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October 21 2006

Fans of cult shows like Buffy may get "fantasy-prone personality disorder" says Australia's top expert on cyber-psychology. Apparently some people might think they're in an alternative reality, identify too strongly with the characters and stuff like that. Who knew?

Everrything seems to be a disorder if someone doesn't seem to fit a certain profile.

[ edited by ChosenOne5376 on 2006-10-21 19:12 ]
Hey, I like that! Fantasy-prone personality disorder! I just thought I watched a bit too much TV... :)
I was just about to go buy the 2nd season of Battlestar Galactica and now I'm thinking that this might be a bad thing....
And am I the only one who's thinking that the people boasting eight hours sessions are light wheights?
Cool, i'm not just a couch potato, i've got a disease you insensitive bastards ! ;-). Seems to be a disorder or a syndrome for everything nowadays though obviously, as with anything, it's possible to go too far.

(just seems like if your hobby's hiking then walking for 8 or 10 hours wouldn't be considered binging or if you like to fix cars spending a day in the garage isn't seen as a disorder. Anyone read any articles lately about we maniacs who like to curl up with a book for hours on end ? So why is watching TV shows inherently different ?)
It's the fan pages, I think. When was the last time someone built a fan page for Bleak House? or Pride and Prejudice? (Personally, I'd focus on Lady Susan myself.)
Saje, I have such a crush on you :). Well said!
What if your "disorder" is walking for ten hours a day while reading a book and listening to your "magical" and "telepathic" iPod while texting to a fan-board devoted to Pride and Prejudice as it relates to the works of Joss Whedon? Is that "bingeing" or just "multi-tasking"?

Personally, I don't think anything can be considered a "true" disorder unless the pharamaceutical companies are involved, clinical studies are at least at Phase IV or later, and marketers are poised to sell consumers a new and expensive treatment for their "condition."

I do walk the corridors humming "We Used To Be Friends" (old version, not the new remixed one, Saje.) Does that mean it's too late for me?

'Cause if there's no turning back, then let me just get on with the 24-hour Buffy episodes-intercut-with-chronologically-correct-Angel-episodes-marathon I had planned for my "fantasy-prone" self and friends. Ten hours? Lightweights indeed, Noclaf. And "cyber-psychology"? Let me just google that...

(Nice find, Simon. It made me think of the old laxative commercial tag-line, "Normal is what's normal for you.")

ET: close teeny, tiny font tag...


[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-10-21 20:51 ]
some people might think they're in an alternative reality, identify too strongly with the characters
Funny that they didn't discuss RPGs then if that was truly a concern.

This article seemed to be looking for problems to write about. Especially odd is this closing phrase.

"Our media diet needs to be as rounded as our food diet," he says. "There's always the temptation to consume junk all day. We need to learn how to pick and choose."

Isn't that what DVD watchers are doing? Picking and choosing what they consume? It seems odd that they fail to mention how ubiquitous TV tends to be, at least in the U.S. Many households leave the TV on all day even though no one is watching it. If you go to appointments, waiting rooms have TVs on. Even some gas stations have installed TVs at the pumps to sell you advertising during the 2 minutes you are there. In what ways is DVD watching different than the bombardment of media we are exposed to daily? Is it just because people are actually interested in what they're viewing?

This also caught my attention:
Many research projects, including one published last week by the Stanford University school of medicine, identify internet obsession as a real addiction.

If that happens to be the same study that I discussed here then there are a variety of problems both with what it reported and in how the media reported its results.
The only alternate reality I live in is the one in which Firefly, Buffy, and Angel are still coming out with new episodes. *rocks back and forth*
So gone are the days when you could watch a television show and have a hero that you thought worthy of living up to. Nowadays it's over-identifying and fantasy-prone personality disorders.

Wow, with this and that article just below about Star Trek, some people really do know how to suck the fun right out of television watching, don't they?
Well to be fair, there are some fans out there who really take to heart a character or show and they sometimes scare the crap out of me.
I have to agree, Simon...there are some fans who really do go a little too far in the identifying-with-a-character thing and take the things that happen to that character way way way too seriously.

But then there are sports fans who identify with an athlete or team a little too much and take the things that happen to the athlete or team way way way too seriously, too. How come there isn't an article about them that says the same thing as this does?
The thing is, Simon, and this is purely in my very unprofessional opinion, I tend to think those type of fans would be obsessive nut jobs (see, unprofessional, hehe) whether they watched a given television show or not.

It's the same as anything else that gets the blame for creating psychos and monsters in the 21st century. Be it television, computer games, movies, even the news, there is always somebody ready to blame something for the latest mass murdering serial killer being born. They ignore the fact that 99.9% of the fan base is perfectly normal and focus on the 0.1% who decide that they really are Klingons, vampires or whatever and act upon it.

