SAN ANTONIO – In the age of oversharing, platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more have bridged the communication gap to make fans feel like they are constantly connected to the artists they love, blurring the line of regular admiration to an obsessive one-sided relationship.
As the internet has allowed celebrities and content creators to share more things, it has become progressively more accessible for people to gain a following. The internet has made it easy with days of content and readily available knowledge about celebrities and content creators; it is only understandable that people are starting to feel a genuine connection to them. This obsession leads to the rise of “stan culture.”
The concept of “fans” or what is now described as being a “stan” of someone, is not entirely new. Eminem first coined the term in 2000 as a hybrid of “stalker” and “fan.” It was initially a dig and the word used to have the meaning of a person who was overzealous or obsessed with a famous person. In Eminem’s song, it was about how a man pushed to the edge because his idol (Eminem) would not answer his fan mail. The negative connotation of “stan” has been watered down to someone who was slightly more invested than an average fan. Although the redefinition of a “stan” is in a more positive connotation, the original definition fits better with the delusions some people fall under while obsessing over anyone famous.
What is challenging to differentiate, especially if you are younger and more impressionable, is the true relationship between fan and celebrity and the delusion of genuinely knowing this celebrity. It is crucial and unfortunately ignored by many that you never truly know the person on the other side of the screen. As a result, one never gets the complete picture of the person’s “real life.”
In less severe cases, having an attachment to a celebrity, content or creator can be seen as healthy. According to a study done at Buffalo University, a measured parasocial relationship with something can help people’s mood and even increase a person’s self-esteem.
The issue lies when it becomes obsessive and dangerous for other fans and content creators. These “fans” may cross boundaries that they see as ok because of the falsely perceived friendship or relationship with the creators. The relationships can also lead to a sense of entitlement among the fans, feeling like they have the right to know everything about their personal lives. The fans begin to feel entitled to personal details to these celebrities, some going as far as obsessive messaging and even stalking to obtain them.
This obsession with celebrities and content creators brings criticism to the content creators themselves as the question arises: are these celebrities responsible for the actions of their fanbase? This has been a hot news topic debated heavily, especially as K-pop becomes more popular in the United States.
Korean pop fans, such as “Army,” the fans of BTS, have gotten a bad reputation because of obsessed fans or sasaengs. This phrase is the Korean version of “Stan.” It describes an obsessive fan who stalks or engages in other behavior constituting an invasion of celebrities’ privacy, specifically Korean idols, drama actors or other public figures.
Boybands, in general, are constantly working to sell an image or ideal for profit. K-Pop branding has got it down to a science. Unfortunately, this branding makes it extremely easy to fall into the delusion but doesn’t necessarily make the boys or girls in the group at fault for this behavior.
“I think they are just trying to stick to their image for profit,” says Lauren Vu, a social science student at A&M. “I think it is only a problem when they lean into the whole ‘I’m not a celebrity, I’m your friend because it feels a bit predatory.”
It’s impracticable to avoid stan culture entirely — they naturally arise from social media and celebrity culture. However, it is possible to encourage content creators whose fanbases are incredibly toxic to set stricter boundaries to avoid developing unhealthy relationships with a creator. It’s crucial that, as a society, we encourage a relationship of appreciation, not fixation, between a fan and celebrities. Of course, it is good to appreciate what someone does and admire them and their impact on your life, but let’s avoid taking it to an extreme where one obsesses over them and the personality they created for themselves online.
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