The positive effects of fandom communities
To some extent and even if we don’t realize it, we’re all members of a fandom! At its very heart, a fandom is a community of like-minded people, bonding over a shared interest, like a TV show, book, or movie. For some it’s as simple as that, but for others, being part of a fandom becomes a literal life-saver. What is it about fandom that brings people together and helps some individuals to find purpose in life? What is it about fandom that makes us not only feel better about ourselves, but possibly even be better versions of ourselves?
It’s All About Community
Fandom is a community. It’s about a group of people who have something in common that they want to celebrate; “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” When we are surrounded by people who share our attitudes, interests, and goals, it elevates those things to a different level–all of a sudden the things we like are validated. Bam, self-esteem! Maybe you spent your middle school years hiding your love for playing Pokémon because other kids thought it was weird, and along comes the massively popular, Pokémon: Go, and you thought, ‘screw it,’ I’m going to catch me some pocket monsters–no one’s going to know what I’m doing, they’ll just think I’m on my cell phone. But something unexpected happened: you met some new friends who love Pokémon just as much as you do, and suddenly you feel like you belong somewhere, that you’ve found your people.
A Safe Space to Explore You
Whether your fandom lives online or at a convention, when you’re communicating with your community you know you’re in a safe space. No one is going to ridicule you for thinking that Katara should have wound up with Zuko and not Aang (Zutara forever!), even if they disagree you’ll still feel safe arguing your point, and that’s pretty awesome. When you’re with other fans, you feel this warm, fuzzy feeling; an overwhelming feeling of OK-ness with being yourself. Finally, somewhere where you can be yourself and be supported, no matter what.
You’re Not Alone
A facet of fandom that really serves to boost self-esteem is the idea that you’re not alone. Maybe you’re the only person in your town who even knows what anime is, but when you log into your TweetDeck you know that there are other people out there who not only care about your opinions, but also care about you. For some of us who grew up feeling socially isolated, and maybe even despaired about never finding anyone else who understood us, finding a community online is a lifeline. Knowing that you’re not alone, that there is some common thing that can bring you closer to other people, even if it’s something as little as a favorite anime, is a huge deal. It makes you feel more connected and therefore…more human.
Humans are social creatures, as the common refrain goes; we need relationships with other people in order to stay healthy. A fandom is a great way to meet new people, which, of course, is the only way you can make friends. But fandoms don’t only facilitate meeting new people, they also serve to build strong, meaningful, lasting friendships. Through these friendships, we inevitably become better people, as we have built a network of trust and support that serves to hold us all accountable both to each other and ourselves. Whether we want to become a better writer of Supernatural fanfiction, or do a group cosplay of Sailor Moon, our fandom friends are there for us to give us what we need to always be improving.
Improving Social Skills
In a practical sense, when you take all the above benefits into account, fandom also helps us improve our social skills. Just by virtue of engaging with other people we invariably absorb behaviors and ways of interaction that help us all communicate more effectively and compassionately. Social skills aren’t just useful for interacting with friends, either, they are pretty crucial to surviving out there in the “real world.” The first time you post fanart on a forum, you’re opening yourself up to the ability to handle critique (it can still be hard to hear criticism in safe space, even if it comes from a good place). Getting constructive criticism from friends is one way to help build your ability to handle it from strangers or someone in authority.
Fandom Inspires Self-Esteem and Confidence
Having the support of a community instills in us a desire to not only be better people, but to look within ourselves for those things that make us lovable and worthwhile to others. Our minds work in strange ways, but the idea of other people liking you creates a positive feedback loop where you start to look more inward to understand what it is that people like about you, which in turn becomes something that you like about yourself and can become proud of. Those outside of your chosen fandom may not understand why you write fanfic and not your own works of fiction (who hasn’t heard “you’re so talented, why don’t you write your own stories?”), but that’s ok, because you know why you write it.
It’s undeniable the positive effects fandom have not just for an individual, but for the community at large. It’s good karma to be good to one another, and when we can all lift each other up and encourage one another to be our best selves, well, the sky’s the limit! Galaxy Con is a safe space and home to nearly every sort of fandom you can imagine. If you’ve been trying to find your “people,” then we’d LOVE to see you at the con!
Tell us below how fandom has helped you!