I grew up in a time before the Internet. Well, I grew up in the time of the Internet, I suppose. I was 14 in 1994 when the World Wide Web went live. Of course, I was in my mid-20s before the Internet started to become what we know and take for granted today.
The reason I admit to being old is because it’s relevant to the discussion. When I was growing up, the idea of “fandom” didn’t exist in the form we have it today. When I was a kid, growing up a fan of Star Trek and comic books, when you met someone who was into what you’re into, it was almost a magical experience. We instantly had a connection, and it was something few people could understand.
The Internet, and especially social media, was sort of a game changer in this arena.
In the early days of the Internet we had chat rooms and message boards. You could go to the Superman Homepage or some other fan forum and meet and chat with people all over the world about whatever the theme of the forum was. Generally, there were different websites for different fandoms. There was the Star Trek message boards, and the Star Wars message boards and the DC Comics message boards and the Marvel message boards… Well, you get the idea. Social media has changed all of that.
In the age of Facebook, now we have Facebook groups which pretty much serve the same function as the old message boards did. There are groups for just about every fandom you could imagine, and there are usually multiple groups per fandom. There are science groups, literature groups, car groups, comic book groups, Doctor Who groups, and so on and so forth. I even know of a Jeep fandom (Jeep Mud Club). It’s a great time to be alive, no matter what you’re passionate about.
You don’t have to just hope that one day you’ll stumble onto someone who shares your interests like you did when I was younger. These days, you can search anything you love and probably find a group about it. A place where you can share you knowledge, learn new things about the fandom if you’re a newbie, and even debate things like who was the best Star Trek Captain (the answer is Kirk, of course).
People get busy sometimes. Yes, even we nerds have personal lives. Sometimes we miss an episode, or an issue, and being a part of a fan community can be a great way to get caught up. You don’t even have to admit that you missed that episode or issue and have to face the shame of being a lazy fan. Just sit back and watch, odds are everyone is already talking about that episode.
“I’ve been away from comics for the past ten years and am just now trying to get back into it. Where should I start reading X-Men again?” Fan communities can help you with that. “I really loved the new Star Trek movies, but I’m not really familiar with anything before 2009. What should I watch to get me into the classic Trek?” Fan communities can help you with that too.
Online fan communities have become one of the best things geek culture has given the world. If you aren’t already part of a fan community (and if you’re reading this, you probably already are), you should do yourself a favor and join some. Below are links to a few of the fan communities I’m a member of. Hope to see you there!