When the Beatles first came to America, there were an estimated 4,000 fans awaiting their arrival. How did these fans know that the Beatles would fly into the John F. Kennedy Airport? Radio.
But in 2014, fans do not need to patiently listen to a radio station for details about their favorite celebrities. They do not need to stay up late to watch an interview. With a quick search on Twitter, they can find out the immediate whereabouts of their celebrity of choice. By searching their name into YouTube, fans can find almost every interview they have ever done. My generation can find thousands of dedicated fans as obsessed with a person or group as they are on Tumblr. The information available in the digital age is astoundingly limitless.
But why do these fans get preoccupied with a celebrity, musical artist or even television show? Even more interesting, why do so many teenagers join these fandoms? The teenage years are a stressful time where young people are trying to discover who they are and who they want to become. Entertainment can provide an escape from reality. Also, by watching countless interviews and replaying favorite episodes, teenagers begin to recognize the qualities they admire and the qualities that they do not.
Sometimes, due to the complete, overbearing dedication of some fans, matters can get out of hand. Death threats on Twitter are not uncommon after someone publicly disagrees with someone who has a loyal fandom. This dangerous amount of loyalty also extends beyond cyberspace. If a person or group being idolized does something without good judgment, they could be influencing their fans to make the same bad decisions. It is the responsibility of the celebrities to know the extent of their influence and the responsibility of the fans to think carefully before they do something that they could regret.
Nonetheless, fandoms in the digital age have good intentions. Fandoms are a place for people to find acceptance and support. Bonding over funny quotes and wacky pictures brings happiness to teenagers who are having a rough day. Should teenagers spend all of their available free time obsessing over a celebrity? No. However, any hobby that brings joy and the powerful feeling of belonging is not a waste of time.
Follow Jamie Gleklen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jglek