online for a community in your area. It’s hard to imagine right now, but COVID-19 will be under control one day, and when it is finally safe to meet in groups again you will have a local community that you have already been building a relationship with. You can search on Facebook for “[your city] + Gunpla,” or ask a local hobby store if they know of any. Their own Facebook page might double as a build group.
If you don’t have a local community already then I recommend starting your own! Just make a post on your page saying that you are starting an online Gunpla group and you will be surprised who will respond. Your aforementioned local store can be your most supportive ally: you can ask them to put a poster in the window or tell shoppers about your Facebook group.
Don’t Be A Facebook Lurker
Whether there’s an existing Facebook model-making group or you’re starting one from scratch, it’s important to make sure that the group seems active and inviting to new members. In case you haven’t guessed already, that means participating in the group yourself!
Here are just a few ideas:
- Show off photos of models you’re building and ask for constructive criticism;
- Give or receive advice about painting, posing, or modeling in general;
- Start a social media follow-back thread. Members can share their Twitter, Instagram, or other handles so they can interact on other platforms, too.
- Don’t just stick to text-based communication. Facebook just released Messenger Rooms, a new feature that allows you to video chat with up to 50 people. This is an excellent tool to host virtual build days for free.
In order to keep the group friendly, model the behavior you’d like your group to emulate. You can lead by example and ignore drama most of the time because—I can assure you—the positive voices outweigh the negatives. I’ve seen too many people get bogged down by drama and leave the hobby altogether, and frankly, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about making something cool and then sharing it with other kindred spirits who appreciate your work. If you’re a moderator, delete the really negative stuff. But anything outside of that, just let it go.
For A Wider Net, Try Instagram
Facebook is great for organizing a group locally, but it’s not the only way to connect with other builders. In my opinion, Instagram is the best option to connect with model makers across the globe. Since it’s image-based, there’s not as much of a language barrier. It is perfect for posting works in progress and completed kits to a wide audience.
Instagram has been my main platform for the past two years. I have been able to make so many cool friends and I’ve learned so much from each of them. The key to connecting with people on Instagram is to just reach out and leave comments, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most modelmakers love their craft and are happy to talk about the hobby and share their skills. All you have to do is ask, you will most likely make a friend in the process.
Instagram Stories, a Snapchat-like feature that allows Instagrammers to post images and videos that disappear after 24 hours, can be a great resource. Their temporary nature means model makers are more likely to show their build process and kit experimentation without having to commit to having those works-in-progress live permanently on their feed. It’s also low-stakes to interact with Stories. When you send a reaction or make a comment on someone else’s story, it feels more like a chat session and often opens the door to further communication.
My Favorite Modeling Communities
Ready to get started? Here are a few fun modeling groups I recommend on social media:
- Gunpla Builders Association (Facebook, Instagram). You can find this great general group on many platforms. Their Discord is a great place to get building help.
- For femme and nonbinary builders, I recommend the Gunpla Girl Gang (Instagram, Twitter). Founder @TexMerquise is a talented custom builder, too.
- Of course I have to mention Those Gunpla Guys, one of the OG Gundam groups. They’re better known for their in-person build gatherings, but in 2020 they’re making the best of it with online competitions: see their Facebook for more.
- Cutting Mat Podcast (Instagram, Twitter) is a model making podcast and associated community from my friend @truegunpla.
No matter which social network you end up using to connect with other modelers, I’ve got one final piece of advice. If you only take away one thing from my article, let it be this: share your work! If you know a technique, are excited about a new kit, or just completed a project, share it. It’s the simplest and most effective way to contribute positively to social media—and you might make a new friend or two in the process. That’s what the modeling community is all about.
Megaplamo has been building plastic models since 2001. When not building he plays the guitar, bikes, and travels. He lives near the Gulf Coast of Alabama where he and his wife are teaching their two cats to become productive members of society. You can follow @megaplamo on Instagram for current projects, completed projects, and Gunpla building tips.