Is being a fan psychologically unhealthy?

Phoebe Reilly at Vulture talks to some mental-health experts to investigate the psychological ramifications of fandom. Since it appears on a pop-culture blog, the story is tailored toward fans of pop culture, but obviously there’s a lot of implicit and explicit crossover with the sports world.

It’s an interesting read, but late in the post we learn that the psychiatrist most insistent that being a fan is psychologically unhealthy once actually became so hooked on Dexter that he had to give away his TV to avoid further temptation. So, without knowing the dude, I’d contend that there’s probably some underlying psychological unhealthiness to anyone with so little will power.

There’s a whole lot of chicken-and-eggery that’s ignored in the whole post, really. Does intense fandom make people psychologically unhealthy, or do unbalanced people take to fandom in unhealthy ways?

Plus, the basis of the argument that fandom is unhealthy, as presented in the article, seems to be that enjoying a television show or, say, baseball team is ultimately unsatisfying and “doesn’t return something specific to the individual.” And in my experience that’s just not true at all.

Hell, I’d even say the bulk of my learning since college has been borne of fandom, either of television or sports. Through baseball, I’ve learned a ton about statistics, about identifying randomness, about camaraderie, and about dealing with disappointment. The Wire taught me a hell of a lot about empathy. Lost encouraged me to read up on all sorts of odd references to modern and historical thinkers and their philosophies. Even if it’s rare a Mets season or a television series concludes in a wholly satisfying way, it’s rarer still that I come away from one feeling worse for having been through it.

11 thoughts on “Is being a fan psychologically unhealthy?

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