The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary provides two definitions for the word fandom: “the state of being a fan of somebody/something,” and “the fans of a particular person, team, TV show, etc. considered together as a community.”
In this current age of the internet, almost every person finds themselves fulfilling the first definition, but far fewer people also identify with the second. Fandom communities can sometimes form bad reputations for being “toxic,” but not all of them are like that.
Being part of a fandom community can be beneficial in forming new friendships, building connections with others, and working to benefit the community around you.
Joining a fandom doesn’t require some big initiation. A good starting point is entering some community discussions on social media about something you are passionate about within the fandom. Wait for some replies, and then start a conversation. You can make friends within the fandom this way, and just like that, you’re part of the community.
All members of a fandom community have at least one thing in common: being a fan of what the community is based on. A study from the University of Kansas examined people’s relationships and found that “we’re drawn to people who are like-minded.” Considering that, being part of a fandom is beneficial because it can help you form relationships with more people since you already have one guaranteed similar interest.
“Mojave Phone Booth” from Wikimedia Commons.
An example of this is the Mojave Phone Booth. Although this may be an unorthodox fandom, the people who called the phone booth can be considered fans of a phone booth since they enjoyed calling; they were “enthusiastic devotees,” which is the definition of a fan according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They formed a community around calling the phone booth, which can be considered a fandom.
A 99 percent invisible podcast episode describes the fandom of the Mojave Phone Booth and the relationships formed within the community. Daniels said, “[Calling] wasn’t about the content…. It’s just the connection.” The fandom gave people a place to tell their stories and be listened to.
“The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles” by Omar Bárcena on Flickr.
Fandom communities can also work together to create a positive impact on their surroundings. For example, Josh Spencer led the fandom of printed books to conserve the relevance of print editions of books. In a time when digital and audiobooks were growing in popularity, Spencer opened “The Last Bookstore” in downtown Los Angeles and connected the fandom of printed books. Spencer describes how the community formed around the bookstore sustained the store and gave the books life.
Being part of a community and forming relationships and connections with the people within it can be a wonderful experience. Fandoms can make you feel accepted for your odd quirks and interests because the people in those communities share those quirks. They can help you find people you can relate to, and a community that supports your interests.
Still from the movie Spirited Away produced by Studio Ghibli.
In the movie Spirited Away, the main character Chihiro is dismissed by her real blood family as they ignore her concerns, which leads to their unfortunate fate of being turned into pigs. However, in the challenges Chihiro faces to rescue her parents, she forms strong bonds with people she meets and shares experiences with, similar to the bonds that can be created within fandoms when you meet people you share similar interests and opinions with.
If you identify with the first definition of fandom in any way and are a fan of something, consider the second definition and join a community.