The fact is that these people are nuts anyway and would have found some outlet or excuse for their mental disorder. There were a hell of a lot of unbalanced people in this world well before televisions and consoles were in every home.

I realise that neither Simon nor this article are necessarily talking about the creation of the kind of dangerous individual that I'm talking about but the insinuation that it's the television shows that cause these people to lose control is the same. Crazy people are not created by television. It may be the trigger to let it out but the crazy had to be there already, just waiting to get out.
So, if I just admit to my disorder right up front, do I still get to watch my favorite shows?
The only alternate reality I live in is the one in which Firefly, Buffy, and Angel are still coming out with new episodes. *rocks back and forth*

Thank god for fanfiction.
The argument that tv shows maketh the dangerous individual is a puerile and quite frankly stupid argument. However, take several steps back. Well actually quite a few. I've seen completely sane, well rounded people do the craziest things online because they are involved in a fandom. If they acted like that in real life, they'd be arrested. Why do they act that way? Well I've seen numerous interpretations. But at the moment I'm leaning towards the argument that says that in some ways being in a fandom is like being in a cult (a nice cult btw but you get my drift).

And in case anyone thinks the above was written just to mock fans, I am enormously protective of my fandom but sometimes I'm outside the glass bowl looking in.
The article raises some interesting notions; too bad it focuses on the ones that have been trodden around for decades. Disappointingly little substance here, which is a pity, because I felt like I was going to learn something as I went in to read it.
And, just weighing in on the opposite side of the one I weighed in on previously (not unusual for me), if we are talking about fanfic? I know plenty of people who use fanfic as an excuse for not looking for a job and not having a life. They clearly have an addiction, but if it were not fanfic, it'd be something else. I 'd like to separate that from those of us who are obsessive loyal watchers.

Which is not to say that I think me watching all of Firefly in a weekend is in any way disfunctional :)
Well, I thought the article did seem to distinguish between people who massive amounts of TV and people with a lax grip on reality. The Dr Campbell interviewed in the article didn't see a problem with watching a full season of an hour-long drama in two days (which is about as hardcore a marathon as I've ever done myself) It seems more like what he is saying is that media creates the outet and symptoms rather than the problem itself. And having known people who really did think they had magic powers/superhuman abilities/etc, I'd say it IS a legit problem.
But at the moment I'm leaning towards the argument that says that in some ways being in a fandom is like being in a cult (a nice cult btw but you get my drift).

Interesting interpretation, Simon. If I may build on it some, perhaps a person's 'crazy online behaviour' may in part develop from a belief in the anonymity of the whole experience. Sure, people have usernames/handles, may (or may not) offer up valid email addresses and link to personal sites, blogs, forums, groups and the like, but could continue to feel that whatever is said or done online is somehow removed from one's identity and behaviour away from the computer, be it at work, at school, on the bus, at the mall, out with friends - in short, in the 'real world'.

I'll freely admit that I don't know much about the architecture of networks, protocols and how information is stored and tracked online, but I don't feel that this belief holds up very well; how often do we hear about hacking attempts, viruses and even file-sharing being tracked to particular individuals (who are invariably sued and rarely escape conviction or punishment of some kind)?

Then again, maybe it is terribly easy (didn't Gossi say that someone called him at home once, having acquired his personal number from info provided by an ISP or some server company?) and more restraint, or at the very least, responsibility for one's actions is in order.

Hopefully this is seen as still on-topic; if so, does anyone care to comment?


I certainly think it's important to have a sense of humour about one's obsessions -- which is a way of saying a sense of proportion about one's lack of a sense of proportion in one area, if you know what I mean. I've always been the kind of person who immersed themselves in their interests as a way of getting them deeply imbedded -- well, almost into their DNA -- and then moved into a phase of (relatively) less immersion. Before Internet (B.I.) and before videos/DVDs, it was just harder & took longer to get ahold of material & become fully immersed, but for me, that's all that's really changed. People not involved in that particular obsession have always had a problem with that way of doing things, but, ya know, tant pis and all that.

The internet has made it possible to behave in more anonymous ways that can lead to a sense of feeling protected from responsibility & accountability in expression -- which is the long way of saying having an alias or call-name has allowed people to indulge in flame-wars and other behaviors that are irresponsible and cruel. But these are similar to shouting "F*** Y** out the window of your car because you aren't face-to-face with the recipient, and are certainly not limited to fandoms or the internet.

