A Guide Through the Wacky World of Fandoms

Published: November 17, 2019

What is a fandom? 

While there are a multitude of definitions for what a fandom is, they mostly revolve around the idea of being a community-like group of people who share a common interest in a particular person and/or subject. Fandoms are made from people of all genders and ages but teenagers can be found at the forefront of most.

Fandoms go deeper than just a shared, shallow infatuation. The connections formed with people who are passionate about similar topics play a fair role. It’s been shown that the sense of belonging that being part of a fandom can provide, helps define adolescent identities and “give a sense of purpose to what might be an otherwise routine lifestyle,” said Dr. Laurel Steinberg, psychotherapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University. 

“You have someone to understand [something you like] and why you like something,” fandom participant Salam Abouchleih said. “You can find people who are exactly like you and enjoy the same things.” 


Fangirls. Revered for their dedication and despised for their prominent opinion. Fanboys are no less important but, in today’s context, fangirls have a huge voice in the conversation of fandom culture. They are actually more important than many realize. Their passions are often looked at as silly and based off of attraction. 

“People see them as immature girls who are obsessed with people they’ll never meet,”  Abouchleih said.

The female side of fandoms have been bringing trending bands, books, etc., to the eyes of “locals”(those in society who are less attached to pop culture and often older than the general makeup of fandoms) since the shockwaves of Elvis Presley and The Beatles and even before them. 

“Artists wouldn’t be big without their fans and most of those fans are fangirls,” Abouchleih said. 

It isn’t completely outrageous to say that the highly male-dominated music industry underestimates the influence of the girls who buy their albums, set trending hashtags on social media and sell-out stadiums. Teen girls are often seen as a stepping-stone of success. 

“They [artists]  should appreciate all [fans],” Abouchleih said. “No matter [their] age, gender, race, religion, whatever it is.”

Musicians tend to work to gain their adoration and votes for smaller-scale awards and then look for the validation of a more mature audience. However, as society progresses, female commentary and point of view continues to garner higher regards and respect.  

“People now are more open to fans than they were. I feel like old celebrities used to be more like ‘I’m above you’ and now it’s like ‘I don’t care’,” Abouchleih said.

The Dark Side of Fandoms 

There are the occasional fanwars between “big-name” fandoms like the “Beyhive” and “Arianators”. Mob-mentality spurred from dissatisfaction with a new song or disappointment in a show’s series finale can turn a fandom, or at least parts of it, rotten. The confidence that some find in their online anonymity can make people really bold, as well as their opinions. 

“Sometimes fandoms can get toxic,” Abouchleih said. “People will take things the wrong way or people will make up false accusations about people.” 

Social media is the “powerup” people use the spread of these opinions. K-pop (Korean pop music) is more of a genre of music than a fandom. The blanket fandom (blanket fandom is similar to an umbrella term) of K-pop and the countless separate fandoms inside of it, are a great map of the dynamic between fans, idols and “antis”(people opposed to whatever person(s) or subject a fandom is based around). 

“It’s interesting keeping up with the news everyday and to see what’s happening,” Abouchleih said. “Social media makes it easy to keep up with your favorite celebrities or fandoms.” 

The Ins and Outs of Cliques 

A way to better distinguish the different types of fans that are found in fandoms would be to separate them into “cliques”. 

The “populars”. These are the fan account owners that have massive followings. They retweet or repost articles, voting links for upcoming awards, organize fan projects, trend hashtags, etc. 

“Big-name fan accounts promote the artist(s) and point out things to people,” Abouchleih said.

Then there are the “middle-men” for lack of a better word. They help spread hashtags and vote for their idols. Middle-men can be separated into two separate groups . Those who mildly or strongly encourage their peers to vote and retweet things and those who choose to sit back, vote and mostly just keep an eye on everything happening everywhere. 

“ [You go to] concerts and vote for things like ‘best pop artist’,” Abouchleih said.

“Antis”(pronounced an-teas). These are the haters. Haters may even be an understatement. These people are online trolls who make it their goal to make the lives of actors, musicians, etc., miserable and are looking for a rise from anyone willing to give it to them. Besides the common misconception of fan girls being crazy, they tend to be what drives people away from joining fandoms. 

“Personally, everyone is allowed to have their own opinions so Antis don’t bother me,” Abouchleih said.

Maintaining a Balance 

Abouchleih feels that the number fandom-related notifications a person has on doesn’t completely determine the level of dedication or admiration a fan has. It is important for fandom fanatics to remember that fandoms are simply a part of life, but not the center of it. It’s all about maintaining a balance of self-investment in a fandom and in other interests and relationships. 

“I’d say having [an interest] is good and it makes you unique but, not to the point where you’re obsessed and can’t have a conversation without bringing them up,” Abouchleih said.


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