Fan I am #5: Why Identify As A Fan

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So having thought about the kinds of fan, and why meltdowns occur, I keep wondering “why do people identify as fans so passionately?”

I mean in some ways it looks ridiculous to base part of your life on your love of Neon Genesis Evangelion*. Then you look at fanworks and giant conventions and fans turned pro and realize there’s something here. Fandom is a curious thing, and right when you wonder why the hell anyone would identify that way, you see something wonderful that makes you say “oh, I understand.”

However, as I noted, I think for many Fandom is more of a secondary identity than a primary. But why do people get so passionate? Why does it get so primary?

A few thoughts on my part:

  • Marketing. Sorry to rain on the parade, but marketers want people to be fans, they want them to identify. So even though I love fandom and geekdom, part of it is because it’s cultivated. Though I also take truly deep pleasure in unexpected fandoms like Bronies or dedicated male romance manga fans because it’s a good reminder that many a marketer doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.
  • A Lack Of Identity. There often seems to be something “washed out” in American Culture where people (who may otherwise have everything going for them) really don’t seem to have an identity. Perhaps its disruption or disconnected expectations, but fandom offers them something the culture doesn’t. By the way, this is an area that I’d like to see explored more.  And probably will.
  • A Chance To Grow. I think there’s been more of this lately – people like fandom as it gives them a chance to do more. They aren’t just fans of a book – the fandom gives them a hope to be a writer. They aren’t just playing games – they’re making mods. Now I’m often bang along side this – it’s what I write on – but this is also a powerful and compelling identity.
  • It’s Fun. Let’s be honest, a lot of people’s lives could use more fun. Fandom is fun (barring the meltdowns). Of course people will want to identify it, we want to identify with positive things.
  • Tradition. I see a lot of this in the Bay Area, of generational gamers, boardgamers, anime fans, and so on. Fandom can provide a tradition and we humans, with our identities and stories, love traditions. They make sense.
  • Freedom.  People have been “fans” of things.  I’m wondering if it’s just more acceptable as media has become part of culture, so thus its’ exciting to be able to identify this way.  Perhaps that means in time the novelty will wear off . . .
  • Common ground.  In a world where people are separated from many other things, fandom provides an enjoyable and at times trouble-free common ground.  It’s probably quite refreshing for many.

I’m sure there are ore reasons – what have you seen?

– 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