Fan or Freak?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Where do you draw the line between a harmless fan and an over the top, obsessive freak? An article that explores the metaphorical line which include primary and secondary sources throughout.

Submitted: December 03, 2012

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Submitted: December 03, 2012

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Admit it, you have a soft spot for a celebrity. There must be at least one celeb out there you secretly wish you knew, one that has appeared in your dreams at least once. Don’t stress, it’s completely normal – a guilty pleasure so to say, but how far is too far? Where do you draw the line between a harmless fan and an over the top, obsessed freak?
Is there even a line?
Psychologist Jeff Rudski says that being in the category of an OTT fan (being a part of the ‘super fandom’) can be unhealthy. He sees fandom’s as a coping mechanism for the members within. However, he says that most of us are fans ‘because, well... it’s fun’
For those of you who don’t know – a fandom is a group of fans who support a famous person or sport. Fandom’s are usually named by members and in nearly all cases relate to the subject at hand. Popular fandom’s today include ‘Beliebers’ (Justin Bieber fans) ‘Directioners’ (One Direction fans) Simpsonizers (Cody Simpson fans) and ‘Whovians’ (Dr. Who fans). Sporting fandom’s don’t tend to carry these sorts of names, however are still prominent in society. The fandom’s listed above – which I will mostly be conducting my research around – consist mostly of teenage/young adult girls but also carry a number of males.
If you’ve ever wondered why your friend/son/daughter is constantly listening to the same music over and over and over and over... here’s why:
Actively listening to music and in particular music we enjoy  sets of the brains pleasure centre and provides us with a short ‘high’ Psychologist Vallorie Salimpoor describes this sensation as ‘a rollercoaster of emotions with no consequences’ She also states the obvious – in which attending the concerts and other musical performers in which the adored artist is performing can extend this high and provide an ecstatic sensation to the fan. However, excessively wanting and craving this high and becoming constantly overwhelmed by it can lead to addictions which often spiral off into depression and anxiety disorders.
America has had a recent rise in the diagnoses of Celebrity Worship Syndrome (yes, it’s a real thing). CWS is a psychological disorder in which the patient is completely and utterly indulged with a celebrity’s personal life. Alarming behaviours can include:

·Constant and public defence on behalf of the celebrity

·Sincere belief that the subject and celebrity are in a relationship

·Subjects thoughts are overcrowded with the celebrity

Whilst these are farfetched, they are extremely common amongst many teenagers and young adults (sometimes even the older generation)

The real question at hand, however, is; How far is too far? Who’s to judge whether or not one should be subjected to diagnoses of CWS?
Have you ever experienced a crazy fan who took it ‘too far?’
So, in order to get varied opinions, I thought  the best way to this was to conduct a survey that related back to my Driving Question (DQ) ‘Where do you draw the line between fan and freak?’
I presented the same survey to two different groups of people – those I knew who are a part of fandom(s) and those I knew are not a part of fandoms. I set out the survey in a particular form. I presented a scenario and gave only two options:  ‘fan’ or ‘freak.’ Scenario’s ranged from seemingly normal behaviours such as knowing lyrics by heart right through to stereotypical ‘freak’ behaviours such as camping out for hours, and buying endless merchandise. Another touchy subject I addressed through the survey was behaviours that affected a subject’s personal life and thoughts.
Here’s a full copy of questions and results:
From the results – it’s clear to gather that within a fandom, next to nothing is classified as ‘freak’ behaviour where as those not within fandom’s (who I’ll refer to as outsiders) seem to think different – and in some cases the complete opposite.
I did notice however, many ‘freak’ voted questions by outsiders involved to an extent materialism, but really, just because one person clearly has more money than another and can afford extra concert tickets, merchandise and other materials, does that make them more of a fan – or in this case, more of a freak than the other? Are outsiders trying to suggest that there’s a line between a few posters in your room (fan) and having endless supplies of merchandise (freak)? But why materialism? It’s just materials.
Most other ‘freak’ voted questions are ones which I can admit – do come across a little out of the ordinary, but is it really a big deal?
For example, questions one, three, four and eight all suggest that the subject has gone to extreme lengths in order to achieve the desired ‘high’ I was referring to earlier, not only through listening and studying the music in which the artist is producing but also exceeding all measures in order to catch a glimpse of their idol.
Each of these questions also suggest that the subject has gone to extreme lengths in order to gather personal and obscure information about the celebrity. For example, question one suggests that the subject has researched Justin Bieber’s not only date of birth but place and time as well. From personal experiences, I know of people who further more know the room number and other personal information such as weight, height, etc of his birth.
So, yes, this can come across a little creepy but who is it affecting?
If it affects you personally, then go ahead and voice your opinions but at the end of the day, if knowing all these facts about someone can make the subject happy, are you really going to take that happiness away from them?
Fan girls are constantly getting put down by those around them. People throw derogatory comments at them all the time ranging from ‘Why do you bother, they don’t even know you exist.’ ‘You’ll never meet them’ ‘He/She doesn’t care about their fans’ ‘
Are outsiders just looking for an excuse to say that all fans are freaks to hide their own desires and longing for the days when maybe it was acceptable for them to act in the way younger generations are acting today?
I’ve been thinking, maybe outsiders just don’t understand what it’s like to be in a fandom.
 A fandom isn’t just a group of teenage girls who run around screaming all day...
 A fandom allows for unique friendships and relationships to be formed over similar interests – in this case a love for a celebrity.
 Do you remember the day you met your best friend?
And you thought nothing else mattered because you’d found someone who just understood you? Didn’t judge you, didn’t think you were weird?
Have you ever bonded with someone over a mutual hatred towards a person/thing and felt as if you had an instant, exclusive and immediate friendship?
This is exactly what it feels like to be a part of an active fan base and thanks to technology and in particular social media, even if these people live on all corners of the world – they’re only a click of a button away.
These friendships are often formed in smaller, spin-off groups from the fandom because obviously – you can’t keep in contact with every one of Justin Bieber’s 30 million twitter followers...
It’s up to the members to decide how they want to interact, many follow and message each other on social media platforms like Tumblr and Twitter and those more comfortable choose to make small and private Facebook groups (usually with people they know locally and given the members know and understand how to use the internet safely and securely) to keep in touch with each other.
To some, a fandom is like a home away from home. A second family. One that loves you, doesn’t judge you and doesn’t torment you.
Here’s what some active members of fandom’s have to say:
‘I like not being judged for what you say cause pretty much everyone feels the exact same and understands why you do what you do and why you love that person or persons. You can go crazy and all fan girl together and it's so much fun :') WE ARE A BIG FAMILY’
 – Hannah Arnold
Everyone is always there for everyone. No matter how much we fight we always come back to support the people we love and to support each other. There will always be people who are going through the same stuff as you and you feel as if you are never alone. It's such an amazing feeling knowing that there will always be people out there that will care. It's also a hell of a lot of fun’.
Georgie Slater
 ‘You can feel completely comfortable and be yourself, you have people who understand you perfectly and not feel judged. You also make some of the bestest friends through them’ (fandoms)
 – Molly Claire
‘It’s so amazing being around people that share the same love and passion for someone as you. You feel comfortable and you feel as if you can be yourself.  The understanding between a fandom is crazy and you’re all like a family. You can be happy and not have to worry about what people think’.
Caomine Queally
‘ The fact it doesn't matter how long you know the other people in the fandom, it feels like you've known them for years even. 
Theres a instant connection, to really explain it you have to experience it in the right fandom. I'm only in two fandoms and they both make me feel so comfortable we all support each other and help eachother. The important thing is, they feel like family almost’
 –
Jayde Wilmshurst

