When you hear the word “fandom,” the first thoughts that come to mind might not necessarily be positive. Perhaps, the most common one being that participation is a waste of time. However, I’m here to argue that the online fandom is the best thing to happen to Internet culturein every context; socially, culturally, and intellectually.
On the surface, some girl on Tumblr who’s profile picture is a selfie with the Snapchat flower crown filter fangirling about Game of Thrones might not seem that groundbreaking, but trust me, bigger things are at play here.
Firstly, online fandoms, especially those supported by blogging sites like Tumblr, connect people in ways other social media platforms cannot. Fandom connections are based on a common interest, and allow the possibility for individuals to choose their level of participation. The resulting community is extremely dynamic and is made up of people from a multitude of backgrounds who each take on different roles within it. Those on the periphery support and spread the original content produced by those who are more deeply involved. In addition, participants are allowed some degree of anonymity, so transition from the periphery to deeper involvement, and vice versa, comes with a smaller risk of scrutiny than if the participant’s identity was known.
Secondly, since many fandoms form around books, TV series, movies, and franchises with expansive and intricate universes, they often spawn creative content of their own. Original analysis (the most basic elaboration) draws the community’s attention to previously unknown or unseen details, which usually serves to increase the admiration of the work, or at least spark discussion among participants.
At a deeper level, fandom communities produce large quantities of artwork and writing that center around their chosen universe. While the argument that using another’s characters instead of your own to further your own art exists and can be valid, experimenting with the universe that inspires you is, in my opinion, an incredible compliment to the creator(s). Creativity generated by creativity can only have positive effects on those attempting to find their own style.
As this original content filters through the fandom, it’s chosen universe only becomes richer. Suddenly, characters and stories become even more dynamic as participants add their own twists through their artwork and writing.
Finally, online fandoms offer a safe space for those who struggle with everything from identity dysmorphia to mental health issues. Sometimes, identifying with the struggles of a specific character, and dealing with your own through the lens of a particular universe is more effective. Participants dealing with similar issues are able to find each other in this way, and soon, a support network upon which they can depend is born.
In short, online fandoms are much more than they seem. They are communities of dynamic individuals who celebrate the creative work of others, produce art of their own, engage in discussions of a topic they care about, and support each other in times of need. In a world as uncertain as our own, their presence is a comforting notion. So, go ahead and nerd out on what you love.