Fan I Am #3: Identifying As A Fan


Previously I identified the following forms of fans:

  • Recreational – The fandom is fun.
  • General Interest – There is definite interest in the subject, and time is put in.but not much is done with it.
  • Social – One identifies with, socializes, and bonds with other fans.
  • Active – One is actively doing things in the fandom.
  • Applied – One’s fandom interest is involved in career and/or large parts of one’s life.

So now we’re back to one of the questions that started this all: does it make sense to identify as a fan.

I meet so many fans and people for whom fandom is a strong part of their identity. I also see pathology in fandom identity, in flamewars and meltdowns and worse. Yet I also see people for whom it delivers passion and happiness.

So it makes sense to ask such a question.

But First . . .

Kinds Of Identities

It’s easy for us to think of ourselves as one or two identities – usually they’re just what come to mind in a given situation. But we’re many identities.

I think of human identities, in a way, as ranked. There’s somethings we “are” more often, or that take up more of our thoughts and mental activities.

At the top there’s often a kind of Primary identify or a few primary identities that are who you are most or all of the time. But there’s many other secondary, tertiary, identities in your giant pile of “who you are.”

Which is something we need to remember as we ask about fandom, hobbies, and identification . . .

So Does It Make Sense To Identify As a Fan?

The actual question about “does it make sense to identify with our hobbies” is actually “does it make sense for these to be one of our Primary identities or the primary identity?”

My answer? Not as your primary identity – usually.

I think it makes sense for people to identify as fans in all forms of fandom as a “secondary” or even “tertiary” identity. Because simply it’s true and accurate – if you’re into something you are a fan (even, as if noted, there are many kinds). Identifying as a fan in some way is outright honest.

As a primary identity, it makes far less sense. One’s involvement and one’s love of something usually provides limited connections, meaning, and opportunities. As a primary identity such a definition of oneself is highly limited.  Over-identification with fandom may limit oneself.

Except . . .

As you get to more involved fans, the Active and Applied it gets different.

Once your fandom connections start becoming part of what you do in society and with other people, beyond basic social spheres, then your fandom identity is part of something much larger. An “Anime fan” who is also a writer or an interpreter clearly has their fannish identity as a more dominant identity. A person who makes video games and plays video games can clearly call themselves a Gamer or a Video Gamer as a primary identity because it’s very true.

So I’d say that your identity as a fan, the level of meaning (and appropriateness) is simply how integrated it is with who you are and what you do. We’re not all alike.

The Value In Considering This

The value in considering this all? It helps us ask about our identities and those of others.

For ourselves, it encourages us to evaluate our identities consciously. Not only does that let us take a more active rloe in who we are, but also figure out when things break down. If you get enraged over a pointless internet comment, you just realized you might be over-identifying with fandom (though if you’re a writer and the comment is on your work, then it may make sense). If you notice your work is lagging, it may be because your work is more closely tied to your fandom and not admitting your identity divides your efforts.

If fandom is part of our lives we can admit it – and also identify which kind of fans we are and where it fits into our lives. In turn we can also use it to understand other people.

And On That Subject . . .

So with this taxonomy of fans and thoughts on a scale of identity, next I’ll turn my attention to when fandom goes pathological. Meltdowns and flame wars, anger and rage, and all those moments things suddenly don’t make sense?

They make sense when you think about identity.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at