How the Fandom Changed My Life Survey (Initial
The following represents
an analysis of the 1600 Bronies (Mean age= 21 years old;
82% were males; 68% from N. America, 23% from
Europe; 34% in High School and
in college) who initially completed the survey, and were asked to rate the
presence of various emotions and behaviors before and
after they joined the fandom.
A) Emotions and Feelings: Numbers are the percentage of the sample who reported
either an improvement or a
worsening after becoming a member of the fandom.
QLS Emotions Subscale*
* The Quality of Life Scale has three subscales
a) Clearly fans as a group report improved emotional states
after joining the fandom, with half
or more reporting overall improvement. These improvements might be affected by an increased
level of self-acceptance and social
support many fans report experiencing. Our previous research
revealed that establishing friendships and finding guidance and
meaning were rated as the
most important aspects of the fan community (fandom) both of which are likely to yield overall
b) Clearly some fans do not experience
improvement, but instead report a worsening of
symptoms. This could be a product of life events outside of the individuals ‘fan experience’
or that the experience of the fandom leads to greater feelings of isolation (“I don’t even fit
and/or more negative responses (e.g., bullying) by others in their social
c) It is important to note that both the improvement
and worsening of these emotional
states are impacted by external factors (e.g., stressful life events, the social environments
response to the fandom) and internal
factors (e.g., personality traits like neuroticism,
of previous psychological problems, need to bully and/or shock others)
which have nothing to do with the fandom as a group, but would modify and/or enhance
both positive and negative aspects of the fan’s
response to the fandom.
B) Behaviors and Actions: Numbers are the percentage of the sample who reported
improvement or worsening after becoming a member of the fandom.
Pro-social Behavior Scale
Social Avoidance Scale
QLS Get Along with Others
QLS Work and School
As a group the fans reported improvement in their behaviors towards other
people (e.g., more volunteering
and offering help, less avoidance of social situations,
ability to ‘get along’ with others).
b) Almost 2/3 of the fans reported an increase in their
pro-social behaviors (offering
help, assistance and encouragement in various forms to others). These behaviors would
have a tendency to conform with and reinforce
the perception of the Brony fandom as a
positive supportive social
c) The fans also completed a Discrimination
Scale that measured the level of unfair
(from negative taunts to physical bullying) experienced by them
and after joining the fandom. The results revealed that 44% reported an improvement
(decrease) in such experiences, while 15% reported an increase (worsen) of these
by others. It can be hypothesized that the fans are making positive
use of the
increased social support offered by the fandom and
may be changing their responses to
such discriminating behaviors which might lead to a lessening of the behavior for most
(clearly for some being a fan may have made them even more of a target).
Some Summary Thoughts:
1) The fact that emotions and feelings displayed a greater
improvement than actions and
behaviors fit with our experience as therapists, for it is easier to change one's feelings and
reactions than it is to quickly change
one's behavior. Also note that both social
avoidance and pro-social
behaviors have a strong emotional component as well as a
behavioral one, you have to want to face your fears and decide that acting differently
is important before you will confront social situations and reach out to
2) These results point to the level of support and
positive change associated with the
fandom as features of this fandom that may draw members into it. If they take
the initial risk to overcome the negative
stereotypes that color people’s initial reactions
‘Brony Phenomenon.’ In addition, people who are by their nature upbeat and positive
of Pinkie Pie) or in need of a safe place to express and explore (think of Fluttershy)
naturally be drawn to a fandom with these features.
2) We would be remiss if we did not mention one of
the weakness of our study design.
All of our Bronies were recruited by advertising on popular Brony websites (Equestria Daily,
Facebook Brony pages, etc.) as such we
likely have a dedicated and motivated sample. It is
that more distressed and troubled Bronies do not visit these sites
or chose to not
take part in our survey. We can address this issue somewhat by separating our sample into
who report having received psychological attention (therapy, diagnosis,
in the past and those subject who did not.
C) Preexisting Conditions Analysis
All of the subjects were asked
to indicate if they had ever visited a psychiatrist,
psychologist or social worker and if they had been given a diagnosis. This information
was used to divide the sample into two groups:
a Diagnosis Group (DG) and a
No Diagnosis Group (NDG).
Percentage of Sample with and without a Diagnosis
(out of 1597 subjects)
No diagnosis – 1071 (66.8% of
Diagnosis – 526
(33.2% of responses)
Frequency of top four Diagnoses within the Diagnosis Group
ADHD/ADD – 23.3%
Anxiety – 22%
Asperger’s – 14.6%
of the Groups on Emotions and Behaviors Scales
1) The Diagnosis Group reported significantly
higher levels of depression, anxiety and
avoidance, and lower levels of happiness, and
abilities to get along with others
fans (in comparison to the No Diagnosis Group).
2) Both groups displayed a cross the board improvement in all of the variables after becoming
a fan. In addition, on the variables
of depression, anxiety and work and school performance
Diagnosis Group displayed a significantly bigger improvement.
This was most likely a
product of the fact that they had higher scores to start with (more depression and anxiety) and
therefore had more room for improvement.
It is interesting to note that the Diagnosis Group’s
AFTER becoming a fan matched or were slightly better than the No Diagnosis
BEFORE becoming a fan.
3) Some people might find that having 1/3 of the Bronies reporting pre-existing conditions
seem like a high percentage. However,
several points would seem to argue against this
research has consistently found that 1:3 to 1:4 people are often struggling
with issues of depression and anxiety (depression is often called the ‘common cold’ of
mental conditions). Secondly, given the average age
of the Brony fandom, adolescent and
young adults, these are groups
that are often struggling with issue of identity and intimacy
(social relationships) a ratio of 1:3 is not surprising. In addition, Bronies were recruited to
experiences of how the fandom had changed their lives. As we already
the results, those who carry a diagnosis are more likely
to experience significant change
and would be more likely to take part in the study to share the news of this improvement.
Perhaps Bronies who had little change
to report (more likely to be in the No Diagnosis
to not participate.
4) These results further reinforce the perception of
the positive and supportive environment
that the fandom represents for many individuals who are in need of such environments.
However, it leaves unanswered the question
of why for some fan their struggles (with
negative emotions and
social interactions) may worsen after joining the fandom.
5) It is important in closing to mention a second weakness of our
study design. All of our
subjects were asked to retrospectively remember (and report) their level of emotions and
behaviors BEFORE they had become a fan.
It is an established fact, within the field of
by memory and cognition research) that current emotional states
(positive or negative) influence/color our memories of earlier experiences. This raises a
‘validity’ question concerning the ‘true level’ of their pre-fandom
behaviors. This is a difficult problem to overcome
as it is impractical (almost impossible)
to measure individuals BEFORE they become fans. We can neither predict future
membership that well or secure enough non-fan subjects to conduct such an analysis.
While this represents a research validity
problem, it also represents a favorable/positive
outcome if you
take a therapeutic perspective. As therapists (Dr. Edwards and Redden
both concur) that the goal of therapy is that a person develop and report improvements
in their mood (affect and emotions) and their behaviors.
We would never try to argue with
a person that they are ‘not
really happy.’ Feeling better, having a new positive outlook
life and acting accordingly are all goals of therapy and represent positive growth. What
a ‘headache’ for a researcher, represents a favorable outcome to a therapist
(and to a parent who is concerned about the mental health of
their son or daughter).