What is a Fandom? and why is it so important to people in one?

The term 'fandom' as described by the Urban Dictionary is: "The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. Fanfiction writers, artists, poets, and cosplayers are all members of that fandom. Fandoms often consist of message boards, livejournal communities, and people."

Belonging to a fandom can be an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience. It is a chance to make friends and talk to like minded people, typically on social media platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter. Being completely immersed into a fandom can be like living another life, where in the bubble everything that is said is related to their collective interest.

There are of course, down sides. Being in a fandom can pose problems, with typically thousands - sometimes millions of people involved in the same group, there will be inevitably clash of opinions. Debate is often what brings fandoms together, the ability to discuss and express their feelings in a shared environment is often what drives the fan base along. But there are dark sides to this. As in-fandom war of the words and sometimes abusive comments can be made towards eachother if people don't feel the same way. There have been examples where celebrities that have been involved in the shows/films that the fandom derive from that have been verbally attacked online by 'trolls' claiming to be in the fandom.

It is these 'trolls' that can bring a group down and give non fans and the perceiving public the wrong impression of what a fandom really is.

One example of a fandom is the 'Directioners'. This particular fan base belong to the boyband 'One Direction'. The 'Directioners' are known worldwide for being one of the most vocal, most expressive and most extreme in the world. Often 'Twitter' is filled with 'trends' that have a loose association with one or all of the boyband members, and a large group of the fandom caused a 'war' between another fandom, the 'Whovians' which belong to the television show Doctor Who. The 'wars' that occur between fandoms can become vicious and unnecessarily abusive. In this particular example the war of words stemmed from the fact that both Doctor Who and One Direction had an anniversary on the same day.

To the outside, all this seems completely meaningless and trivial, but to those caught up in either fandoms it can take over their life. Consequently - in this instance the 'war' has subsided. Both sides agreeing to disagree and staying clear, but it is not all doom and gloom. The stereotype of young teenage girls excessively 'fangirling' over their interest is just not the case. Of course - a large amount of ANY fandom can have this stereotype, but on the whole a fandom contains people of ALL ages, from all backgrounds.

A fandom can be a humbling place, as previously mentioned it can work in peace and harmony. As a member of the Doctor Who fandom myself, it for me is one of the best little communities to be involved in - if you stay on the outside of it. You can easily become immersed into the bubble of a fandom, but I stay on the outskirts. I don't fully immerse myself in the community but I know they are there, and on social media I only follow a select couple of people to do with Doctor Who. I avoid conflict and the extremist side of it and I think that's the best place to be.

On the whole though, despite the stereotypes and general perceptions from the public, a fandom can save lives - it can be the right kind of support to those in need and can be the best form of escapism for those who feel lost.

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