Stan culture — a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan” — is strong. While it’s a blessing for celebrities to have these devoted fans to support their artistry in certain situations, there is also a bitter side to the phenomenon. Some fans take it too far — especially in American pop culture.
For those who don’t know what I am referring to when I say “stan,” think of a mega fan that will do or say anything to put their favorite on top — in any given situation. Merriam-Webster defines the term as “an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan.” As a verb, it is used “to exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree.”
It comes from the popular Eminem song “Stan” (2000), where he describes a problematic, obsessive fan that excessively writes to the artist. You get the gist.
We’ve seen cases where fans take their stan degree to a dangerous level, primarily via Twitter. If you disagree with something regarding a pop star, there’s a chance that their most loyal followers will get to you. One of the most outrageous cases was in 2020 when Taylor Swift released an album that Pitchfork graded a well-deserved 8.0 out of 10. You’d think this was a fair review based on Pitchfork’s known metrics, but hardcore fans were not happy about it. It escalated quickly once the so-called Taylor Swift “#Swifties” harassed the reviewer, getting to the point that they discovered the writer’s personal phone number and address.
Now, that, to me, is a form of bullying — you can easily deactivate yourself from the Internet, but when it involves your in-real-life personal space, that’s when things get troublesome. Your personal information should not be attainable by strangers so easily. Or at all.
If this doesn’t alarm you, think of the personal information that upset celebrity lovers could obtain from you by simply scrolling through your social media profile. It’s a crazy thought, but based on stan-culture history alone, it’s very doable, and it puts any of us on edge with what we say online, especially journalists who are simply doing their job.
When all is said and done, it’s essential to draw the line between supporting your favorite celebrity and bullying someone that may express a different opinion than yours. With social media acting as an accessible way to communicate to virtually anyone, it should remain common courtesy to respect people’s views and boundaries.
There’s no reason fans should get to the point of harassing people for not agreeing with an idea. That’s not being a fan; that’s being a bully.