I'm not sure that a fandom is inherently that much like a cult -- it's like a group, or some other way of saying "social organization" and some folks will always be cult-like in their devotion to whatever, while others will not. Unless we include sports, religion, politics, and any other "association" where "members" can adhere to or may be devoted by faith to some beliefs or objects or particular enjoyment, and then I'd have to agree with Simon, and also with Dorothy L. Sayers who said that unreasoning and blind love can, on occasion, be "the very devil."

“--every man, he added, should have some small matter to which he attaches undue importance, always provided that he realizes the undueness.” -- James Hilton, Random Harvest, 1941

ET: fix weird word switcheroo

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2006-10-21 23:34 ]
So long as I don't start walking the corridors in slow motion while humming the Mars theme tune ( We Used to be Friends by the Dandy Warhols), I'm OK.

Well, looks like I'm not.

Some people assumed their iPods not only played favourites but drew on mystical powers to choose their songs. 'Over the last couple of days that I've been (putting my library on shuffle), I may think of a certain song or band, and, lo and behold, that winds up being the next song or band played'

In my brief seven months of owning an iPod that rarely has happened to me. Possibly because of the vast majority of songs, but I don't think iPods have this mystical power. And why is that even in this article in the first place?
As for me, I just went back home after having killed my 12th vampire. Curiosly, as the other 11, he didn't vanish into dust, but I know he was a vampire.

I am not identifying and we are not in an alternate reality: they really exist; and this reality is worse than that of the series: they look exactly like us, they do not fear sunlight and walk perfectly unharmed into daylight, they do not flee crosses. We therefore have to be very cautious and eliminate them before they eliminate us.

Come on, folks! It is a question of survival, not of mere mental health!
*slight pause while everyone takes time to evaluate kidding/seriousness-level of Le Comité's very macabre and Halloweenesque comment*

Alors, Le Comité, you are the homme!

And what a rallying crie to arms! I'm in. Enough with pretending we don't know what we know...
Egads! She spent all of three weeks watching Veronica Mars Season Two! Someone stop that woman, she's gone mad! (I watched it all in one night.)

I probably do have this problem, though, with Battlestar Galactica at least. I started watching like two months ago, and I'm on my fourth or fifth viewing of the series so far.
I know there are members of my family who look on my involvement with Browncoats and all things Joss as some of kind of cult, but the fact is that I am much more social - both online and in real life than I have ever been before. From my perspective - and that of my close friends - I am a much better adjusted person for all my immersion in Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Serenity and the resultant friends I have made through it.

That said, does it count as a "fantasy-prone personality disorder" to walk past a pile of wooden pieces and automatically decide which would make the best stake?
Yes, I think it would, samatwitch, but how funny was that.

(And apropos of nothing at all but the hour: Americans & Canadians and anyone else in this hemisphere, now that the Brits are going to beddy-byes, is it time for us to do our usual "talk about them behind their backs all night long" and then edit our comments back to innocent-sounding remarks so that they never find out? I think we may have forgotten to synchronize our planning for this evening... Do lemme know. *wink, wink*)
Simon - "I've seen completely sane, well rounded people do the craziest things online because they are involved in a fandom. If they acted like that in real life, they'd be arrested."

Aah, well, if we are talking online behaviour specifically then that would be a different matter. And yes, I have to admit that I've been witness to some shocking acts of almost insanity in the ways that people in various fandoms have acted online. You only have to spend an hour over at the Newsarama boards to realise just how extreme certain fans can be.

I'd have to agree with the idea of anonymity being the overall reason behind it. I pride myself on the fact that I'm a fairly consistent individual. What I would tell you on here is pretty much the opinion you would get from me if we were having a conversation in the real world. The way I see it, if you believe something to be true then you have no reason to be ashamed of saying so, no matter the forum.

However, the internet does offer those of less confidence a way of giving themselves the freedom to express opinions that in real life they would never dare to put forward. No doubt in some cases this leads to a sense of liberation that they have very little control over, leading to the irrational fandom behaviour that has been mentioned. Behaviour that would seem totally insane in the real world.

Again though, I tend to think that these individuals would be prone to this kind of behaviour whether they watched a television show or not. Letting an internet fandom become a controlling part of your personality strikes me as a sign that you were never that stable in the first place.
If I dress in both fancy dresses and casual guy wear (as I'm a guy), and alternately refer to myself as Ben or Glory, and exhibit completely different personalities while doing so, does that mean that it's too late for me?

Brain draining is much messier than you would think.
Yes, UnpluggedCrazy, this means you are simultaneously a God and an unemployed internist and have two personality disorders, which is not only extremely rare, but completely incurable. And it's not dual diagnosis, it's nested personality disorders, which would require two simultaneous sets of treatments with two pyschiatrists, one of them very small and able to burrow.

