Wanderers, I’ve been out of the world for a few days as I write this. I mean, I’m not typing from Mars (how cool would that be?) but I have been in an unfamiliar place with no mobile phone signal and a long walk to the nearest wi-fi. It’s easy to feel disconnected and alone when you’re cut off from your usual means of communication, and it got me thinking. Can fandom help to stop you feeling isolated?
Now, we at Fandom Wanderers are by no means advocating a lifestyle in which you don’t interact with the world around you. The world around you, your immediate environment, the people nearby, they’re all important parts of your life and if you possibly can, you should definitely try to interact with them as much as possible. That said, sometimes you’re stuck in a tent with the same three people for a week and a half in the rain. Sometimes you have to remain indoors due to illness or because you’re waiting in for a very important parcel. Sometimes, no matter how much you engage with the world around you, there are things you just can’t quite connect with anyone nearby over.
In the time I’ve been cut off from everyone, I’ve been struck by how many uniquely fandom-related things I’m missing. I miss getting reviews on fanfiction. I miss making bizarre t-shirt designs and, occasionally, watching them sell. I miss getting into the meta of a light-hearted kids’ film, or arguing with someone over the deeper meaning of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. I miss reading about other people’s reactions to things I’ve watched unfold too – plot twists, casting announcements, and meteoric rises to fame. I’m even beginning to miss the Hannibal fandom’s uncanny ability to find and destroy a mouth-watering photoset of food on Tumblr. In short, I miss fandom, for all its madness and occasional negative effects.
Why? Well, because fandom gives a common interest that goes a little deeper than believing that the town park needs a new water fountain, and where there are common interests, there are friendships to be forged. When I’m getting involved in a discussion of the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it doesn’t matter if I’m miles from anyone I know, sharing a dilapidated B&B room with fifteen cockroaches or just back from making awkward small-talk over breakfast with the Queen (or so I imagine; neither of the above have happened to me recently). All that matters is that there’s somebody on the other side of the internet, or in some cases at the other end of the phone line, who understands what I’m talking about and is happy to chat about it. Or even argue about it. There is someone out there, somewhere, with whom I can have a proper conversation. And proper conversations are really important.
Of course, where does this leave me, with my lack of internet and a phone that may as well be a particularly expensive Tetris machine? Well, it leaves me with a stack of books, DVDs, and CDs that bring a smile to my face. Many of you will have heard someone say that settling down to reread a beloved book is like catching up with an old friend, and I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Sometimes, the narrative voice of a favourite character, or the face of a familiar actor, or even just that funny moment you remember laughing over with a friend when you first experienced it, can be an invaluable substitute for actually talking to that friend when they’re not available. It’s always preferable to have your friend to lean on, but sometimes friends go on holiday, or you find yourself in a signal-free zone, or you only actually get any time to yourself at ridiculously anti-social hours. On these occasions, snuggling up with something that reminds you of good times with friends, or even just offers you the comfort of familiar characters or well-known faces, can be the next best thing.
So, if you’re ever feeling horribly isolated and alone, and going out to meet up with someone’s not an option, and your friends aren’t answering their phones, remember these wise words of mine, dear Wanderers: when you can’t connect with the real world, try connecting with your fandom instead. And spare a thought for those of us who are running out of DVDs to watch.
Eleanor Musgrove (is really long overdue a lesson in surviving without technology)