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Embracing Your Inner Geek: The Psychological Benefits of Fandom

By Rich Brendle

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a geek at heart.  You will never see me without a Star Wars shirt on, I love comic books and truly believe that there can be psychological benefits to gaming.  This is who I am, but for years, I felt like a misfit.  In the year 2010 that changed when I attended my first Star Wars convention.  It was there that I met my community-my people.  The friends I made there have become like second family to me.  When COVID-19 hit, it was the virtual hang-outs with this community that kept me going.  One of the greatest examples of fan connections is sporting events.  It is here that you see complete strangers giving high fives and even hugging when their team does well.  It is obvious-fan connections bring people together, but it is far deeper than that.  In this article, we will explore some ways that fandom promotes a mentally healthy lifestyle.

Fandom Develops our Identity

              When one connects with others of similar interest, it helps us define who we are.  Knowing that we are not the only people that can identify a Naboo Starfighter, the symbol for House Gryffindore or a TARDIS can make us feel far less alone.  We develop a new normalcy instead of feeling like an outcast.  This sense of belonging is one of the most common positive aspects of fandom among friends (Obst, Zinkiewicz & Smith, 2002).  Developing this sense of identity by embracing your passions can produce confidence and stimulate creative expressions of fandom through activities such as cosplay, collecting and fan art.  This positive exploration of creativity has been theorized to even reduce anxiety and other mental health struggles (Kipper 2006). 

The development of one’s identity as a fan can even replace a more destructive identity of one who struggles with addiction.  One of my dearest “Star Wars friends” was at one time an alcoholic.  His fandom became a major part of his recovery by replacing one outlet, alcohol with toy collecting.  Another friend has shared how customizing action figures helped him through the stress when he stopped smoking cigarettes. 

Fandom Builds a Support System

              A support system has been a proven resource to help someone through stressful situations (Wu & Pooler, 2014).  Once fans develop a depth of friendship because of a common bond, it opens up the opportunity to discuss deeper issues.  When my father had a stroke, it was my fan community that reached out to me.  When I bombed a job interview, my fan community picked me up and encouraged me to persevere.  I have heard countless voicemails on Rebel Force Radio (a Star Wars podcast) with people thanking the host for getting them through the darkest times in their lives.  When beloved voice-actor Tom Kane (The voice of Yoda in The Clone Wars) had a stroke earlier this year, fans rallied together to record voicemails that were sent to him.  Support systems help people persevere through the most challenging times in their lives, and the support system that comes from fandom is no exception.

Fandom Encourages Diversity

              One of the most amazing things about fan gatherings is the economic, social and racial diversity.  At my first convention, I developed close friendships with people from Canada, Chille and Mexico.  Among these friends were pastors, teachers, an independent filmmaker, a foot surgeon, and me-a call center worker.  Through our friendships, I have become more enlightened because of the diverse views of my friends.  These types of friendships help one to expand beyond their environment and embrace cultures they otherwise would have not experienced. 

Conclusion and Warning of Fandom

              Being part of a fan community can help one develop in the areas of identity, a support system and diverse mindedness, but like everything, there is a dark side. With so many opinions among fans, it is important to keep emotional boundaries in check by having respect for differing opinions.  By having this level of respect for other fans, lifelong friendships are developed with psychological benefits.


Kipper, D. A. (2006). The Canon of Spontaneity— Creativity Revisited: The Effect of Empirical Findings. Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry (15453855), 59(3), 117–126.

Obst, Patricia, Lucy Zinkiewicz, and Sandy G. Smith. 2002. “Sense of Community in Science Fiction Fandom, Part 1: Understanding Sense of Community in an International Community of Interest.” Journal of Community Psychology 30 (1): 87–103. doi:10.1002/jcop.1052.

Wu, C., & Pooler, D. (2014). Social Workers’ Caregiver Identity and Distress: Examining the Moderating Role of Self-esteem and Social Support. Social Work Research, 38(4), 237–249.


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