Raised by the Internet Episode 3: The World of Fandoms

In the final episode of Raised by the Internet, Ella and Jessica explore the untamed world of fandoms.

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, there wasn’t a lot for some of us to do….except go online. Join us as we explore what it was like to grow up on the internet as the digital world developed.

Directioners, Swifties, Beliebers, Barbs; the list goes on forever. On the surface, fandoms bring people with similar interests together. But fandom wars are a tale as old as time, begging the question: is the internet bringing us together or tearing us apart?

Produced by Ella Field, Matt Blake, & Jessica Comstock

Edited by Matt Blake

Directed by Matthew Meisinger

Crew: Gable Thompson, Zacary Gideon, Harrison Futrell, Kayla Hartman, Ben Mowitz


Ella Field, Host: Hello, and welcome to our final episode of Raised by the Internet, a podcast about growing up online. I’m Ella

Jessica Comstock, Host: And I’m Jessica. And today we’re gonna be talking about the world of fandoms and how it has shaped our lives and just in general, life on the internet. So you could argue that fandoms and like Stan culture goes back pretty far, obviously as soon as we’ve had like celebrities, but the first recorded case of it, according to a research paper by historian Joe Sanders was thanks to the Sci Fi community. There was a sort of magazine called Amazing Stories where they published fan letters about the Sci Fi shows and movies that they enjoyed and fans could include their addresses and so you know, other fans could then mail them letters and like sort of form these communities. And then that eventually sort of shaped what, like communities in person, which were like conventions and which eventually turned into like ComiCon and VidCon. And everything we know about fandoms now.

Ella: That’s insane to me that people would send in their address to be printed in publications because I just don’t think I could ever do that now. But fandoms they shifted from being like in publications, and now with the internet, they’re able to like kind of take off and soar. Online people are, it’s so much easier for people to connect and talk and chat. And fandoms have even, they even have their own names now. Like Directioner for One Direction and it’s like so common, like Sirectioner for One Direction. Swifties for Taylor Swift, Little Monster for Lady Gaga, Barbz for Nicki Minaj, which then the Phoebe Bridgers fans took and created Pharbz, P-H-ARBZ. And then even a word for a fan that’s in a fandom was created. The word Stan. Matt do you know where that came from exactly?

Matt: Yeah, so according to NBC News, the term was actually coined by Eminem in 2000. And he coined it in a song about an obsessed fan named Stan. And Stan just really, really loved Eminem. And that’s where the term comes from.

Jessica: Oh, yeah, I have heard that song. And I think we can both be considered a Stan of many different entertainment. Bands, musicians throughout my life. And honestly, a good chunk of like, my experience growing up, like being online was sort of shaped around fandoms. Yeah, and so according to a research paper called The state of fandoms, fandom hood, and like involvement in fandoms, peaks in your teen years, and then that sort of fades when you’re like 18 to 24, which is interesting, because like, those are the years we are in now, but then after 25 to about 30, involvement in fandoms, like rises again which I think is interesting, because like people under 30 are like the majority of people on the internet. And then also according to that same paper, like that same research, involvement in fandoms like being in one fandom usually lasts about nine years, which is a long time, especially for people under 30. That’s like a third of their life. 

Ella: Yeah, that is kind of shocking to me that like nine nine years seems a long time but at the same time, when I think about it more, I’ve been like a One Direction/ Harry Styles fan for 11 years. Yeah. Which is half my life pretty much.

Jessica: And it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Ella: Nope, not a phase, mom. And I, like a lot of people are in the same boat. And so I wonder too, like if that number will go up as the internet like goes on, because maybe people are like

Jessica: It’s easier to stay involved with. 

Ella: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of times with these fandoms, like going back to the comment about it’s most popular in younger people and then they kind of take a break. A lot of times I think people see people as stans and fandoms as just something silly little teeny girls do and they don’t really take them seriously. But I think that’s a mistake because there’s a lot of information and power within those fandoms and fandoms kind of shaped the discourse online and how things turned out. 

Jessica: Yeah, and how fandoms interact, could kind of be a whole dissertation. Like, I don’t know, I could talk about this for hours, but like, just how there’s not only within a fandom like where you stand with like, who’s the biggest fan or like if you’re a casual fan, but then there’s also how you know Justin Bieber fans and One Direction fans are kind of rivals. Or it used to be, not really anymore, but. And so that sort of shapes I think how we go about communities on the internet, and it’s almost sort of divisive.

Ella: Yeah. And another way like the way that fandoms communicate internally is also crazy because it’s created this whole culture where people make an account, they use, they don’t use their real name, they use a fake name, like a fake handle that relates to the artist or the celebrity or whatever. And their profile picture is often usually of that person that they’re “stanning,” and then they use that to communicate with other stands. And it’s just crazy that like, that’s so normal. 

