Never be afraid of passionate people

Passionate fans often get thrown under the bus — they’ve become synonymous with those who paint their face (or chest) at football games, rack up points in virtual sports leagues, or join forums to chat about digitally enhanced treasure hunts in the woods, but that’s not to say that a lot of good has come because of passionate fans too.

I’m reminded of the quote from the author Rebecca Solnit;

“Sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do.”

When I was studying fandom in graduate school — it was often reiterated, fandom is a verb. In order to participate you must do something. This is not dissimilar from communities either — to truly belong to a community, you must participate in some sort of action. And action — is driven by passion.

What type of passion-fueled actions do fans partake in?:

Those who study academic fandom, and the various parts of participatory culture that enable fandom, breakdown the types of fan activities as follows:

Performative Consumption: Collecting things, whether thats entry tickets, CDs, albums, things that it you feel close to what you love by relaxing — enjoyment of the object because of proof of what they have or have experienced.

Pilgrimages: going to specific locations to partake in specific rituals or view something that important that happened there.

Impersonation: dressing up or mimicking the appearance towards a celebrity or object by fitting in. — wearing white earbuds even to represent apple (super creative, wealthy, early adopter, etc).

Evangelization: fans will want to make people feel the same joy that you feel by spreading it, often used in product development.

Rituals and Traditions: How do you acknowledge certain routines to prove that you are a member of the group

Socialization: ways of participating in fandom without being too outside of your traditional social norm — think Facebook quizzes, Harry Potter sorting houses, even astrology.

Content Creation: content created that is created as sort of an offering to the fandom, often user-created.

Looking at these above activities — they all carry their own weight and demonstrate different levels of participation (or dedication) to a community or a cause.
I’m curious — what can we learn from understanding what causes someone to take action towards a fandom? How can we protect these activities — and keep them moving forward in a way that isn’t exploitative or taking advantage of the original creator’s intention.

Activities drive action (and belonging)

Many times, these activities are larger than oneself — they contribute to a larger entity or fan universe. Sometimes, these activities can even influence policy, platform decisions, drive events and foster bonds between members.

In a blog post on Eventbrite’s site — they identified that 85% of people are fans of something, this number jumps to 95% when you look at folks who are in the 18-24 range. These fans while yes, they come for events, live entertainment, and shopping, many of them come for the community.

Folks who travel to these events are usually looking to connect with others about their interests in a myriad of ways. In Simon Sinek’s blog, Start With Why, he writes about the feeling of belonging he experienced as he attended his first comic-con.

“No matter who we are, no matter what our values or beliefs, our tastes or proclivities, there is an entire culture or subculture out there just like us. I learned that, instead of expending energy to fit into the group, it’s better to expend energy to find the group in which you fit.”

In parting — how can we embrace our passions in order to find our sense of belonging. As cheesy as it sounds, let’s embrace ourselves for who we are.

What are you passionate about? What are you a fan of?

Let’s geek out on our passions together ✌️

Readings on fandom that I'm a fan of

Comic fan outrage? It’s part of being human, scientists say.
By Vaneta Rogers for Games Radar

“This ownership or commitment to the universe that the fandom is built around is what humans do,” Krasniewicz explains. “We create these kinds of ties to real or fictional worlds because that is how we make sense of the world. These commitments help us categorize and judge everything around us. It is amazing how much fictional universes can influence the everyday world.”

The Hard Work of Being a Fan Account
By Fadeke Adegbuy for Cybernaut / Every

“Fan accounts are a pillar of social media, central to the celebrity and influencer ecosystem. From fan Instagram pages to stan Twitter profiles, these social accounts allow fans to express appreciation for celebrities and creators, earning an audience by providing the best images and information—digging up interviews, finding obscure photos, and creating, as Anna does, invented celebrity scenes altogether. These social media accounts are an evolution from the dedicated fan websites that were an online mainstay in the ‘90s but seem less popular today.”

When Expressing Your Fandom leads to Surprising New Skills
By Tricia Ennis for Syfy

"Fandom, especially expression of that fandom through various types of fanworks, has this inherent ability to almost accidentally teach us valuable, marketable skills. I’m far from the only person to have this experience. Fanfiction, for example, has been helping aspiring authors develop their craft for decades, and has famously led to the emergence of some of the more popular writers and works of fiction in recent memory."

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