Stan Culture: What It Is, Why It Exists, And Just How Problematic Is It?

I’m sorry to break it to you, but no, Harry Styles won’t fall in love with you.

   It’s an average week day. You just got back home from university, you drop dead onto your bed, pick your phone up, click on that shiny light-blue app icon, and open twitter.

   While scrolling, you come across a tweet from an average joe. For instance, that tweet is about Beyoncé and how she is overrated(I’m not saying she is, bear with me). You notice that the tweet has an oddly high number of replies and out of curiosity, so you click on the tweet to view them.Your screen is suddenly bombarded with a plethora of responses calling that person names, dissing him, or even wishing him death.You’ve just come across the Beyhive, or in other words, Beyoncé stans.

     The term “stan” refers to an extremely obsessed and involved fan of a celebrity or public figure.The term can be traced back to Eminem’s song of the same title.Some also say it’s a combination of ‘stalker’ and ‘fan’.

     Consequently, stan twitter is a large user base of obsessed fans (stans) on twitter (duh) who bond over their shared love and obsession with certain artists.However, like we’ve established with the Beyoncé example, it’s not all fun and games.Stan culture can be extremely toxic, unhealthy, and manipulative, and here’s why:

1- Stan Culture Normalizes Cyber-bullying:

    When we spend too much time behind screens, we tend to forget that the people we interact with are actual humans with actual feelings, thus we become insensitive to what we say, and when that happens, we tend to say very hurtful things.

   When large groups of people, in this case hundreds or maybe even thousands of accounts, contribute to cyber-bullying a person online, it’s inevitable that sort of behavior gets normalized.In a stan context, whenever a celebrity calls out or even casually complains about a specific someone, or any random person dares to insult a celebrity, their stans are armed and ready to attack, going as far as sending death threats.

2- Stan Culture Leads to Unhealthy Attachment Issues

    I’m sorry to break it to you, but no, Harry Styles won’t fall in love with you.We all have our idols:they’re our heroes, they are the ones we look up to, and they’re the ones that inspire us to do what we do. That’s great, but if your entire existence revolves around your idol, you need an intervention. Stan culture encourages the extreme obsession with celebrities, going as far as having twitter accounts dedicated to tweeting live updates about the artist every hour or so.

    However, whilst stan culture can be pretty toxic and hateful, it can still be utilized in the most positive ways.As you look at stans of certain artists, you begin to realize that all the power lies in the hands of the artist. Whether their fan base is loving or not, an artist can inspire action and change in their fan base, and they can even inspire self-love and growth.You can see the mutual impact that artists and fan bases can have on each other.

     Stans doing good in the name of their artists can be found in examples like the BTS’ fan base “ARMY” raising 2.6 million dollars for BTS’ love yourself campaign partnered with UNICEF’S End Violence program, a campaign with the purpose of helping children that are exposed to violence from all over the world.To see such a large sum of money raised by one fan base is astounding and the question you are left with is why?Many artists advocate for charities or a certain political stance all the time, why is this time different? Why did BTS’ campaign inspire so much action?

    Of course, this can be answered by simply saying that fan girls would go a long way for their favorite boyband.But a part of the reason why the ARMY is willing to put so much money into someone else’s cause is because of the artist.As you look at BTS’ discography, you see that the message they’re spreading in this campaign is the same as the one they’ve always embedded into their music.They’re a band who have made albums with the sole message of “love yourself”, they have made albums that talk about adolescents’ struggles whether it be the economic instability the youth face, the injustice of school systems or the anxieties that come with growing up.Their music and message have cultivated a fan base that is kind and giving.

Other examples of artists who have inspired kindness in their fan base include Harry Styles who  raised about $ 1.2 million which was donated to 62 charities around the world and coined the saying “Treat People with Kindness”. Naturally his fan base followed suit, raising over 30 thousand dollars for multiple charities, as part of an annual tradition to celebrate his birthday. Also, The 1975 is a band which encourages acceptance and diversity in their songs as well as donating money to reforestation charities, being more sustainable with their merch and collaborating with participants such as Greta Thunberg, causing their fans to be more aware of the environment and actively try and donate to environmental charities.

      Like everything, stan culture has its pros and cons, but the question remains, which outweighs which?