All Aboard the Internet Fandom Ship

By Karam Johal

As a self-proclaimed fan girl of various books, movies and TV shows throughout the years, I have always been a little hesitant in revealing just how invested I can get in fictional worlds — or the lives of the people who write them and live them on my screen.

I have found that even though there seems to be nothing better than losing yourself in the land of fiction, it can often be even more satisfying to gush over and contemplate what will happen next, or simply soak in the awe after finishing a good book, watching a good interview or stepping out of a midnight premiere. I can be hesitant, however, to share this feeling with real-life friends and family for a fear of a rolling of the eyes. Consequently, it has been nothing short of astounding to find an Internet coven of similarly flailing pop culture enthusiasts.

I thought I was unusual with my obsessive re-reading of favorite books, re-watching of favorite programs and movies and my accurate ability to quote lines of dialogue and sections of texts word for word. Of course, engaging in endless analysis and speculation of the fate of characters and plotlines.

However, I have been far from alone in my interests. Upon discovering websites like YouTube, LiveJournal and Tumblr, it has become apparent that I may even be on the tamer side of the spectrum when it comes to being a fan.

Internet “fandoms” are built up of people who create video montages, write fan-fiction, generate graphics and generally give their opinion on the film, book, show, character or celebrity of their choice. Often, fandoms cross over and fans have characters visiting one another in stories or interacting in images.

As most people who do or admire such things go by a username, the sense of anonymity gives people a sense of security in showing how strongly a particular interest influences their life. In my experience, people put on a much calmer front when discussing such things in real life, unless they are in an acceptable environment — a movie premiere, a convention or an entire theme park devoted to a popular book series, for example.

This involves detachment from real life, and grants the pleasure of sitting in front of a screen without worrying about your appearance or having to face someone who witnesses your perhaps embarrassing level of devotion. This feeling bonds those who find other usernames to befriend: other bloggers who may live on the other side of the world but share the thrilling obsession. In fact, I have come across many blogs that profess they love their cyber life more than their real one.

Nevertheless, Internet fandoms are not always a safe haven of agreement and shared fantasies. Arguments and insults over relationships of characters and celebrities are often debated, for one. Tumblr users particularly engage in impassioned arguments over which characters and celebrities should get together, why, and what previous incidents indicate that they will. Yes, relationship wars, or “ship wars” are often the cracks in the solid wall of fandom.

The improved technology over the years has certainly allowed such disagreements to occur and conclude rapidly — and for casual Internet stalking to be taken to the next level. Not only can videos and pictures and even gifs (short clips of video that repeat on a loop) be produced almost instantly after certain events or television premieres or appearances by celebrities, but they can be also be distributed across the world via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or whatever other tool of procrastination currently controls your life. If you also take into account that these days most people carry around in their pockets access to the entire cyberspace (via smart phones), that’s pretty fast circulation. In fact, I have gradually come to the realization that if you want news on what is happening now, it is often not a bad idea to check the blogs before you check Yahoo! or Google.

Although coming across the fact that I am one of many enthusiastic members of various fandoms had been a pleasant surprise, I do my best to keep my passions under wraps. While it is cathartic for others to have an outlet to express their enthusiasm, I prefer to admire from the sidelines rather than becoming involved in arguments or forgetting my actual life. Internet fandoms can be a wonderful distraction, but small doses are often the best option.

While I certainly enjoy admiring the work of authors, directors, and actors, I like to think that I will take inspiration and spend my life contributing, creating and bringing giddiness to others rather than only admiring. But for now, it certainly is a fun — and effective — distraction.