Fan I am #4: Fandom Identity And Pathology

Planetary Collision

We’ve all been there. Some of us may be there right now and wish we weren’t.

The fandom meltdown. The flame wars, the slander, the arguing, and perhaps even the outright confrontations and questionable activity. We’ve all got a story of arguments, of failed endeavors, of con overspending, and so for.

Now when you back up and say “but aren’t we here to like the same things” it makes one think. Why the people dedicated to “liking” something are so busy hating each other and creating problems.  It sort of botches the whole goal.

In fact, it may seem fans hate each other more. As a friend once, when discussing a specific (and yes, unnamed) fandom noted that he saw more infighting among fans than he did in people who didn’t like said fans. Familiarity is seriously a petri dish for contempt.

So as I noted I think there’s five kinds of fans: Recreational, General, Social, Active, and Applied. People may just relax, or their fandom is part of their overall active and probably professional life.

I think conflicts can actually be understood as meltdowns in specific spheres. Usually this leaves the Recreational and General fans going “WTF?”*

But for others, it makes perfect sense. Or at least imperfect sense.

Here’s where I think it happens.

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Fan I Am #1: Examining Fandom Identity

Crowd Of People

And so, after spending time exploring the job market and its pathologies, I turn my attention to fan identity.

I’m doing this because in many discussions with friends, the question has often come up – “why do we identify with our hobbies?” And this is coming from a group of gamers, anime fans, technologists, manga writers, and people who are offended at how “Big Bang Theory” portrays geeks. We’re not exactly “un-fannish.”

But we do have that question – as may you.

It’s a great question because why do people care about calling themselves Anime Fans, or Sports Fans (or fans of a specific team no matter how bad it is), or Gamers, and so on? I mean why does this become part of who we are? Why, if this identity is so important, does it lead to fan battles and meltdowns that seem to negate it or tarnish it?

Does this kind of identification actually make sense – and if so, under what conditions.

This question intrigued me, so over time, and with he feedback of some great people, I assembled a theory on fan identity – and where it is and isn’t healthy. There’s a lot more to fans than people think, including the fans themselves.

This exercised proved to be useful as it gave me a taxonomy of fans. Such a guide can help us understand identity as geeks since we intersect with fandom pretty heavily. It also helps analyze pathologies we may encounter, since another popular thing in any fandom is complaining about how awful it is. Where, in short, does identity work and where does it fail?

So, let’s voyage into the mind of the fan. Or my mind thinking about fans. Sort of fanception.

And, if I must present my fan/geek creds I consider myself a fan of:

  • Video games (enough I debate proper identities).
  • Anime (Japan delivers some great stuff in the medium that continues to entertain).
  • Cooking (Is this a fandom? Have you ever heard me go on about curry?)
  • Geekdom itself. (SUre I analyze it but also I just enjoy it).

So I’m a geek. And a fan.

Let’s go meet ourselves.

– 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