A fandom by definition: (a portmanteau consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix dom, as in kingdom) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.
So where did such a large disconnect come from, and how can we fix it?
I’ve been a fan of many things through my life, only last year did I ever find myself in a ‘fandom’. I was immediately moved by a connection I saw begin between people and through my writing and opinions I met a nice group of ‘friends’ who I bonded with and shared my life with. I thought I’d met people I’d withstand anything with, turns out, I hadn’t. The fandom started to fall apart, instead of one joint group there became two, then subgroups of the two, and it started to look a lot like a bad high school drama film, except it wasn’t happening on screen, it was happening to me.
By early this year I’d grown tired of fighting, tired of drama, and tired of keeping up appearances just to appease people. There were times I wanted to step away from it, to wash my hands and leave it all in the past, but I didn’t. I won’t waste time talking about the dramatics of it all, but I will say that leaving that fandom, as ungracefully as it was, was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time. It also allowed me more time to focus more strongly on the One Direction, specifically, Larry fandom, which has brought me more happiness and more opportunity than I can put into words.
When I first got involved with the One Direction fandom I was nameless, just a speck on the map that could have been mistaken for a crumb and brushed away. I spent most of my time re-blogging gif sets, photos, and fan videos of the boys and texting “my salt” about how much we loved them. I spent a lot of time talking to my small group of friends about how interesting it was that there were so many people in this group of fans who thought similarly, and when they didn’t, they didn’t manipulate or backstab each other, they simply agreed to disagree.
We used to say this fandom was a lot less dramatic and a lot less hateful than the one we were in before. I used to be thankful that I’d found this less judgmental place to spend my time.
Boy was I wrong.
Opinions change, it’s part of life, and one of the best things about living life right now is being able to change your mind. To say “I don’t really think that way anymore” or “I didn’t see it like that before, but now I do” and not be judged for it. Except, in fandoms, you are, and not just judged, but completely ostracized and made to feel wrong or stupid for your beliefs. The worst part of that happens when it’s friends, people you were close with outside of just the fandom, who turn their backs on you. It hurts when people you shared your heart with think you’re less of a person because they suddenly changed their mind and if you didn’t follow them down the new journey, you’re somehow, irrelevant.
I asked a few people today why they joined fandoms, specifically One Direction/Larry, why they decided to take an active role in expressing their like/adoration for what they were a fan of instead of just sitting on the sidelines.
@daggeredxrose said : “I actually used to hate 1D. Not so much the boys but like the fandom. I was actually in the Eminem fandom before this. Anyways my bestie @yikeszirry actually gave me the “one direction infection” as she called it back in March. So I haven’t really been a “fan” for too long. I’ve always liked their music but never really got into the fandom only bc I’m older. I’m actually 25 rn. But once I started slipping into the fandom I got more and more into the boys and fell in love (I’m screwed) especially with Larry. (My first love was the Nouis bromance) I guess I just love how humble the boys are and how they always take the time out to thank the fans and try to interact as much as they possibly can.”
@drag1Ddownsouth said: “I joined in 2010, I was listening to Coldplay on YouTube. then their performance of viva la vida on x-factor was on the sidebar, so I clicked on it. I thought they had done a great job and that they were cute. So, I saw they had these video diaries so I clicked on one of those. From then on out I was sold. I’ve been here ever since. they made me laugh, smile, had great voices, and they gave me joy by watching them so, that is why I joined. they just made everything a whole lot better by just being them.”
@illouisons said: “I wasn’t really in to One Direction when they started. They weren’t my kind of music and I was very close minded. It took some time, but when Midnight Memories a friend of mine showed it to me, asked me to keep an open mind and well- I was hooked. It started with liking the album and then went to picking my favorite (Louis), watching every video of 1D under the sun, and learning every single song. I know I’m a little late and others have been in the fandom much longer than I have, but I adore these boy so much. I do admit that I was nervous about telling people that I liked them. I had many friends question my sanity and a few even thought I was joking. It took some time, but now I honestly will scream it to the world that I love these boys. I shouldn’t be ashamed just because they’re a boy band. They’re talented, amazing, and down to earth. I have no reason to be embarrassed by them.”
