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Growing up on Stan Twitter

By Ally De Leon Published Jan 06, 2023 5:00 am

You’ve probably heard about Stan Twitter. If not, you’re equal parts lucky and oblivious. Should you be blissfully or willingly unaware of the Internet’s most notorious hellsite (bye, Tumblr), Stan Twitter refers to all communities that discuss pop culture and its key figures. 

I’ve spent seven years and counting here, even before it was called Stan Twitter. Filipino Love Team Twitter defined my 2015-2017, while TV/Film Twitter dominated my 2018. Since 2018, I’ve found a semi-permanent home in the ever-volatile K-pop Twitter. 

Nearly a decade into the platform, I can say that I grew up in these spaces. It’s seen me from seventh grade up until my current college years, and maybe even as I start working. Before talking about the future, though, let’s take a look at the past and present, as told by things I’ve learned from my three Stan Twitter eras.

First love can last?

My first encounter with fandom happened through Filipino love teams in 2015. This interest in love teams felt unexpected, as everyone else my age liked boy bands and/or anime. I was also a tween who didn’t need kilig, and people told me to avoid consuming local media because it was supposedly “baduy.” 

That was all proven wrong when I began watching the 2014 hit series Forevermore. I enjoyed rooting for conventionally attractive actors and actresses whose jobs were to exude chemistry on-and off-screen. I couldn’t find people IRL to talk to about my newest interest, so I headed onto Love Team Twitter, with like-minded people from all corners of the world.

Becoming a teenager on Love Team Twitter let me bear witness to burgeoning romances, compensating for my nonexistent love life. Being a love team stan probably raised my romantic standards higher, too. But as everyone says, first love never lasts. I eventually moved on, especially when I got disinterested. 

To my surprise, though, my Love Team Twitter roots aren’t completely gone—they find their way whenever I “ship” celebrities or fictional characters. Love Team Twitter was my gateway to fandom, and an online community that understood me when my real-life circles did not will always mean something to me. 

The most memorable feelings are the most intense

While my love team Twitter era ended, my Stan Twitter career didn’t. Some time in the lowest point of my life (freshman year of high school), shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Riverdale and BoJack Horseman distracted me from my personal hells. Films like La La Land and Call Me By Your Name became (and still probably are) my personality traits. 

I hopped onto TV/Film Twitter to livetweet my reactions, fawn over actors/actresses, and find people who talked about the media I loved. However, unlike Love Team Twitter, which was more tightly knit and more prone to intriguing fan debates, TV/Film Twitter was too vast for me to call my own. Also, TV Twitter specifically is most fun when shows are airing live. With time differences and hiatuses, watching series didn’t feel as thrilling even if you could still consume content. 

More importantly, I wasn’t able to form long-lasting friendships on TV/Film Twitter, which are the best parts of fandom. Substack newsletter Mind Mine says it best through an essay entitled “Intensity”: “Intense people crave understanding because they probably lacked it their whole life... But when intense people congregate, they finally feel understood.” 

Peaceful fan experiences may seem ideal for some, but I find that peace doesn’t make for memorable stories. That may sound masochistic, but stanning should feel intense as it’s rooted in obsession.

On Stan Twitter, love means war. It’s notorious for “fan wars,” where fans get aggressive in defending their faves. Intensity isn’t for everyone. Though, if you’re anything like me, you’d know that sometimes, too much can be just right.

Our world’s too big for us to stay hung up on small things

My borderline unhealthy chase of intensity has led me to Stan Twitter’s most notorious corner: K-pop Twitter. It needs no introduction, as you see idol groups top trending searches daily and viral Tweets about outrageously overpriced photocards. 

K-pop Twitter’s also associated with political involvement. Various fandoms formed a coalition to support Leni Robredo for the 2022 elections. Globally, K-pop fans are unafraid of calling out their idols for problematic behavior. The socio-political awareness of K-pop fans may seem unusual for outsiders, but as one looks more closely, it’s unsurprising. K-pop is rife with social issues, so fans are empowered to speak out, whether the topic is idol mistreatment or unrealistic beauty standards.

Simply put, K-pop Twitter embodies intensity, but zooming out, it also contains immensity, if having friends across 5+ time zones and NCT still adding new members despite already having 20+ are anything to go by. Immensity, both in Stan Twitter and life, allows me to decenter when something goes awry. 

I’ve become a happier person through my investment in K-pop Twitter. I had my parasocial relationships, replicating the kilig I’d get from love teams and the friendships I’d root for on TV comedies. But of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as K-pop Twitter can also make me have negative feelings. These feelings, albeit provoked by matters outside my real life like scandals or hate comments involving my favorite idols, permeate my real life. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to detach, as I’ve been getting too busy to be too emotionally invested.

That’s a nicer way of saying that I have a life outside K-pop Twitter. Worrying that much but being able to snap out of the insanity makes me realize how small some problems are, and how small I am, too. 

Upon realizing how small I am in the grander scheme of things, I also realized that K-pop Twitter gives me a taste of how massive the world is, and how much more I can do within and outside the fandom. It’s clear that this space transcends usual fandom dynamics. K-pop Twitter has been a force to reckon with in political activism everywhere, and fans’ burning passion translates into movements for the greater good.

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Despite having a life outside my obsessions (or trying to), Stan Twitter is still a huge part of it, for better or worse. It brings out the best and worst in me and many others, just as any microcosm of society would. 

As I approach my eighth year of intense fanhood, I can’t say if I’ll reach a decade or more, or if my interests will stay the same. What I am sure of, though, is this: we all need a space to feel our feelings wholeheartedly. Stan Twitter lets me do that, and I hope I can continue letting myself feel to the fullest even when logged out.