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In recent years, it has become difficult to use platforms such as Twitter and Reddit without coming across online communities known as fandoms: groups of people who connect over shared interests in pop culture such as Euphoria, Twitch streamers and Taylor Swift’s newest album. Such communities have grown to be associated with “cancel culture” and the stereotype of the overly obsessive teenage fangirl, and often have a reputation for being toxic and cringe-worthy. As a result, internet users overlook the sense of belonging to these online communities foster for members.
Fandom culture provides the opportunity for those who feel they lack a community to turn to at home, school or the workplace the opportunity to find those of similar interests. Online communities can foster a sense of belonging, which is especially beneficial for those who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression. When accessed safely and in moderation, online communities allow people from all over the world to connect with others who they may never have been able to meet otherwise.
The pandemic especially demonstrated the importance of internet communities. For months, people were unable to interact with their friends and families in person. However, the internet provided human connection, with 90 percent of adults claiming it grew in importance for them during the pandemic. Additionally, 20 percent of Americans say much of the connection with other people they were able to achieve was through social media. Fandoms are an example of this phenomenon, as they provide a place for people to connect with others over common topics and feel less alone during an extremely isolating time in the world.
The idea that fandom culture is problematic is too broad of a generalization. It assumes that every fan who uses the internet as an outlet to share their passions is immature, when that is far from reality. It completely diminishes the good the online community can bring to those who feel as if they cannot connect with anyone in their personal lives.
Attacking people who share certain interests only increases the negative outlook on fandom culture. Cyberbullying has increased alongside the rise of the internet, with 47 percent of young people experiencing some form of negative messaging online. These actions deters users from seeking the comfort of community in online spaces out of fear of being harassed.
There needs to be a change in mentality for how we approach internet fandom culture. While we should understand that the internet has its flaws and can be improved for the safety of its users, we can still appreciate the positives that online communities bring.
The stigma around internet fandom culture needs to stop. Social media administrators should be the ones who find solutions for problems that do arise in these online spaces instead of blaming the supposed immaturity of the community itself.
Grace “Gray” Reed is a Sophomore magazine, news and digital journalism major. Their column appears bi-weekly. They can be reached at [email protected]
Published on October 24, 2022 at 11:23 pm