Stan Culture: The Good & Bad
Updated: Apr 5
Ever wonder why Jimin is always in your Twitter trends? Or maybe you’ve stumbled across an interesting edit of a Minecraft Youtuber on TikTok?
Stan culture is a fascinating subgroup of the internet. Stemming from rapper Eminem’s song “Stan”, stan is often used to describe a fan obsessed with a celebrity or show. Stans come from all parts of pop culture; we have K-Pop stans, Genshin Impact stans, Euphoria stans, and even Minecraft stans. Oftentimes, stans will come together on an online space such as Twitter or Instagram to gush over their shared interest.
Cassie from Euphoria reenacting the sentiments of stans. (Source)
Stans often get a bad reputation among ‘locals’ (i.e. regular users of social media). It’s not that hard to find a toxic stan on Twitter, TikTok, or even Instagram spouting the most hateful speech you’ve ever seen. Let’s dive right into the intriguing world of stan culture and see if stans truly deserve such a negative image.
Stans and their Infamous Reputation
When thinking about stans, most people think of the obsessive, boy-crazy fan who would do anything to catch a glimpse of their idol! Well, this image is true to some extent.
Some of us may remember One Direction back during the early 2010s, a popular boy group formed on a popular survival show known as The X Factor. They ruled fan communities for years and had many young teenagers swooning over them. However, what is the line between regular support and obsessive behaviour that could potentially be harmful? There are so many stories of One Direction stans — also known as “Directioners” — violating the privacy of these boys. Whether it’s hacking airport security cameras, stealing the boys’ underwear, or forcing their way into the boys’ hotel rooms, these stories highlight how crazy some stans were at the peak of One Direction’s reign.
On the online space, some stans manifest themselves as ignorant people who are tunnel-visioned onto their idol. The “stan [blank]” phrase has been used multiple times when an unfortunate event occurs. The ability to hide behind an online persona makes it easy to make a nasty joke and gain some clout without real-life consequences. Additionally, being born into a generation of social media and instant communication has resulted in younger teenagers being desensitised to misfortunes such as death and natural disasters as they are exposed to them all the time.
Additionally, the cancel culture among stans seems more infectious than among regular users of social media. Oftentimes, stans will “expose” a celebrity under the guise of holding famous people accountable for their actions. In reality, they are using these celebrities’ actions as fuel for fan wars. Fan wars occur between stans from different sub-genres of pop culture. From BTS vs Blackpink stans to Edward vs Jacob stans, we see many fans arguing about whose interest is better than the other. If you want to read more about cancel culture, we have a wonderful blog post all about it.
Is that all?
Is this all there is to stans? Are they all terrible creatures with no empathy or sense of boundaries? Let’s step back to fully digest why we only see the negative side of stan culture, using Twitter as an example.
If we really dive into the stan communities, we would notice that the toxic stans make up a minority of stans on Twitter. A lot of the stan spaces online are rather tame, and even kind. But why do we only see the bad side of stan Twitter?
Twitter’s algorithm works in a way that promotes tweets with a lot of engagement. Thus, it makes sense that most of the tweets we see from stans are negative tweets that are meant to evoke some sort of reaction. A lot of the time, stan communities have hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people in them. Let’s take BTS as an example. K-Pop group BTS’ Twitter account itself currently has 44.8 million followers. Let’s say that even if 1% of that number are toxic stans, that’s close to 500 thousand people. But this 1% doesn’t truly reflect the community of BTS stans.
In fact, many stans have used their collective interest over a celebrity or show to come together for a good cause. For example, after BTS donated US$1 million to Black Lives Matter, BTS stans, also known as “ARMYs”, matched their donation through the hashtag #matchamillion. They managed to raise over US$1.4 million for the cause.
Additionally, online stan spaces are also a place to make friends and develop passions such as writing and visual art. There are so many young artists developing their skills and making a name for themselves within and beyond the community. One stan community I see that holds so many young talents is the Minecraft community. SAD-ist is an animator who draws inspiration from a Minecraft roleplay server called the “Dream SMP”. She has also collaborated with musicians 2WEI, who have composed music for movie and game trailers. It’s so fascinating to see her growth over the years and how a simple sandbox game with no storyline or goals can lead to such beautiful creations.
Aside from animations, another form of content creation within stan communities is songwriting. Many story-based media has inspired songs about the story’s characters and lore. Another fandom with many talented artists is the Five Nights at Freddy’s community. Due to the video game’s intense horror storyline, it makes sense that many stans are eager to create art inspired by the story. The Living Tombstone has many iconic Five Nights at Freddy’s songs that have garnered over 200 million views.
Even fan creations on a smaller scale provide entertainment within the community. Whether it’s TikTok edits, MMD (MikuMikuDance) music videos, or fan fiction, there’s always a wealth of content to consume from fellow stans.
It’s truly heartwarming to see a community come together on an online space, especially when our world has irrevocably changed due to the pandemic.
Stan culture has a bad reputation. But a lot of the time, we only see the negative side of things. What we don’t see is how stans can unite for a common cause or how the stan community is a place for long-term friendships.
I think a lot of the hate towards stans has misogynistic roots, where adults make a mockery of young teenage girls for having a hobby or interest. Even if we do see truly harmful stans, most of them are young kids who have much to learn outside the internet bubble. Especially during the pandemic, too many young stans lack real-life communication and rely on obscure internet rules such as cancelling people for minuscule mistakes and performative activism that highlights their privilege.
At the end of the day, we can acknowledge the flaws of the stan community while understanding that most of the time, these communities are doing no harm by enjoying an interest with online peers.