@daggersrose78 said: “I’m 30 years old and didn’t give a shit about 1D until I seen the 01MTV article about Louis and Eleanor. Even then I thought he and Harry were together. I honestly thought they were out, but I found out the opposite. And after every Larry video on YouTube I was hooked with them and their very visible love they shared. I fell in love with their love and then fell in love with the music. The music kept me here, but so did the love story of Larry. And no matter what haters might say to us, I’ll believe in them and carry it to my grave.”
@LizGrd said: “Okay, I’m gonna try my best to put it in a nutshell: I first heard of 1D late in 2012 when LWWY came out; I happened to hear the song on the radio, I quite liked it immediately but knew nothing ’bout them and kept ignoring them even though my sis was a huge fan and would show me all of their vids with such an enthusiasm. I don’t know exactly how and why it happened (“it just kinda happened”) but last summer, after my sis went to two of their WWAT shows, I began getting more and more interested in them & their music so I decided to watch This Is Us and all I can remember is the big smile I had upon my face all the movie long. I was so amused and impressed that I just wanted to get some more so I started searching any kind of 1D-related vids on YouTube and literally spent my nights binge-watching those funny videos: EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. It was a sheer addiction, I couldn’t stop, but that made me feel fucking good and was the one and only thing that could really distract me and make me laugh and, most of all, EVENTUALLY MAKE ME HAPPY AGAIN as I’d been going through a tough period struggling to get over the end of a two-year relationship. Well, joining the fandom and becoming 1D AF just saved me. So now tell me how I could not voice my opinion and stand up for these precious boys whose music was literally what I’d been praying for to find rest and happiness again.”
The common denominators here are this: The music, the boys, and the fact that at one point, they’d all been embarrassed or kept themselves at a distance from the fandom due to not wanting people to know they liked a boy band.
This is why fandoms are so cool; you’ve got a group of people who bond over something, and though the reasons they stay may be different, the core reasons of them being here are the same. They love what they’ve bonded over, they love the people who make it possible, and even though people may give them a hard time for it, they feel stronger once they’ve joined the group.
Sometimes, especially in the case of One Direction, we may credit the boys for saving us, for giving us happiness. I know when I truly allowed myself to become a fan of One Direction and to do so openly and without hiding I began to notice things about myself that I didn’t before. I became a happier person, someone who believed in love and truth again, I found myself, but I also found my best friends. I credit the boys for giving me a second chance at a happy life, but I credit the fandom for helping with that too. I credit the fandom for being part of what helped build me up, for being part of what made it worth it to be honest about who I am and gave me a place to feel safe.
This is why fandoms should be sticking together, not tearing each other apart.
Don’t we get enough of that from the outside? I used to see tweets and blog posts about “Larries” and know that in my heart, regardless of what everyone else thought about us, we were a group, we were an army, and we’d stick together. Now the Larry part of the One Direction fandom is a perfect representation of exactly what your fandom should NOT do and should NOT look like. We’re tearing ourselves apart from the inside out. Larry fans are putting each other down, ostracizing sub groups because of people who doubt, judging those who don’t doubt even when everything looks dark, and worse than any of that, we’re losing sight of what brought us here in the first place. The boys, their music, and
Most of the Larry part of the One Direction fandom exists because we saw love bloom between two people and thought it was beautiful. We exist and stay grounded because we’ve seen love survive even when it was neglected. We have hope because we know true love prevails, and we keep faith because we’ve been given no other choice, it just doesn’t feel right to give up on two people who still have so much love between them.
That being said, I know not everyone can see that love, and if you don’t, can’t, or won’t…I respect that and I acknowledge it. I just wish Larries got the same respect, I wish we gave the same respect, and I wish we showed it more to each other.
I know fights happen in every fandom, and it’s sort of crazy to think that a group of people with different opinions would always get along, but wouldn’t this be the one time where it’d be cool to prove people wrong? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could band together under the larger One Direction fandom umbrella and get along, stick together, uplift each other and our boys?
