Neologisms: ‘newly coined words or phrases frequently used by members of society, yet still in the process of entering common use in mainstream language.’
NEOLOGISM NUMBER THREE –
The impetus behind the newly crafted term ‘fandemonium’ is exactly what you’d think – the pandemonium brought about by the uncontrollable, unfathomable, diehard enthusiasm and commitment of pop culture fans.
It’s Beatle mania, Bieber fever, people denying basic human needs sleeping outside in winter to line up for an iPhone, and entire stores dedicated to supplying Will’s and Kate mugs and tea towels. It’s Dunedin’s city-wide hotel shortage during Ed Sheeran’s brief visit in 2018, and a girl admitted to hospital in Sydney after being squished in a crowd trying to meet the members of One Direction.
We laugh, scoff and declare we are above it, but chances are, we all hold a similar kind of unwavering and irrational interest for something in our lives.
These days pandemonium is not just played out in real time and space. With online crowds flocking fan accounts, masses of cheesy tribute videos, and blog pages archiving the every move of a particular coveted item or person of obsession, its getting harder to sift through the content and decipher what is real or imagined, online and in real life.
So, what is actually happening inside the mind of a fan that fuels this kind of response; one that is so irrational yet feels so deeply real?
What these online outlets nurture in the individual that engages with them is giving a form of control over an imaginary direct link, which then perhaps builds the personalised narrative they have created around this person or group they have no actual connection with in reality. The secret obsessions and online trolling remain harmless and manageable, until the day a chance for that real, physical glimpse or encounter with the particular hero is made manifest. This is when the biochemical storehouse that has been nursed from a distance suddenly has the power to make the present situation feel so imperative to life or death the body and brain’s only response is to go into overdrive, as if some form of physiological danger or action has taken place.
Your brain on imagined love:
This article written for The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute by Scott Edwards outlines the theory behind love and the brain, stating,
“When we are falling in love, chemicals associated with the reward circuit flood our brain, producing a variety of physical and emotional responses—racing hearts, sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, feelings of passion and anxiety. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshalling our bodies to cope with the “crisis” at hand. As cortisol levels rise, levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin become depleted. Low levels of serotonin precipitate what Schwartz described as the “intrusive, maddeningly preoccupying thoughts, hopes, terrors of early love”—the obsessive-compulsive behaviours associated with infatuation.
Being love-struck also releases high levels of dopamine, a chemical that “gets the reward system going.” Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol. When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those with whom we are romantically involved, shuts down. “That’s the neural basis for the ancient wisdom ‘love is blind’,” said Schwartz.”
The blind optimism of an endearing ‘fan’ is adequately portrayed in Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniel’s iconic 1994 comedy ‘Dumb and Dumber.’
What can our neologism teach us this week?
Fandemonium is happening just as much in our minds as it is in the streets. Our experience of love and affection, either real or imagined, holds immense physiological power. And if our looping thoughts could talk, we’d probably all prove to be bordering on stalker – only the ideal we are obsessing over more often looks like meeting a work deadline than a shiny haired teen with the voice of an angel.