From Beatlemania in the 60s, to the ‘Directioner’ and ‘Belieber’ fandom wars in the 2010s, there is no doubt that music fandom has changed over time. Music fandoms have always had passion and have always been integral to the music industry.
Nowadays, with the development of social media platforms, music fandom has evolved into something bigger and more powerful than it has been. Enter ‘Stan Twitter.’
The term ‘Stan’ originates with American rapper Eminem and his song of the same name, released in 2000. Although this graphic song surrounds a distressing, obsessive fan, the word has evolved in tangent with social media, and nowadays refers to an individual or collective of passionate, devoted fans. These ‘Stans’ mainly congregate on Twitter, hence the term ‘Stan Twitter,’ to share their love of their favourite artist. ‘Stan Twitter’ is immeasurable, with millions of participants from all over the world posting about their favourite artists every day. Artists that have the largest ‘Stan’ followings include BTS (‘The ARMY’), One Direction (‘Directioners’), Beyoncé (‘The Beyhive’) and Ariana Grande (‘Arianators’).
It is possible to draw a correlation between modern music fandom and mental health, because fandom can be such a positive addition to a person’s life.
With the additional levels of communication that fans now have, social media changes the typical relationship fans have had with their favourite artists in the past. Whether this is between an artist and their fans as a collective, or individually, the features that are included with social media now allow fans and their idols unlimited communication, on a scale that has never been possible before. It is obvious that this communication means a lot to fans – some place dates in their Twitter ‘bio’ of when these interactions take place, some ‘pin’ these tweets to the top of their Twitter page, and some keep these interactions as a personal memory. These interactions can bring fans a lot of joy, in turn boosting their sense of wellbeing.
Also, given the connection between fans and social media, an aspect of modern fandom that is often overlooked is the friendships that are built. Through features such as replies, quote tweets, direct messages and group chats, fans can talk about their favourite artists, tour dates or even something as mundane as what they’re having for dinner. Social media gives fans a platform to share the admiration they have for their favourite artists with other fans, and this new platform for communication helps fans make friends with each other.
The friendships between fans often doesn’t solely exist on social media, though. Some fans follow tours together and visit each other aside from supporting their favourite bands or artists. Personally, my friends and I have travelled across the UK and to Europe to see each other and our favourite band at the time. Making plans with friends to see musicians you look up to and admire gives you something to look forward to and be excited for, and there’s nothing better than when the time comes to grab your suitcase and get on a train for the start of a tour.
“I think being in a fandom promotes positive mental health as it provides a safe space and a community of people that you can trust, but also connect with, in personal interests such as music and musicians,” stated Chloe Griffin, participant of ‘Stan Twitter’ for 8 years. “Having a reliable network of friends from all over the world helps bring insight into my life and look at how big the world is. If I’m ever in the position where I’m unhappy with where I am in life or where I live, it helps to remind me that there’s so much opportunity in the world and places to travel to alongside friends from fandoms.”
The friendship shared between fans helps mental health because the people you’re talking to on social media aren’t just other fans – over time, they become your friends. They care about you, and the feeling is mutual. These friendships are often delegitimised by older generations and the media, but they are real friendships. And having friends that you know you can count on, even though they live in another country thousands of miles away – that improves mental health.
The community that is built on ‘Stan Twitter’ has all of the elements of a real life community, and the connections that are built over shared opinions and experiences are just as valuable in preventing loneliness and isolation. Especially in recent times with the Coronavirus pandemic, social media fandoms have been more than an escape. They have been a lifeline.
It is a well-documented fact that listening to music can improve mental health, but the music, paired with the community that modern music fandom provides through social media and beyond, can be a catalyst for happiness.
Words: Maia Barker