Louis said in a tweet recently that nothing we do goes unnoticed. Nothing we do goes unnoticed. To me, this means a few things.
The boys see the love, they see the way we lift them up and the way we respect them. They see us tirelessly promoting their songs, albums, merch, and good names. They see us defend them the same way they defend us, and they see us uplift them when they’re down. They see the good, they see the light, they see the love.
They see the hate, they see the negativity, they see the way people slander them. They see the media who lies, the fans who believe the lies, and the way people sell them out for a buck. They see the fans who turn against them, they see outsiders who haven’t even given them a chance draw conclusions about who they are, and they see the way people just assume they’re nothing but young womanizers who are bound to fail. That must hurt them, but what hurts more than that, in my opinion is not the hate they’re given, but the hate we give ourselves.
Which brings me to my next point. They see the way we turn on each other, they see the hate within the fandom. They see the way the fans break each other down, tear each other apart, and throw one another under the bus at the first chance they get. They see their fans, the same fans they preach love and acceptance to, showing the opposite. They see their fans, the same fans they defend, hurting each other. They see the fans, the same fans that they love, expressing hate.
Where do we draw the line? Where do we start giving each other the same respect we want from the outside? How do we heal the hurt?
We stop tearing each other down for a difference in opinion, a difference in thought, and we respect each other instead. We realize that the best way to enjoy something is wholly, fully…which means it’s going to draw out different reactions in you, affect your senses in a unique way. If one thing can make one person feel so many different emotions, why is it so bad when several people who feel it similarly also feel it a bit differently too? Just like there is no right way to eat a slice of pizza, there is no right way to be fan. You just have to have the basics; love, respect, kindness, and understanding.
We have four amazing idols to look up to, four amazing young men who get hate thrown at them, who get bombarded with lies and slander on a daily basis, and still manage to find the good in life, in people, in each other, and in their fans. Shouldn’t we join them in preaching positivity? Shouldn’t we join them in loving more, hating less, and offering a friendship over a judgment? There are enough people who think we’re silly for how much we love our boys.
I know 2015 is not the year One Direction fans expected, not the year we wanted. It’s been rough, to say the least. Actually, it’s been quite a mess, but we’re all still here aren’t we? We’re figuring out what happens now that the smoke is starting to clear and we’re running with it. We keep saying we want the boys to be strong, to be united, to be a force to be reckoned with, shouldn’t we give them the same? Maybe the boys rely on us just as much as we rely on them, maybe they need us to be strong for them, the way they are for us, maybe it’s time to say we know who we support, and in knowing that, we are going to support each other too.
It’s time to focus on the music the boys are making, the image they’re trying to create for themselves, it’s time to respect that they’re growing up and in the same breath, so are we. It’s time to embrace change, to allow it to affect us, and to grow from it. We can’t keep getting mad at people who won’t let the boys grow, who won’t let the music get the recognition it deserves, who only care about the drama, if we act the same way ourselves.
It’s time to band together against the negativity, it’s time to stop being bullies and start being spreaders of light.
It’s time to take a look at Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall and thank them for showing us what it looks like to be a good human, and then, it’s time to be one.
I challenge you today; to find someone who’s made the fandom experience positive for you, and tweet them, send them love and light and do so publicly. I challenge you to tweet the boys and spread love and light to them too. For every negative thing that’s said about us or our boys, we can say 5 positive ones, so why not get a head start and just be happy today.
For me; it’s all of you. Thank you to everyone who reads my posts, tweets with me, and inspires me to keep writing. You’ve all given me a place to use my voice and my words, a place to love the boys and sees how many other people feel the same way that I do. I am so grateful to have found the One Direction fandom, the Larry fandom, and to be able to interact with you all so openly. You’re all little bits of light in my life. And to the boys, there aren’t ever going to be enough words to thank you for happiness, but just know that you’ve given it to me, through your music, your hearts, and the way you each have a bit of magic inside you that you share with all of us.