The Science Behind Fangirling

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always fallen for the “latest and greatest” in boy band music. From my elementary/middle school years crushing on the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber, to my present day obsessions with One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer. It had always occurred to me that something set me apart from the other girls I knew. We all listened to the same music, but it would affect me differently. I got noticeably more excited: my heart would race, my hands would shake, sometimes tears and squeals of joy followed. It was so overwhelming. I seemed to be much more invested in these musical artists than anyone else was. I’ve always wondered, is my brain wired differently? Why do these bands evoke more emotions from me than the average person? That’s what I decided to research.

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Firstly, let me give a clear definition to the term “fangirling”. On my favorite satirical dictionary site, Urban Dictionary, one of the many definitions of fangirling is “going totally insane over a famous person. Usually happens when you find out something about your idol, which makes you freak out.” (You can read many more of the amusing definitions here) To sum it up, fangirling makes a girl look completely crazy – except to another fangirl who will 100% understand you. Many others and myself would agree that we use fangirling as a sort of escape from reality, or as this article explains, “an act of displacement or temporary relief from psychological distress.”

So what is going on in my brain? In psychologytoday.com’s article, Stephanie Booth states “The brain’s mesolimbic system functions as a reinforcement circuit between the opiodergic system (which controls liking) and the dopaminergic system (which governs wanting)… These mechanics evolved to steer us toward things like food, but other factors can trip the circuit.” Basically, these bands and their music make me feel good, and in response my brain is telling me to keep going back for more and more. Thus, the obsession forms. Later in the article, Stephanie Booth explains that “Actively listening to a beloved tune stokes the brain’s pleasure center and feels extremely arousing. “It’s like a temporary roller coaster of emotions, with no severe consequences,” says Valorie Salimpoor, a researcher at McGill University. “The intensity of the feelings the music evokes is highly reinforcing.”” Looking at this from the socialcultural psychological perspective, I grew up in an affluent area where kids were always able to afford whatever concert tickets they wanted. Seeing how much fun other kids were having definitely had an affect on my decisions and what I was interested in.

So now that we understand how the brain processes things we extremely like, why are some people more obsessed with certain things than other people? Why are boy bands so appealing to some girls and not at all to others? Unfortunately, this is where I came up empty handed, which is extremely disappointing considering how badly I wanted to write about this subject. Its completely understandable considering this is a slightly new phenomenon being heightened by today’s excessive use of social media, basically allowing fans to keep track of their idol’s every move. I look forward to future studies on this interesting topic.

1 thought on “The Science Behind Fangirling

  1. pxw5127

    First of all, i typed my whole comment, and then accidentally deleted it, so I am currently very angry. Anyways, I found this post to be very interesting! I would never link fangirling to science! It is so amazing that you thought to do that. I go through periods of time where I am into a band or artist, but I never have been obsessed over them. I never stopped to think that the reason could actually be science. It could definitely be that our brains are wired differently. It could also be the different ways we were raised. This could be a sort of nature vs. nurture topic. There has to be a reason why some girls experience fangirling and others don’t. I would also like to know how girls become so attached to someone that they have never met. Many of my friends fangirl over One Direction, and I never understood why, I like One Direction’s music, don’t get me wrong, but I never obsess over the band itself. The more and more I think about it, the more and more I believe the reason to be science. I would love to see if the science behind this is true, but it would be very hard to prove. Thank you for bringing up this topic!! Here is a website that compares Beatles fans to One Direction fans It is very funny!

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