It's too late for you, my friend. Can I have the red dresses & the jewelry? You can keep the heels and the scrubs. You may need them where you're going...

(If only he'd listened when he was warned, this need never have happened. Kids, don't let this happen to you.)
Hah! Hilarious. I haven't picked up the paper yet, but I'll do just that now.

I have to admit, when life gets tough, I always revert to my Buffy and Firefly DVDs to make me feel up to facing the world. Does that make me wrong?
Nice to have a disorder...Makes one feel like part of a group...heehee
I bet doctors have an anti-depressent drug for this disorder.
If this seems like a recycled argument, it is. Having dealt with the "Dungeons and Dragons causes kids to murder people" nonsense of 25 years ago, I can very clearly hear the echoes of that in this. Arcane and Simon make very good points, so I won't repeat them.
As for me, I just went back home after having killed my 12th vampire. Curiosly, as the other 11, he didn't vanish into dust, but I know he was a vampire.


Not that I'm at all involved in the same righteous work as you, Le Comité, but I've wondered if construction sites where the ground has been dug up in preparation for a slab, but the concrete has not yet been poured, could be ideal for the disposal of non-poofing vampires. Just a thought.
Yea whedonites. You binge on Buffy.
I have to admit, when life gets tough, I always revert to my Buffy and Firefly DVDs to make me feel up to facing the world. Does that make me wrong?

If it does, then I don't wanna be right, 'cause I'm the same way.
It sounds a bit like Videodrome.
"I bought series seven of The West Wing and watched it for two days straight. I felt quite sated, and I don't need to see it again for another 12 months. If a month from now I said I have to go and watch it all again … that would be a problem." -says Dr. Campbell.

Well, you know, if I watched series seven of The West Wing for two days straight, I don't think I'd have an urge to watch it again for 12 months, either.

Firefly, on the other hand...

Actually, maybe he's touched on something there. I don't know that it is possible to feel 'sated' after watching Firefly's lone aborted season. I imagine that has certainly fueled the obsession, at least as it translates to joining fan groups, etc.

Just... one... fix...
It sounds a bit like Videodrome.

Ah, at last someone else with a VCR in their stomach. Thought I was the only one. What ? they're staring again, Mr Pointy, attack !

Sounds like quite a few of us are passed the point of no return. Now if only we had somewhere we could go to talk to like-minded people...

The only alternate reality I live in is the one in which Firefly, Buffy, and Angel are still coming out with new episodes. *rocks back and forth*

Right there with ya Ocular *rocks forth and back (so we don't bump heads)*.

I'd have to agree with the idea of anonymity being the overall reason behind it.

Yeah agreed, though personally I don't really get that. If anything i'm more moderate online because posting is a mediated form of expression (i.e. you always have time to think about someone's post and look for what they mean because you have to read/type which is slower and farther from an instinctive response than speech). In other words down the pub it's an immediate "That's bollocks and here's why..." (possibly in a tone of voice and with a facial expression i'll later regret - not all non-verbal cues aid peace, love and understanding ;), online it's more like [pause for 20 minutes] "I disagree and here's why...".

(nice analysis, BTW, yourlibrarian. And cronopio ? Blimey. *blushes* ;)
A point no one's brought up yet --

Some people do have lives away from the television set and can't watch these great shows as they air. I know when I was working nights I missed a lot of excellent series' that I'm only now able to get into through their afterlife on dvd season sets.

I work hard, damn it. I've earned some major binge time!

(And I'd also like to add my own smug scoff to those who think eight-hour marathons are hard-core. Amatuers, indeed!)
"And am I the only one who's thinking that the people boasting eight hours sessions are light wheights?"

"And I'd also like to add my own smug scoff to those who think eight-hour marathons are hard-core. Amatuers, indeed!"

Lightweights, indeed. I've had numerous 2 or 3 day DVD weekends, from Friday night -- sometime Sunday. All Whedon shows, Veronica Mars, BSG, and Nip/Tuck. 7 or 8 hours ain't nada. As long as I am still sometimes social and don't do this every weekend, I don't consider this type of bingeing too bad. It's a step up from some far worse self-destructive behavior of the past! Quite safe and sane by comparison, actually.
Does the guy recommend hours of expensive therapy to overcome your fantasy prone personality disorder, by any chance?
3 weeks to watch one season of Veronica Mars and she thinks shes crazy??? I guess I'm certifiable then because I watched all 7 seasons of Buffy in 4 weeks.....maybe I should join a support group?? Oh wait..

In all seriousness I'm sure this "syndrome" does apply to some extremely obssessed (i.e. scary) fans but the majority of us can just laugh at this and move on.

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