Jessica: Yeah, so like they can connect with people in the fandom but then they’re almost excluding the people in their real life because they’re embarrassed by it or they like don’t want them to find that account. Yeah, or a lot of people even have like multiple fandom accounts, which is even crazier. But yeah, nowadays fandoms can, they’ve kind of expanded past sort of like the entertainment world, like, obviously, we think of fandoms and it’s like the Sci Fi community or One Direction or Taylor Swift, but it’s also like the core of what fandoms are, has also it’s like modern political campaigning sort of uses like, a block of voters who are like super dedicated to the politician and that’s almost like a fandom in itself. Which is just like, really fascinating and again, but that divisiveness and that like, Oh, I’ll stand up for this person no matter what. And like, we are the best sort of like behavior. 

Ella: And oftentimes, those people that are in fandoms, are younger, or even the non like younger people in those fandoms. But oftentimes, there’s like a parasocial relationship with the content creator or the politician or the celebrity. And that can be super unhealthy, especially for kids. And that then leads to the idea that basically you’re willing to, like it’s all or nothing, you’re willing to do anything for this person. And whatever happens like you’ll, you’ll be there and you’ll die for them essentially. Not really, but… but then that also kind of developed cancel culture with the idea that like, one small mishap could send a whole army of fans after you.

Jessica: Yeah, Matt, do you want to start looking up some research on canceled culture and how people have been searching for it? Because in my research for this episode, I was looking at stuff about cancel culture and one article sort of talked about, like the beginnings of it and that the actual term itself sort of came to light after a situation on Twitter where Gabby Douglas, the Olympian, tweeted something that people took as her you know, not supporting victims of sexual assault. And another woman had tweeted that, you know, we need to stop with this canceling thing. And so the term was used on Black Twitter and then it sort of faded and then kind of picked up in the next few years after into the mainstream with things like Taylor Swift versus Kanye, and all that sort of drama. So Matt, did you find any of that data?

Matt: Yes, so the term cancel, obviously, like spikes pretty often just because it’s a term that means multiple things. But there was a massive spike and I’m assuming that’s in reference to it being used in the Twitter contexts in like April of 2020, which is like the beginning like height of COVID-19. So I’m assuming you know, everybody’s inside, let’s start canceling each other. Cancel culture, on the other hand, as a term didn’t really even exist until like late 2019 or early 2020. So you’re exactly right on that it. It is a term, you know, sort of a cultural term that it means exactly what we’re, what we’re saying it means in that sense.

Ella: Yeah. Thanks for that data, Matt. I feel like that really alludes to like the juxtaposition of fandoms how on the surface, they seem like they’re bringing people together, but in actuality, they’re kind of like grouping people off into their own little groups and like sections of those parts of the internet and they just stay in those spaces.

Jessica: Yeah. And I think like, what a lot of the time people sort of see the internet as such like an angry place and sort of like divisive, divisive, divisive, I don’t know that word. We divide, we’re divided on the internet. And I think a lot of that sort of goes back to fandoms. And that you know, fandoms sort of shape how we interact online, at least in my experience it has. And so when we see that, you know, fandoms are fighting with each other. It’s also easy to fight with just like someone that disagrees with you in general on the internet. Yeah. And that’s just sort of how we interact with internet and how a lot of young people do. Yeah,

Ella: But like, even though there is that negative with like people fighting influencers and celebrities would not exist without these fandoms. So there’s like a crucial, crucial part. Like I don’t think an online world exists without fandoms.

Jessica: So since fandoms have sort of shaped that iternet, it begs the question, do you think the internet is overall bringing us together or tearing us apart?

Ella: I think it’s similar to fandoms. Like on the surface, it, it’s bringing people together, you have opportunities to connect with people around the world at any time of the day, really and like it’s great, you can connect with family and friends that you might not see all the time and you can have those conversations, but at the same time, because you’re not getting those conversations in person, it’s a lot different. And so the relationships performing very strong. You know, a conversation with someone in person is a lot stronger than just a quick text. And so because of that and like the ability to access information so quickly, I think we also lack a little bit of purpose now because of it.

Jessica: Yeah. I think like at my core, I am such like an internet person. And so it really is my identity like I do love the internet, but also I would love to live in a pre internet world and like, experience life without all like the busyness of the internet. And like, I think obviously, like you said, we have a lot of, a lot of shallow relationships now. But I think like, and that’s because of the internet. But without the internet we would have far less relationships and a lot less knowledge and experiences of other people’s way of life. So it’s tough. I don’t know if I think we’ve, I would say overall probably torn apart. But yeah, I couldn’t go without the internet obvious. 

Ella: Yeah, I also just think it depends on day. Depends on what’s happening online because it changes so quickly. Well, on that somewhat depressing notw, we’re gonna wrap things up here. Thank you for tuning into our little mini series we’ve got going on. This has been Raised by the Internet.

Jessica: Thanks for watching!


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