Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Psychology and Fanaticism

If anyone's wondering, which is no one, I have a minimal 6-page interview report that I have to finish tomorrow, which word of the wise tonight. But my fingers are tingling to write another thing, a blog post out of all things. Then I came upon this article from one of my favorite websites, Psychology Today. The website gathers a few articles a day that correlates with each other. Yesterday the theme was fanaticism, which is an everyday language in the world of K-pop. So maybe it will be nice to bring psychology and K-pop together into one heck of a post.

Most of the articles posted in this theme is about fans of sports, which is the most verbal form of fanaticism in the West. But thankfully there is a little tiny bit about music, and pop music groupies at that. Here's an excerpt of the post about the music lover which is most similar to K-pop fans, who are essentially fans of music.
The Music Lover (Devotium Groupis)
Cranking up a favorite song is one thing; seeing a pop group 44 times is another. 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." That may explain why some die-hard fans still aren't weary of Skulls & Roses.
For some, concerts can extend that "high" even further. Live shows often incorporate light displays, choreography, or a good old-fashioned mosh pit. If an aspect resonates with fans, "the disparate sensory elements contribute to a much stronger rush than whatever they get from an iPod," says Donald Lodge, a music researcher at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
In fact, participants in a Swedish study who described their most powerful musical experiences (many of which took place at concerts) relayed an almost religious experience—pounding heart, tears, no adequate words to explain their emotions.
Nostalgia lends even more meaning to favorite songs, since music seals in memories from the era in which one first heard it. Fans who center their lives around a particular band probably got hooked during their formative years, Lodge says. "That's when you struggled most with identity, and the music you related to at the time helped answer the question, 'Who am I?'"
The bolded sentence is pretty interesting. I can't really tell what type of self-presentation a K-pop fan is trying to show based on the group he/she is following. Maybe I should dig some literature to see if self-presentation and fanaticism correlates. Or I'll just make that into my argumentative essay for a class. My guesstimate? They want boy/girlfriends. Because so many groups are made towards that goal. I'm sure there's other reasons, but that's what I can come up at the top of my head. Oh, and fame and fortune. Don't forget that.

Also a sentence I'd like to mention is this: "their most powerful musical experiences... relayed an almost religious experience". Now I know why some fans basically worship their idols. And funny, the word idols, according to Dictionary.com, means "an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed". So maybe another meaning is somewhat more relatable, "any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion" but even that definition deserves a second thought. The word "blind" and "devotion" is definitely something I can associate to K-pop fans, myself included.

Here's a fun fact. The word fanatic, again according to Dictionary.com, means "a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal". Extreme. Uncritical. Sounds familiar? Yup. That's what I can your everyday K-pop fan. Or other fans, actually. But considering this is a K-pop blog, I'd like to associate them with K-pop fans. I made a post a little back, a rant post and not as "scientific" as this one, where I've mentioned one shouldn't easily call yourself a fan of a certain group without full on devotion. And apparently the dictionary agrees. And hopefully theories and journals which I promise I will look up another day.

I've been wanting to research on the K-pop idol phenomena for some time and am seriously considering a related topic as my thesis later on. I personally think it's an interesting thing to discuss. Definitely more interesting than politics any day. The only downfall is that in my country there's not that many seriously devoted fans. But maybe if I look close enough I might find enough to make a valid research. Till then!


  1. You're touching a subject that interests me. I shall read this after Friday. So busy and tired, I can't give it the read-through it deserves, right now. XD

  2. Very interesting post indeed. Idol worship when it comes to entertainment is much like certain forms of religion.

    I mean the kind where people got high on some incense, screwed everything alive (and not) within a certain mile radius and then thought they had an "experience".

    Idols are seen as perfect beings who should not have weaknesses, needs or rights to a human life. The fanatics who worship them think that their experiences are something deep and meaningful, an epiphany, instead of recognizing and admitting it's just sexual arousal and their own romantic thoughts and needs projected onto the objects of desire.

    How many of these fanatics criticize the music itself? Do they have opinions for the lyrics, the music, the voices, the talent? Do they spot the errors and name them? No. Everything seems perfect to them as long as there are no faults in an idol's image and looks. Because you don't get sexually attracted to a guy because of their music. Unless it's some pretty damn awesome music.

    I find fanaticism a mental illness, when it reaches such extremes. Reality is distorted, emotions run wild, reason has no power over the person and behavior can reach dangerous extremes.

    Being a fan or even a fangirl/fanboy is within logical limits. Being a fanatic is when things stop being so "harmless" anymore.

    Great article and I'd love to read more from you.

  3. Is fanaticism a mental disorder? Hmm... I better research on that. These kind of posts are actually what I'd like to write more often, but for some reason all my writing capabilities for writings like this are spent mostly for school so when I get home I only have the energy to write only lighter material. I will definitely write more stuff like this in the future :D

  4. Well, maybe not a mental disorder with physical causes, but more of a psychological problem, rather than psychiatric.

    When it reaches such extremes, like losing sense of reality and actually coming to believe that you have a special connection with a stranger, then yes.

    Read my I ♥ Netizens post. I mean, the girl who made that comment clearly has issues. I cannot accept that is a mentally healthy person when she cannot tell reality from a movie and thinks she even has the right to demand such things if it were real anyway.

    Just because it is "common" to see so many people with such obsessions and because industries use those problems to make money out of sick young girls does not make it less of a social and mental problem.

    Hell, I get an "almost religious experience" when I see Kang Dong Won dance in Duelist, but I don't lose track of who I am and the fact that I have no relations with the man. And most of us have some or many hot men we kyaa and swoon over. Reality is one thing and our kyaa-moments are another. Fangirling and indulging in healthy daydreaming does not compare to losing all touch with that is real.

    And don't overwork yourself, but if you do want to write such nice things in the future, they will have an audience here. ;) So does your lighter writing. Ehehehe.

  5. Social or mental illness? Are you serious?

    Are kpop fans really that different from any other fans of that genre like Justin Bieber, or 1 Direction? How about sports fans? People have rioted, and killed each other in soccer, basketball, football games. How about religion fans? My God is tougher than your God. "Almost religious experience"? How about "religious experience", period? History is written in blood with fans of religion. People are bombing, killing and mutilating each other today because of it.

    What do k-pop fans do that is so horrible? I see them killing time doing useless things (like most teenagers do), but I also see them trying to learn a new language, and a new culture. How terrible? I wish I could get my kids to learn a new language and a new culture on their own accord. Few fans might be annoying, yes... They bother me with their music.. Look, another k-pop youtube rant.. boohoo.. Get serious. I haven't seen any regular riots because of k-pop. I live in Los Angeles. I cringe every time the Lakers (American Basketball) makes it to the NBA finals. (Riots, fights, vandalism). When we had Raiders (American Football) in LA, let's just say you didn't want to be around the Stadium after their game (Riots, fights, vandalism). Don't get me started on religion fans. Grrrr.

  6. *_* This is so interesting. I've been fascinated by the fangirl phenomenon for awhile now and I really want to research about obsession, fangirling and physical attraction. I really want to study this even more, but sadly, I'm still at highschool right now and my sources are very limited. Oh, well...