May the 4th be with you
May the 4th is coming up but is the force already with you? Instead of using all our powers to hate on Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, we want to discuss the psychology of being a fan.
Sometimes it is seen as an insult because the word comes from being ‘fanatic’ and being fanatic is only socially acceptable if it’s about your baby or sports. It often has something negative about it because we tend to think of hysteric 14-year-old girls screaming and crying about Justin Bieber or about nerds playing board games in their basements. As the psychology professor Eric Wesselman asked: “It’s okay to create an imaginary team in fantasy football, but not okay to create an imaginary fellowship of adventures in a fantasy game like D&D?”
Not going into depth about the exceptions like stalkers or people who stab other fans at conventions, being in a fandom is actually good for your mental health. Scientists say it’s because you feel a sense of togetherness, belonging, and purpose. Those are usually all negatively correlated to depression. Being in a fandom can give you a better sense of identity that you might not find in everyday life. You can often see teenagers, who have no friend groups or are victims of bullying, to be active parts in fandoms, and who can blame them for looking into other social groups? Reading book series or watching TV shows about characters of your age often makes you feel connected to the characters and let’s be honest, who never had a bad day at school and wanted to be in Hogwarts instead? This daydreaming can be seen as dangerous or delusional by parents, but it can also be a nice escape from reality for a while which is much better than, let’s say drugs. Being in a fandom can also improve your English skills by talking to like-minded from all over the world and channel your creativity. You can make emotional Youtube videos about Ross and Rachel or Chuck and Blair and draw some fan art. You can also write fanfiction and make a fortune of it in case your name is E.L. James.
But even when you’re older and more connected to yourself and have stable friend groups, you still look for people to talk about shared interests and who will cry alongside you about the last season of Game of Thrones or with whom you can do a spontaneous Lord of the Rings marathon.
So in case you use tomorrow to watch Star Wars, don’t feel guilty about it and may the force be with you.