Buried beneath the fashion posts and inspiring quotes on the blogging website Tumblr is a group of people obsessed with “Harry Potter,” “Sherlock,” One Direction and anime.
Sites like Tumblr and Twitter enable fans to bond over their passions and create communities that revolve around their interests, forming what are better known as fandoms.
A fandom is a community of people brought together by a common interest who find different ways to celebrate it through outlets like art, live events like conventions or online discussions.
These subcultures can be a gateway to finding like-minded people who share not just the same interests, but also many of the same values.
For Abigail Lubin, a Ph.D. candidate at Miller School of Medicine, becoming involved in the Harry Potter community online has helped her find open-minded people.
“The people I tend to hang out with in the community are very open to new ideas,” Lubin said. “Sometimes I talk with people in real life, and they’re completely thrown by some ideas. I enjoy spending time with people who are not shocked when you introduce something new and different.”
Sophomore Lauren Siminotis echoed similar sentiments about the online Lady Gaga community, which embodies many of the same beliefs that the singer herself advocates for.
“I think that she has a very good message of acceptance,” Simonitis said. “I think a lot of people are drawn to it … because for the most part it’s a very nurturing environment.”
Lubin is an active reader and writer of fanfiction, in which fans use existing fictional characters to create original stories.
“It allows you to explore ideas … without any limitations or expectations at all,” Lubin said. “It’s such a freeing experience. I love it.”
Many online communities dedicated to specific fandoms have sprung up in recent years, making it even easier to find people with the same interests.
In 2012, Lady Gaga launched littlemonsters.com, a social media site for her fans. Simonitis was among the first to try out the website in the beta testing period. With this platform, she has been able to discuss Lady Gaga and her music in depth.
“It’s comforting,” Simonitis said. “It’s just nice to talk about it with people who are as crazily, unhealthily obsessed as I am … instead of babbling to my friends who don’t really care about it.”
But these communities are not limited to the digital world. They date back before even television had been invented. The original Sherlock Holmes fandom is often regarded as the original fandom. According to “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes,” British men wore black armbands in mourning when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed him off, and people in the U.S. started “Let’s Keep Holmes Alive” clubs. The backlash was so intense that Conan Doyle was eventually pressured into bringing the detective back to life.
Junior Adam Orshan bonds over the TV show “Doctor Who” with his friends, who introduced him to the program.
“For me, it’s much more about my group of friends and enjoying something with them,” he said.
Orshan is a member of the UMiami “Doctor Who” Fans Facebook group. He thinks that Whovians are drawn to the show because of the values it fosters.
“I find that most people who like ‘Doctor Who’ are good, nice, honest people because that’s kind of what the Doctor is like and that’s what he tries to get people to be,” Orshan said.
Freshman McKenna Lyons, who is also a member of the Facebook group, has found herself drawn to people who she later discovered were “Doctor Who” fans. She believes it is because many Who fans have similar personalities.
“I think a lot of us have the same manner and thoughts,” said Lyons, who describes herself as shy. “The way we interact with people is different.”
Throughout the past decade or so, fandoms have become more mainstream. Superhero movies have become one of the most profitable genres and both “muggle” from “Harry Potter and “whovian,” a word used to describe “Doctor Who” fans, have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Despite this, fandoms still often carry negative stigmas, like that of all major “Star Trek” fans being geeks who still live with their parents. But people within these communities argue that the interactions influence more than they define.
“I don’t think being a part of a fandom is exclusively character defining,” Orshan said. “It’s a part of who I am but it’s not all of who I am.”
There are people intent on removing the labels altogether. Junior Ashu Joshi, president of the campus anime club, sought out the position partially in the hopes of eliminating the stereotype.
“I wanted to remove that stigma from the club,” said Joshi, who has attended anime conventions with the club. “Anime can be open to anyone in the community. It’s meant for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.”
Though many people worry about being associated with the stigmas, Orshan points out that the fandoms themselves help to deflect much of the negative criticism.
“Who cares if someone else think’s it’s stupid?” Orshan said. “You love it and you have a whole other group of people who love it.”