How Being A Stan Can Wreck Your Self-Esteem
It seems counterintuitive: How can loving a movie franchise or sports team make you feel bad about yourself? Isn't it more likely that people with low self-esteem become obsessed than the other way around?
Yes and no. Being part of a fandom can be great for your mental health in moderation, "enhanc[ing] your identity" and giving you a sense of belonging in a community of other people who also like to argue over the exact number of students attending some fictional wizard school.
Where it gets dangerous, and not even in a "restraining order" kind of way, is when a franchise takes a turn for the worse, a celebrity goes on a racist rant, or something else happens that the fan has no control over that tanks the value of the object of their obsession. That "identity enhancement" is a double-edged sword: Sure, it can make you feel special to be a walking encyclopedia of the Star Wars Extended Universe, but if that's primarily how you interface with the world -- not as an engineer or a poet or a parent but as a fan -- and everyone hates the new movie, it feels like they hate you. It can even make you feel guilty, as if it's your fault somehow, which makes you defensive, and the next thing you know, you're ending friendships because someone thought Daenerys' heel turn felt rushed.
Part of it has to do with the circumstances of the type of person prone to that kind of overinvestment -- "People who are living their lives completely have very little time to be significant fans of anything," one psychiatrist noted -- but it can happen to anyone, and the solutions can be extreme. "If you're going to bed upset because your football team lost, you shouldn't watch games anymore," the same psychiatrist said. Experts also recommended, oh, they don't know, maybe doing something yourself that you can be proud of and base your identity on. Note that they don't say it can't be a 12-part series of increasingly filthy fanfiction.
Manna, regrettably, has a Twitter.
Top image: Aftermath, HBO