Words by: Alice Wright Art by: Jackie Liu
It was just last year when I was searching through a bookstore, an unlikely place for me to usually be, where I came across a small red covered novel, Normal People.
I can’t lie, I most definitely judged the book by its cover — the design on the front was what captured my attention. I read the blurb and did my routine review of the font size and number of pages. Other non-readers will understand the influence of these factors in choosing the perfect book. After putting far too much effort into the process of tossing up whether or not to make the purchase, I decided to go for it.
Some time after finishing the captivating love story, it was methodically announced that a TV adaptation was going to be released. Quickly, the nature of my past fandom tendencies began to emerge. I reached out to friends who had also engaged in the passionate Irish tale, and needed to know their thoughts.
After premiering, it took a few weeks for me to build up the courage to watch it. If you have been part of a fandom before you will understand the stress of a new album, movie, or concert. With this comes two types of people. On one hand we have those who sit at their laptop, blue light enhancing their alertness, as they wait for the exact minute the album is dropped so they can be the first to witness it. On the other, we have the crowd that is simply too overwhelmed by their emotions to consume it immediately. These are my people. We need four to five business days to process what is happening.
Surprisingly, during a busy week of uni I decided it was the perfect time to binge watch all 12 episodes in two days. It was amazing.
It didn’t take me long to follow the leading actors and actresses on social media. That’s when I came across the absurd, yet whimsical, Instagram account that purely posted about Connell and his titillating chain. I tagged my friends in the many memes that made me laugh and it was at this point I began to feel part of a new community.
I have felt this way before, this was not a new position for me to be in. A position where a social media page that existed only to post photos of an inanimate object didn’t come across as entirely unusual.
In the earlier years of high school, I was that person who cried about Zayn Malik leaving One Direction in the corridors outside classrooms on the 25th of March 2015. I was completely wrapped up in the lives of the members of this band and I can confidently say it took up a chunk of my life.
High school is a tough time. This is something everyone can agree on. In a short number of years you are forced to find yourself, create and maintain friendships, and decide what to do with your life. Like most people, I struggled. I battled to create connections from 9.00am to 3.00pm, then I would come home and switch to my online life, where I could share my interests with millions of people.
I had online friendships with people I still have yet to meet, I would read detailed stories and watch remixed videos other members of the passionate community would create, and together we would support Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall and Zayn through absolutely everything.
I found that being a One Direction stan distracted me from facing real life. Connecting to people who knew virtually nothing about you other than your obsession with a band makes it easy to open up about your struggles. It becomes a place to find support for your wins.
As I aged, my infatuation slowly dissolved. To this day, I notice habits in my behaviour towards things I like that are ingrained from my past fandom days. I am an ‘all in’ kind of person. Every time I consume something that I love, I get excited to see what other people have to say about it, who else is interested. I’ll search for further ways I can consume this thing.
The hunt for a sense of community will always remain consistent for me. When you take away the TV show, the band or the book series, you are faced with friendships, shared conversations and support. The common interest is just an excuse to foster a connection.