Beyond Fandom: The Dark Side of Social Media Discourse

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Natalie Le Clue / Nelson Mandela University

In the evolving landscape of social media Hills’ (2017) concept of an “always on” digital space illustrates a transformative shift in behaviour and communication online. These digital environments often exhibit cyclical toxicity that permeates online discourse, which necessitates a focused examination. For instance, Le Clue’s (2023) research demonstrates the concerns surrounding the functioning of online communities and reveals an alarming unchecked spread of toxic rhetoric, intolerance, and hateful speech. The significance of the research conducted for this collection lies in its potential to offer insights into the impact of contemporary communication. 


As such, it is the contention that a new publication on this topic is imperative. The rapid evolution of social media demands a nuanced understanding of its effect on society. The proposed collection intends to address this need through thorough study of digital landscapes. Through examination of the intricate dynamics of online discourse, this collection seeks to provide a timely perspective on the evolving nature of communication. 


This collection stands out for its deliberate and comprehensive engagement with fan studies and toxic fan practices within the context of contemporary online communication. By situating fan communities at the forefront, this research not only aims to meticulously investigate the broader impact of social media on contemporary society, but also seeks to prioritize an in-depth exploration of the dynamics inherent to fan practices within these digital spaces. 


This focus allows the collection to capture the complexities of how online fan communities function, communicate, and influence the evolving digital landscape. By centralising fan studies, the collection provides a crucial lens through which to understand the capability of fan practices to shape the trajectory of online communication. 


Through this dedicated exploration, the collections seeks to contribute a valuable perspective that enriches our understanding of the nuanced relationship between the dynamics of social media and the behaviours of fan communities. 


The following frameworks is presented as a tentative outline for the collection. Authors/contributors are welcome to select a theme from the list below or formulate their own topics for submission, so long as it remains in line with the overall theme of the collection. 


Understanding Toxic Fan Practices

  • Define toxic fan practices and explore their manifestations in different domains such as entertainment, politics, and popular culture.
  • Analyse the psychological and sociological factors that contribute to toxic fandom.


The social media landscape

  • Provide an overview of the major social media platforms and their impact on communication and information dissemination.
  • Discuss the rise of social media influencers and their role in shaping fan communities.


The Language of Toxicity

  • Examine the linguistic aspects of toxic fan discourse on social media.
  • Analyse the use of memes, hashtags, and other online communication tools to propagate toxic narratives.


Toxic Fandom in Politics and Society

  • Explore how toxic fan practices have influenced political discourse and public opinion.
  • Discuss the role of social media echo chambers and algorithmic bias in reinforcing toxic beliefs.


The Effects on Mental Health and Well-being

  • Investigate the impact of toxic fan behaviour on the mental health of both fans and targets.
  • Discuss potential interventions and support systems to mitigate the negative effects.


Ethical and Legal Implications of Online Behaviour

  • Address the ethical challenges surrounding online harassment, doxing, and cyberbullying.
  • Explore the legal framework for addressing toxic fan practices and social media responsibility.


Celebrities and Public Figures in the Digital Age

  • Examine how public figures navigate and respond to toxic fan behaviour on social media.
  • Discuss the implications for freedom of speech and public engagement.


Countering Toxic Fandom

  • Propose strategies to promote healthier fan communities and constructive discourse online.
  • Highlight successful initiatives that have mitigated toxic behaviour in digital spaces.


The Future of Digital Discourse and Fandom

  • Offer insights into the evolving landscape of online communication and fandom.
  • Discuss potential advancements in technology and their implications for social media dynamics.


Case Studies from Various Domains

  • Present case studies from different fields (e.g., entertainment, literature, technology) to illustrate toxic fan practices and their impact on digital discourse.
  • Compare and contrast findings to identify common patterns and unique challenges across diverse contexts.


Abstracts should be between 300 and 350 words in length. 



Abstracts due:                                                                                     1 March 2024

Completed first drafts due:                                                                 1 June 2024

Reviewer comments returned:                                                           31 September 2024

Revised papers due:                                                                            31 October 2024


Abstracts can be submitted directly to the editor at





Hills M (2017) Always-on fandom, waiting and bingeing: Psychoanalysis as an engagement with fans’ “infra-ordinary” experiences. In: The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. Routledge, P. 18


Le Clue, N. (2023). The new normal: Online political fandom and the co-opting of morals. Convergence0(0).