Fandom and Socialization

According to a study published in MediCareful Living, One of the most straightforward mental health benefits of sports fandom is the sense of belonging and community that comes with it. Being a fan of a team opens the door to new social groups since your fandom gives you a connection to people you may not otherwise have had. Fan events can allow you to meet and share experiences with new people and grow even closer to your team! For example, you may get the chance to come together as a large group to watch an important game or meet a former player. Watching games or matches is also a great excuse to get together with friends!

It is good to be passionate about something. It gives you an outlet to reduce stress, socialize, and provide you with something to think about other than your current situation. I am passionate about Formula 1 racing. Everyone’s fandom is different. One of my best friends likes Formula 1 as well, but he is passionate about the NBA. I think he would watch every game if he could. What interests me is what happens to a fan during the offseason. I know I find myself longing for the time to go by for winter testing and then that first race in Melbourne. This year was worse because of Covid-19. Many of the first races were postponed or canceled, and the first race didn’t take place until July. It was a long, miserable wait. I found that I was out of sorts, desperate to have those talks with my brother, and longing for the sounds of engines starting up. During the offseason of most sports, there is still lots of activity; from chat rooms to video blogs to video games, there are many ways to engage in one’s fandom.

Fandom, whether it’s science fiction, sports, video games, or music, provides many beneficial outlets that have shown to be very positive for one’s mental health. Besides the neurochemical mechanisms that occur when participating in the activity or watching an event, there are socialization opportunities that can provide engagement to individuals with no other outlets. I have found that when I am at a concert or watching a race, I get a rush that I don’t get on just a regular day. I have also found that I get a great deal of enjoyment from engaging on chat boards, playing fantasy leagues, playing video games associated with my favorite sports, and reading articles.

Having a disability can lead to a very lonely existence IF YOU LET IT. You can isolate yourself and avoid social situations because you are embarrassed about your symptoms or are afraid or think it’s too much of a hassle. Being involved in a fandom of some sort is a fantastic way to socialize in a virtual environment, which means that most of the hassle of being involved is removed. 

I have found one of the most healing activities that I participate in is being with my friends, and especially talking about my favorite sports and activities. I have seen the adverse effects of isolation; I have friends and loved ones who have locked themselves away and won’t talk to anyone, which makes them more and more miserable. If I could only persuade them to engage with friends or family, I know how much better off they would be. Socialization is so important to one’s mental health. For years, I have made a concerted effort to regularly interact with friends and family, which has had a very positive effect on my mental well-being. The times in my life when I was isolated and candidly was feeling sorry for myself, I was lonely and miserable, and my symptoms were much worse. When you have a genuine connection with people, whether family, friends or those you meet through your fandom, you have a sense of belonging, which otherwise you might not ever experience. A sense of belonging always makes me feel accepted no matter what my physical limitations are; I’m not just known for my disability but for what I can contribute to a society that gives me confidence. For example, when I am talking to a friend or family member about Formula 1, and we can speak intelligently about the race, the drivers, the technical aspects of the cars, I feel somewhat accomplished.

I also got a PS4 for Christmas this past year. Now, I don’t sit around and play video games all day, but it gives me something I can do with my boys, and its another outlet to socialize with others that love the games that I do. My point here is that whether you emerge yourself in a sport, a video game, a TV show, and use them to engage with others, it can be very healing and satisfying. Everyone is looking for a sense of purpose; it’s a natural human desire. You might not find it right away. It took me two years after I went on disability to stop feeling wholly inadequate and immersed myself in the things about which I am passionate. I know that my purpose is to serve others, whether through my blog, through my church, The Boy Scouts, or the FCA, and embracing these things. The other part of my life is staying engaged with friends and family, immersing myself in the things I am a fan of, and intentionally finding ways to socialize. It has made a world of difference, and I am in a much better place emotionally than I was since I had my career. As we have discussed, there are many healthy ways to express oneself and to engage with others. I used to think that my job was the only way for me to do this. Still, I have now found many alternatives to engage with others in a meaningful way that provides close relationships, camaraderie, and avenues for self-expression. If you are searching for a new purpose in life because your circumstances have changed, start thinking. You can engage with others, how you can serve others, and ways you can express yourself through the things for which you are passionate.

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