Among all social media outlets, Twitter has been acknowledged as a platform that cultivates an obsessive type of fandom that can’t be seen anywhere else. Contrasting the eccentricity of Tumblr and the brutal honesty of online forums such as Reddit, Twitter’s unique ability to connect fans with their own kind has given more power to fandoms’ words and opinions online.
Twitter makes it incredibly easy to have an opinion on social media without revealing anything about yourself, particularly because of the culture that surrounds the site. Rather than using Twitter to connect with your friends and family, people use the platform for things such as keeping up with current events and following public figures.
Think it out: Donald Trump’s tweets can singlehandedly cause thousands of people to throw their hands up in frustration, thereby proving that Twitter’s web of influence goes beyond what is visible.
But why Twitter? Surely, something specific about the site must appeal to diehard fans, right? Well, the ease and speed through which virtual strangers can make connections — though maddening in the Donald Trump situation — can actually promote the birth of relationships between fans.
Twitter, as a medium, is focused on interaction, not on showing your life to the world in the way that Facebook and Instagram encourage. Therefore, everyday users can easily come into contact with each other, especially if they already have a common interest.
And when people with common interests can band together, online fan culture flourishes. The realm in which fandom-oriented Twitter users can interact, informally dubbed “stan Twitter,” has cultivated a subculture dedicated to supporting one’s favorite public figures to the fullest.
To begin breaking down this foreign world, you must start at the core of what a being stan truly entails. According to Urban Dictionary, the term refers to the Eminem’s song “Stan,” in which a fan of the same name “ends up killing himself and his wife over Eminem not writing him back.”
Stan has also been cited as a combination of the words “stalker” and “fan,” referring to a stan’s overzealous attitude toward their idol of choice, or “fave.” Whether someone likes a singer, actor, athlete or YouTuber doesn’t matter; as long as you’re dedicated to your fave, you can be a stan.
As for how to spot stans on Twitter, there are a few dead giveaways that will identify them. A typical stan account will reference their fave in their username and have them as their profile picture at the bare minimum.
Whether or not the stan shows their name and face is up to them, but the account is primarily dedicated to their idol regardless. And as if their display doesn’t make it obvious enough, stans tend to tweet regularly about their fave, usually logging on Twitter multiple times a day.
For instance, this Ariana Grande fan account, going by the name @BADBITCHARI, represents the core habits of any stan. A mere five seconds of looking at the page reveals that the profile picture, header and bio are all about Grande.
Nearly every tweet raves about how beautiful or cute Grande is, and these tweets always appear in rapid succession over the course of an entire day. Such levels of dedication can only mean one thing: this person is an Ariana Grande stan.
How will Ariana interpret this into raindrops I’m so anxious to hear pic.twitter.com/cp9rEcU2z1
— phoebe ♡ (@BADBITCHARl) May 10, 2018
Not only do they structure their accounts a certain way, but a stan also uses language in their tweets that is dominated by a very specific set of slang words. Phrases such as “shook,” “soft,” “snatched” (implying a wig or weave) and “skinny legend” came about as methods by which stans could communicate with one another.
Though stan Twitter vernacular runs much deeper than the examples previously listed, there is a common theme here if you look closely.
Simply put, nearly all stan lingo aims to speak positively about their fave in various creative and amusing ways. Much of the fun of interacting on stan Twitter arises from using these slang words to communicate with other stans, creating a sort of public inside joke.
Using this very specific set of colloquialisms fosters a sense of belonging in a group whose members follow a common idol, allowing many stans to become fast friends. Stans who often talk to each other and form relationships online are referred to as “mutuals,” a term referring to the status of mutually following one another on Twitter.
But stan Twitter isn’t all fun and games. Sure, there’s plenty of innocuous talk about a celebrity being amazing or beautiful or perfect, but stans have taken their dedication too far on multiple occasions. For example, Fifth Harmony member Normani Kordei experienced harassment from fans of the now ex-member Camila Cabello after a comment she had made.
To my fans: pic.twitter.com/7yICp10G5Z
— Normani (@Normani) August 7, 2016
Having said positive things about the other members, Kordei described Cabello as “very quirky. Yeah, very quirky. Cute,” seeming to struggle with even the smallest of praise toward Cabello.
Stans of Cabello took this out-of-context snippet as an insult to their favorite member, consequently cyberbullying Kordei for unrelated things such as her race. Though this example is a bit extreme, it’s evident that the act of stanning can inspire such loyalty that people would attack others in the name of their idol, even if that person is in the same group they pledged to support.
Despite all the drama that occurs, stan Twitter is quite capable of carrying out ambitious acts of support in their fave’s name. Streaming and buying new music as well as voting in various award shows can show the conviction of a certain fandom, and every one of their idol’s accomplishments then becomes a victory for the fans as well.
Stan Twitter often comes together to hold streaming parties for music videos or mass voting in award shows, building morale among people with a common goal. However, additional drama can arise from rival fandoms competing for a certain award, but that’s just a negative side affect of a relatively positive practice.
The very nature of Twitter has allowed for standom to evolve beyond what anyone thought possible, especially considering how different the lifestyle of a fan used to be. Before the Internet became widely commercialized, fandom occurred in isolation since sharing interests was restricted to only you and the people you knew.
Aside from attending the occasional concert or convention, people spent the rest of the time just living as themselves, not as a fan of someone else. Nowadays, being a fan can consume your every waking moment and even define your identity. Fandom can mean finding a sense of community and lifelong friends, transforming from a hobby into a lifestyle.
Stans are actively dwelling within a world where everything is interactive, instant and requires a great time commitment. For the casual fan, such a high-stakes environment may ruin the experience since they’re reluctant to partake in stan Twitter’s intensity.
But if you’re ready to dedicate hours of your life to the Yodeling Walmart Kid or Taylor Swift’s left eyebrow, the stan life just might be for you. Mutuals will be gained, tears will be shed and wigs will be snatched, but that’s just part of the experience.
A stan’s life isn’t a restful one, after all.