Fandom, Community, and Connection
At first glance, Springsteen fans seem an unlikely group. When I distributed questionnaires to fans through an ad in Backstreets, I received answers from more than fifty people, aged fifteen to fifty-seven, with widely varied educational levels and occupations, from all over the United States and Canada. While meeting and talking with specific fans, I have likewise encountered people with many different backgrounds and concerns--professors, insurance clerks, part-time cashiers, housewives, students, musicians, the unemployed, men and women, teenagers and golden-aged adults, citizens of many states and countries--most of whom have not met and probably never will.
However, despite this diversity, all the Springsteen fans to whom I've spoken have expressed to me a strong affinity for one another and a sense of belonging together. Many have mentioned the "invisible magnet" which draws them to other fans or the "instant connection and knowing" which occurs between fans meeting for the first time. Indeed, as a Springsteen fan myself, I have felt an immediate familiarity and friendship during interviews with complete strangers. As Alan Levine explains:
There's like this fraternity of people out there who are like us. When you talk to someone who's like you--and I'm in sales; I talk to millions of people--it's amazing, if they have the same connection, how nice it is. I mean, you can spend hours on the phone with someone! I've got a guy, one of my clients, who's like right up there. He's a fanatic. You know, we'll swap tapes. But he's a client of mine. It's just wonderful. We were at the same show at the Meadowlands together, and I went up and met him and his wife at their seats. And he's a business client of mine, but there was no business associated with this. It was Bruce. And the next day, we would get on the phone, and it was like, "Oh, yeah! How'd you like the way he did 'Thunder Road'? 'Born to Run' was kinda great. What about the crowd? Wasn't the crowd