Without even knowing it, feeling this way about how you interact with people all around the world can have great benefits for your psychological health. As Jeff Rudksi explained before, fandom’s can be used as a coping mechanism. Members wishing to escape reality know they’re only a few clicks away from leaving their real world and entering a seemingly alternate universe where suddenly – nothing matters. As described, members feel a sense of belonging and a sensual happiness when interacting with other people in fandom’s.
However, back to the DQ, is this abnormal?
Is having these feelings towards a simple group of people classified as freakish behaviour?
Have you ever felt a part of something similar?
My opinion?
Beware: biased
I don’t think there is a line between fan or freak. I don’t think it’s fair or even humane to label someone as a ‘freak.’
No one has the right to judge someone due to their interests and hobbies.
No one has the right to interfere with someone’s happiness just because they don’t agree with what they’re doing.
If someone is pleased and at peace with what they’re doing and how they’re living their life, don’t interrupt.
Obviously, in some cases things can get a bit out of hand, for example when I was writing the survey,  I wrote about someone’s desire to live out a real life hunger games. I thought that was a little weird and was honestly surprised when it came up as ‘fan’ voted, but at the same time it didn’t bother me, because at the end of the day – it’s not any of my business.
Being a part of a fandom for me – has changed the way I perceive communities and the younger generation as a whole. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how far or close to you someone is, the chances are they go through the exact same things as you, feel the same emotions as you and by being a part of a fandom;  deal with things the same was as you as well.
Fandom’s have opened doors for new relationships and now I carry with me some of the closest friendship’s I’ve ever experienced.  I don’t need to see these friends every weekend to prove to myself they’re loyal. They’re there for me 24/7 and that’s not going to change for a very long time to come.
With my membership within fandom’s has also bought with it a new sense of belonging and happiness. Prior to this, it was just me and one or two girls at school who would get excited over celebrities – little did we know there was a whole new world out there awaiting us. Every event we attend now, it’s like you have a special connection with the people you see there as you all start to become ‘locals.’ People you probably wouldn’t remember in day-to-day life can recall your presence from previous events and you start to get called by your Twitter usernames.
Standing in line at an event whispers travel through the crowds
Oh look, there’s _____. She’s twitter famous!’
‘OMG is that ___?! I follow her on tumblr!’

It’s your alternate world coming to life, and words can’t describe the feeling of being a product of 21st century technology.
Anyway, at the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My sole purpose of this entire investigation was not to force any of my views upon you nor manipulate you to think any differently. I’m simply trying to give outsiders and insight to what it’s like to be a fan, and consider that maybe there is no line and maybe, there are no freaks – no freaks in fandoms, no freaks in school, no freaks in the community.
We all need to realize that just because someone doesn’t think, act, believe the same as us does not mean they are wrong in any way.
 


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