Adopting a fangirl’s lifestyle could be an extension of our human need to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.
When you see the word “fangirl”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, teenage girls screaming and crying at the sight of a musician or band is probably the first image that pops up.
According to Oliver Tearle in a 2013 article for HuffPost, the term’s first recorded use was in 1943 in the AP Herbert novel, Holy Deadlock. The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes it as “a girl or woman who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something”. While the term can be applied to basically anything, it has often been used with arts and culture, more specifically, music.
Though this term has been used specifically for young women, the behaviours and emotions could be a very good thing and perhaps it is something we could all adopt in our lives.
Some traditional fangirl practices that are examples of being “overly enthusiastic” can take the form of attending many of the musicians’ concerts or plastering every centimetre of your bedroom with the artist’s posters.
Like any other fan, fangirls want to see their favourite artists succeed, but what distinguishes them from ordinary fans is the lengths they will go to. This is why the act of fangirling has recently evolved to include music streaming events. Here, they repeatedly play an artist’s or band’s music to ensure it reaches Number 1 on the music charts.
Fangirls also function as mini encyclopaedias about their favourites for anyone interested (or not!) because they collect all the information available about their obsession.
When I was 10 years old, my daily routine primarily consisted of watching interviews and music videos of the English-Irish boyband, One Direction. The usefulness of the information was debatable, but to me at that time, knowing that one of the members (Liam Payne) was afraid of spoons was vital information.
In a 2012 Wall Street Journal article about the mental wellbeing of Justin Bieber fans by Melinda Beck, Dr Patrick Markey is quoted saying that this kind of obsessiveness is “a sign of psychological health”.
The reason is the intense joy that is derived from being an obsessive fan because of a hormone called dopamine. Writer and copywriter, Toketemu Ohwovoriole explains in an online psychology magazine, that it is a neurotransmitter that affects how we experience pleasure. She says that it is linked to “motivation, movement, memory, mood, sleep, and behaviour regulation”. The more you do a pleasurable activity, the more the chemical is released, which makes you feel, quite simply, good.
Aside from the psychological benefits of being a “fangirl”, the community and connections that are created by fangirl communities are what I consider one of the best aspects of this cultural phenomenon.
There are numerous fangirl communities that emphasise how their chosen fan base helped them develop a sense of belonging. In a piece for online popular culture magazine Thought Catalogue about how fangirls can teach us about love, Melanie Cook explains that fangirls provide each other with support they need for “getting through life together”.
I have come to understand being a fan of something is simply an extension of our human need to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves and each other. With work, school, different forms of art or sports, fully devoting yourself to different parts of your life and finding ways to create communities through these shared interests is important.
Whatever shape it takes for you on an individual basis, being a fangirl has the potential to enhance what can often feel like a mundane existence.
FEATURED IMAGE: Rufaro Chiswo. Photo: File
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