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The night that I got my rejection letter from the University of Florida, my best friend and I drank a little bit too much of the liquor that my dad had stashed in his apartment. We spent most of the night belting Kelly Clarkson songs and imaging what our lives would be like rooming together at UCF (she ended up betraying me and going to FSU). We were happy, of course, for all of our friends who had been accepted, but scrolling through Instagram became depressing after the tenth post in a row. For the first time in three years, I found myself switching out of my main account and into the account that had been my main source of comfort until my freshman year of high school. “Hi friends!” I typed as @the.perks.of.being.a.booknerd. “I haven’t posted since the end of my freshman year, but here’s a life update!”

Photo via Pixabay on Pexels

By the end of sixth grade, I had figured out that my habit of completely immersing myself in books made me a bit of an oddball. I had a lot of trouble talking to people, and when I did, most of them thought I was weird. I had been losing myself in books since I was seven, when I first discovered Harry Potter and found my first role model in Hermione Granger. But most other kids my age weren’t as desperate to escape into fantasy worlds as I was. On June 26, 2013, I logged into @the.perks.of.being.a.booknerd for the first time. I was 11 years old and fresh out of sixth grade, and for the first time in my life, I was realizing that other people liked books just as much as I did. It was the age of SuperWhoLock, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Percy Jackson, and all of the other major fandoms from the early 2010s. It was slow-going at first; I posted sparsely in my first few months and didn’t have a lot of followers, but by the end of 2013 I was posting multiple times a day and had a loyal follower base that I communicated with on a regular basis. ​My fan account gave me something that my main account never did: a sense of belonging.

Harry Potter Castle
Photo by Jules Marvin Eguilos from Unsplash

Soon, a hundred followers had turned into a thousand. My brief comments of “ASDFGHJKL” and “OMG FEELS” turned into witty comments about my life. The few close friends that I had in seventh grade all began to follow the account, and I began to use my posts to express my family problems: the endless fights between my sister and mom and the emptiness that had opened up in me after my brother left for college. I posted about everything I read, watched and listened to. When I wasn’t posting, I was listening to music and swinging on my hammock outside, imagining a world where Percy Jackson would swoop out of the sky and drag me away on an adventure. My fan account became my escape​ from the fact that I felt like an outsider at school and the depressive thoughts that had begun to creep up on me. Between Marvel shipping wars, Lord of the Rings fanfiction, and videos of me singing “Let It Go” from Frozen, I had all of the support I needed behind my phone screen.

Original Illustration Created in Canva for Her Campus Media

By the beginning of eighth grade, my followers had risen to three thousand. To these people, my obsession with Orlando Bloom was nothing out of the ordinary. We had heated debates over which season of Doctor Who was best and whether or not Legend of Korra had a satisfying ending. I had three thousand strangers offering me support when my sister almost died in a car accident and when I didn’t get into the magnet program I wanted to be in for high school. And when I started to notice that there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed, when I found myself in a dark place that I wasn’t ready to talk about yet, I could turn to my followers for support. Books had always been my safe haven, and now I had people to share that safe place with. Though I didn’t like to admit it, my fan account was my biggest source of happiness in middle school.  

Looking back on the things I used to post on @the.perks.of.being.a.booknerd, I can definitely say that a solid majority of it was cringeworthy. But honestly, I don’t care. Logging onto that account was the best part of my day up until halfway through my freshman year of high school, when school became a much bigger priority for me and I began growing out of my fangirl days. Even now though, I still meet people who used to follow my old fan account, who would eagerly await my posts every day. Fandoms were such an integral part of my identity for most of my childhood. Even now that I’m older and may look back on some of the things that I posted in embarrassment, I can still appreciate that account for everything it did for me when my depression and anxiety first started to rear their ugly heads. I will forever be grateful for the influence that fandoms have had on my life, and I will never forget the home that I found through @the.perks.of.being.a.booknerd and the shelf full of books that my followers had recommended. I could listen to all of the (very emo) music that we shared with one another. My fan account became so much more than just a way to express my interests. It became a symbol of who I was back in middle school, and at that point, it was my main source of happiness.

Illustration by Sketchify in Canva

Abigail Jordan is a Sophomore at the University of Central Florida majoring in political science and minoring in creative writing. She responds to Abbie, AJ, Jordan, or pretty much anything other than Abigail. You can usually find her spending way too much money at Barnes n Noble, petting any and every dog she sees, or attempting to climb things that she probably should not be climbing. She hopes to attend law school and eventually become a child advocacy attorney, or run away and become a hermit in the mountains who writes and plays music all day.
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