By Nicole Wolf
According to a recent study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of streaming service Tubi, the average American is streaming eight hours of content per day since the lockdown due to COVID-19.
Being stuck inside with not much to do has led many Americans to stream television shows for longer periods of time. Many fans are taking this opportunity to re-watch their favorite shows and grow closer to their fandom. A fandom is sometimes viewed in a negative light by society because of the “obsessive” nature of fandoms, but professionals are connecting the positive relationship between fandoms and the fans’ well-being.
Stephen Reysen, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Special Education at Texas A&M University Commerce, has been studying the positive correlation between fandoms and well-being, and has found that there is a positive relationship between a person’s interaction with a fandom and that person’s well-being.
For all those revisiting old episodes of The Office or Parks and Recreation while sheltering in place, this could be good news.
One fandom is growing in the Austin area; a fandom for a show called Wynonna Earp – a western, sci-fi show based on a comic book series written by Beau Smith. Fans of the show are called Earpers, and a group of Austin-based Earpers created a group chat via Twitter so that they can communicate with fellow fans. Many of the Austin Earpers members have made life-long friendship by being part of the fandom.
“One of the biggest things that comes to mind is that I wouldn’t have my friend LJ,” said Madison Lawson, a 23-year-old writer and member of the group. “She has quickly become a main source of emotional support in my life. I wouldn’t have LJ if it was not for the Wynonna Earp fandom.”
Reysen conducted another study in March 2018 which revealed that online interactions don’t affect a person’s well-being and that only face-to-face connections are what drives positive well-being.
“If you don’t have anybody around you who you could physically interact with, then I guess [online interaction] is a better substitute than not being about to talk to anybody about your favorite thing in the world,” said Reysen. “But still on average, it’s face-to-face that is really driving positive well-being.”
Some Earpers don’t agree with Reysen’s study, but Katie Howell, a 36-year-old UPS worker and member of the Austin Earpers group, agrees with Reysen’s findings.
“I think that in the context of a comparison with face-to-face relationships, no I don’t think online-only interactions can have an actual, lasting, legitimate positive effect,” she said. “I think they absolutely have negative effects. I’m very skeptical of online only relationships, whether platonic or romantic, because you haven’t been able to actually meet them.”
With shelter-in-place orders being enforced due to COVID-19, online communication has been the only option. Many fan conventions were postponed or canceled due to the epidemic. HomeCon, a multi-fandom online convention, was created in order to have a safe, entertaining convention from the comfort of people’s homes. HomeCon was held on April 10th & 11th and fans could attend virtual panels with actors and actresses of their favorite television shows. In order to watch the panels, fans subscribed to HomeCon’s channel on Twitch for $4.99, or it was free for Amazon Prime members. The convention also offered one-on-one Zoom calls with specific actors and actresses that fans could purchase.
Social media has played a big part in the Earpers coming together as a fandom. Even though online interactions don’t affect a person’s well-being, social media and other online tools are essential in finding other people with the same passions.
“I can tweet something that no one will know what that means unless they are part of the Wynonna Earp fandom,” said Lawson. “I’ll get people, who I don’t know, who will reach out and give me a little bit of encouragement that feels safe, because I know they are not going to ask for more details, judge me or need to know more about what’s going on. I just need someone to see me, and it’s a very at my fingertips way to have people who see me and understand. That’s important to me.”
Community is a huge aspect of fandom; without it, it would be considered fanship. According to Reysen, fanship is “a connection to the thing or person that you love,” while fandom is, “your connection with other people and where you place yourself within that community.”
Reysen said fandom revolves around the social identity theory in which theorists say that being part of a group, any group, is good for a person’s well-being.
“It provides various benefits like resources,” said Reysen. “If you are in trouble, you can turn to your group for help. It provides interactions with likeminded others.”
For Earpers, they see their fandom as a family brought together by the show and the characters being portrayed. Abbie Gressley, a 21-year-old student at Indiana University, has found all her close friends through Wynonna Earp.
“It truly showed me what a family is like,” she said. “They accepted me no matter what. I have never been part of a community that is so open, loving and caring no matter what or who you are.”
As a bisexual woman, Gressley sees the impact that the Wynonna Earp fandom has on the LGBTQ community.
“Online interactions with fans allow people to see that there are other people just like them and others who are accepting them,” she said. “It gives me representation on screen, which made me really latch onto the show and fandom.”
Wynonna Earp is available to stream on Netflix and SYFY.
Here is a short video I created using Moovly to describe HomeCon.
Some of my sources and other Earpers answer "What does fandom mean to you?"
Copyright © 2020 NMW Photography - All Rights Reserved.