Monday, February 6, 2017

How To Survive Breaking Up With Your Fandom

Breaking up is never easy, but it’s something we’re all somewhat familiar with. Even if you’ve never been through one yourself, there are hundreds of songs out there dedicated to ending relationships. When you’re going through a breakup, a Google search will render thousands of results on how to get you through it. But what about when it’s time to end a relationship with your fandom? Depending on how big of a role that fandom plays in your life, it can be just as affecting as ending a relationship with another person.

There are different kinds of breakups you can go through with your fandom, and the first step might be figuring out which one you’re experiencing.

It’s Mutual - This often happens with fandoms with completed medias. One day you’re online, chatting with fellow fans, commissioning art, reading meta. Then the next day you do it a little bit less. Then a month later, you check in every couple days. Even if you still love this media so dearly, if there’s nothing new offered, things can peter out. Eventually, it’s just something you look back on with fondness.

It’s Not You, It’s Me - It’s easy to think of yourself as a different person when you’re young. But as you grow and figure out your place in the world, your tastes can change too. Some of the fandoms you were hardcore into five years ago might just be a blip on your radar now, even if they haven’t made any significant changes to their format or formula. And that’s okay. Just like it’s normal to grow apart from a person, it’s normal to grow apart from fandoms as well.

The Ache - This one is the hardest. This is when the media you’ve integrated into your life changes in such a way that feels like a betrayal. Maybe the lead singer of your favorite band says something problematic to a social justice cause you’re particularly sensitive to. Maybe your favorite book series starts to become more generic and poorly written. Maybe the creators of your favorite show openly mock the fandom and destroy the growth of a character so important to you, you got their silhouette tattooed on your shoulder… I may or may not be going through a “It’s complicated” moment with my fandom.

Pictured: Me being abandoned by Steven Moffat. Again.

Sometimes you don’t even realize how big of a role a fandom plays in your life until it’s gone. Interacting with my fandom became a coping mechanism as well as second nature. If I couldn’t face the stress of dealing with life, I’d curl up and just experience my fandom. I think this is the most obvious benefit of fandom in general: escapism. Sometimes all it takes to gain perspective on your life is to spend a few hours somewhere else.

But it wasn’t just times of trouble. It was the in-between times too. If I was stuck in a waiting room, I’d read fanfic. If I was feeling creative but couldn’t make myself work on my own projects, I’d write fanfic (which has done so much for my writing skills). If I was lonely, I’d talk to other fans and discuss theories. If I had spare cash, I’d buy fan art from my favorite artists. If I had trouble quitting my mind to go to sleep, I’d listen to a podfic. Fandom became a part of my daily routine. And I had a deep bond with not only the community aspect but with the media itself. With characters that didn’t exist but were so, so real.

When you have such a deep connection with a fandom like that, and something happens where it’s just not there anymore, you start to flounder. Your routine is broken. What became so familiar and safe is different and painful. And maybe you’re still hanging on, maybe it’s not completely over yet, you’re just on a break. Either way, I’ve compiled some tips to help you readjust when your fandom breaks your heart.

"This is the first time I've looked at Benedict Cumberbatch's face and felt nothing."

Talk to Other Fans
- Fandom is a multifaceted thing. Chances are if you’re feeling a certain way, there are other people out there that feel the exact same way. When you break up with your significant other, it’s not weird to call your mom or your besties to just vent. It might be a little bit harder to find that same kind of support from non-fans. Whatever site your fandom is most active on, look for these people. Even if you don’t toss your two cents into the discussion, just reading the interactions between others can give you the same sense of relief. It will most certainly make you realize you are not alone.

Read Fanfic
- Fanfiction has got the most undeserving reputation. If it’s not something you participated in while times were good, it might be hard to start now. Every writer has a different perspective on characterization, motivations, etc. A lot of times their perspective will differ from yours. But opening your mind to these variations can be cathartic, especially with Alternative Universes. You get to spend time with these same characters in a different setting with a different person behind the controls. It’s refreshing and can help you come to terms with the idea that one person’s (the creators) idea of the story doesn’t have to be the only one.

Write Fanfic - Even if you’ve never read fanfiction, even if you have no intention of letting anyone with the ability to read see your work, writing your version of events can help you process what went wrong. And it will help you feel as though you set things right. If you do ever get the courage to share your work, you might be surprised with how many people will connect with it.

Focus On Your Other Fandoms - We all have that special fandom that takes up the most space in our hearts. But since this isn’t a monogamous human relationship, it’s okay to care about other fandoms as well. If you feel as though you can’t interact with your main fandom without a certain level of discomfort, hop on over to one of your side fandoms. Start delving into the parts of that fandom you haven’t explored, like fan art, fanfic or metas.

Seek Out a New Fandom
- This might come more easily for some people than others. When I started to feel distant from my fandom, I immediately jumped into another one which I knew for a fact would give me what my main one failed to. If you’re not ready to take on another emotional commitment, that’s fine too. Especially if you’re having a hard time figuring out just why you feel the way you do and why you feel it so strongly.

Know What You Can and Can’t Take
- What I mean by this is, don’t continue interacting with a fandom if it upsets you. This might seem obvious, but humans are creatures of habit. If you used to spend a couple hours before bed scrolling through Tumblr on your fandom tag, you might find yourself already six posts deep before you realize you’re not happy. Or maybe scrolling through Tumblr makes you happy but actually watching/reading/listening to the media hurts. It’s okay to try to overcome your icky feelings and push through it, but if you just find yourself feeling worse, it’s not worth fighting for.

Step Away From Fandom
- If you had a pretty exclusive thing with your fandom, the easiest way to feel better might be to step away from the fandom life in general for a bit. It doesn’t have to be forever or even for an entire day. Sometimes all that means is making an active effort to do something outside of your fandom community. Maybe start volunteering, work on your own projects, spend time with friends or family. I’m not saying to abandon a community that has given you so much. What I am saying is that it’s okay to take a break and seek that same sense of happiness or community from other places as well.

At the end of the day, you are made up of the best parts of your fandoms. You chose what aspects to let inside of you and what aspects to push away. You don’t have to justify your reasonings for stepping away to anyone. The whole point of fandom is to enjoy life through a medium of art. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and you’re actually enjoying it.

What are some of your tips to handle getting over a fandom breakup?


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