Super-fans have existed as long as big music and film stars have, queuing for days for a photo or book signing, or to see them perform at their latest gig. This was, for the most part, a perfectly healthy part of society, and was a pure innocent interest and general hobby for many youngsters.
However, this has all escalated in recent years with the rise of stalker fans, now commonly referred to as ‘Stans’.
‘Stans’ get their name from a popular song by Eminem and Dido, in which a fan contacts Eminem by sending him multiple letters, and ends up committing suicide and killing his pregnant girlfriend due to a lack of replies from the star.
The biggest blame factor for the rise of Stans is social media platforms, that allow fans to follow every step of their favourite artist or performer, and gives them a chance to create multiple anonymous profiles that allow them to delve deeper and attempt to contact their biggest icon. Some would argue that having a hobby and someone influential to look up to is no bad thing, and to some extent, this would be correct. A successful, talented artist or performer is certainly a goal and it is more than healthy for young people to aspire to be like them. Even following their latest clothing, makeup or music trends is entirely normal- this is how new fashions begin, after all!
Although a willingness and desire to contact an idol may seem entirely innocent, some youngsters have taken a darker side to it, using multiple accounts under a pseudonym and sending ‘hate’ to other social media users if they claim to dislike the star, or even if they claim to be a bigger fan than themselves. This can cause a whole world of issues, including bullying, teen depression and even, if escalated, suicides.
So why does this continue to happen? A lack of education into quite how serious this can get is certainly a factor. Students are taught in school that explicit images, sharing personal information and explicit bullying are all wrong, and although these do still happen, this has reduced. However, it’s rare that young people are ever taught about the unhealthy attitude of dedicating your life to watching and mimicking other people’s, and especially people who are unlikely to ever reach out to them.
Stars themselves sometimes do not help Stan culture reduce or become more tame, with sometimes constant promises of ‘follow backs’ on social media, or even ‘meetups’ in shopping centres and towns. This causes havoc in the Stan community, as being left out of these things can cause a mass upset and feeling of being left out or ignored by someone who they idolise so massively.
How do we decrease the risk of young children harming themselves and others over celebrities and popular personalities? An awareness needs to begin, showing the next generation that having idols is great and healthy if gone about in the right way, and when the fun stops and it goes too far. If not only for themselves but for others too.