As I write this article, I have one of my favorite episodes of "Doctor Who" playing in the background (Boom Town, if anyone's wondering). This marvelous British TV show was not my first foray into intense fandom, and I doubt that it will be my last. Sherlock, Harry Potter, Nerdfighteria. Fandom is an intense, varied thing. But, it is not all composed of screaming young people (mainly those of us with two X chromosomes) who devour any and all morsels that we can get.
Fandom is powerful. It is comforting. It is not just something for crazed fans. Fandom actually does a lot of important things.
1. Gives people a sense of belonging
Fandom makes people feel like they belong in the world. It helps connect people through conventions, the Internet, and through other sources. I actually made my first college friend via fandoms because we both geeked out over the same Internet things. It gives you something to do, whether it's watching videos on YouTube, trading theories with friends, or just reading fan fiction. People are able to see themselves in characters.
2. Tackles important issues
Fandoms tackle important issues. Whether it's through direct discussion or metaphor, issues of the day are shown in fandom. Whether it's the Vlogbrothers discussing important events and decreasing world suck, Harry Potter tackling racism, or Jane Austen tackling class issues (which still resonate to this day), fandom helps you think about what's going on. Fandom is not going to just make you flip out over your OTP; it makes you think.
3. Gives you someone to look up to
One of the reasons certain pieces of entertainment garner such huge followings is because people can connect with them. Who didn't want to be Hermione Granger or Minerva McGonagall? The Doctor teaches you how to be adventurous and creative, yet demonstrates how flawed people can still be good. Let's be real: what Jane Austen fangirl didn't want to be Lizzy or Jane Bennet once upon a time? I still do.
4. Takes you other places
Just about every episode of Doctor Who does this. Even episodes that are just inside the TARDIS are an adventure (it's bigger on the inside!) Getting lost inside a book or video allows you to travel to other worlds. Just watch a Thoughts from Places video!
5. Gives you hope
Fandom provides hope. For only a little bit, it helps you forget about any stresses and troubles in your life. Plus your favorite characters screw up. A lot. Like a lot a lot. Or act downright stupid.