I grew up rural. My graduating class had fewer than 20 members. I was an outspoken lass who had begun to learn about feminism thanks to the music I loved. I stuck the feminist label on myself just as soon as I learned it existed and what it meant to me. My feminist awakening was intersectional and came about as a result of lewd comments about Halle Berry made by a creepy uncle during the Flintstones movie one fateful family movie night.
About a year after that happened, and several years after some of the worst things I’ve been through, I starting listening to Alanis and Tori and Ani. They made me weird, according to my friends, so I was HYPED when my dad told me we were getting the internet. I was 13.
The second thing I did on the internet yielded shocking and negative results. A search for “golden girls” took me straight to porn. Thanks a lot, Jeeves.
But the first, a search for “tori amos albums” was (little did I know) a super important life step: it led me away from my rural life and to my people. Tori Amos fans are notoriously, um, offbeat types, and I knew I was too despite my half-hearted attempts to fit in a little bit. My first fandom, via internet message boards, introduced me to gay people, bi people, people from other countries, people who weren’t the same race or religion I was, and some with (gasp!) no religion at all. Literally every type of person I would never have had the opportunity to meet IRL, I interacted with daily on message boards and fan forums. I learned to swear so creatively that I can’t even repeat here some of the foulness I used to come up with. I still use it privately, though, and I’m still in touch with some of my internet friends almost 20 years later. INTERNET FRIENDS ARE REAL FRIENDS.
When I watched Felicia Day’s show, The Guild, as new seasons released to Xbox Live, I recognized myself in Cyd/Codex, and I rather suspected she was closely related to her creator. While I don’t play video games on the regular (learning the controls as an adult is not a thing I have space for in my brain), I related deeply to Cyd’s sense of online community. Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), made me feel understood from the first page. I was kind of a weird, loner kid, treated as something of a prodigy by my teachers because I learned to read early and was always making them read the stories and even the “novel” I wrote (which, honestly, was like 12 handwritten pages of pure Sweet Valley knockoff). It was a pretty small pond; I was barely average at everything but words on paper.
Day had math and the violin; I had grammar and creative writing. I always, always felt like she got me, chapter after chapter. Maybe because I got used to a virtual community, such a connection felt completely natural. Also BOOK FRIENDS ARE REAL FRIENDS and for real, I want to be friends with Felicia Day.
I felt less alone as a lonely teenager growing up farm-adjacent because I had the internet, far less so than if I’d had to rely on real-life connections. Day’s book will speak, I’m entirely certain, to so many other folks my age who felt like IRL outsiders but found our people on the good ol’ net. Which is the good side of the internet, and the great thing about fandoms.
How ’bout you? Did a fandom lead you to your people?