As a girl who has been a fan of boy bands since the wee age of five, and part of a generation that can’t function without technology, I have seen how social media has changed the fangirl and the celebrity.
I started using social media when I was about twelve with MySpace. Yes, mom, I did lie to you about not having one just like all of my friends did with their parents, too. It was the first time where people actually posed as celebrities and made us ignorant tweens believe it was them. I remember I thought I was actually talking to Hanson’s sister one time but after giving it thought, I knew it couldn’t have been her. However, a little band called the Jonas Brothers was starting to create a fanbase from the site known for sexual predators. MySpace was a great outlet for up-and-coming musicians to post their music to be discovered by record labels and give themselves publicity for free.
The Jonas Brothers rose to fame years after that and were one of the first bands to be a part of the social media movement. The paparazzi were also becoming a fangirl’s best friend, as well as Perez Hilton, one of the first celebrity bloggers.
Now, we have One Direction, a band who was made famous thanks to their fans promoting them on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during their days on ‘The X Factor’. I’ve always said that this is what fascinates me about these boys; they didn’t need any formal promotion for a fan base to be created because social media made one for them. They’re the first of their kind. However, now social media could now possibly be hurting One Direction.
The Jonas Brothers started to use Twitter to be in touch with their fans and now use every outlet they can just like One Direction. But there’s a difference. A majority of Jonas fans are approximately between the ages of 17 and 23. One Direction, however, has a majority of fans between the ages 14 and 16. What I see that’s so different about that small age gap between those girls and fans of my age is that this new generation is literally attached to the Internet. They can’t get away from their iPhones (which they don’t need because who is a 14 year-old emailing?), they only communicate through Facebook and believe every single tweet from a so called ‘insider’ account. I was a sophomore in high school when the iPhone came out. Did we even think about having the internet on our phones? Nope. We only wanted to text when the teacher wasn’t looking.
Social media and even society, has led to ‘shipping’ or wanting two celebrities to be in a relationship. What’s so fascinating about this, is that fans are shipping people of the same sex. Remember when it wasn’t cool to be openly gay and in the spotlight? Well, society has proven to these fangirls that your gender doesn’t matter and two people who may come off as best friends could indeed be more. Jonas fans and even Hanson fans have been dreaming up incestuous relationships among the brothers of both bands for years. One Direction fans are notorious for having everyday conversations and even Internet fights about Larry Stylinson, the bromance of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, as well others. Louis and Harry used to play it off, but in the last year, Mr. Tomlinson got a girlfriend and called the bromance “bullshit”.
The imagined b(romances) and even ‘celebrity stalking’ (since the Internet tells fangirls a band’s every move now) combined have now led to cyberbullying. Us fans tend to forget that celebrities are actual people who have actual feelings. Twitter and Tumblr are two outlets which have led celebrities to see the cruel and harsh reality of criticism from society. Harry Styles is a perfect example; before the boys became international pop stars, he had messed up a solo during the band’s first ever live performance on national television. Though his bandmates tried to tell him he did fine, he decided to Google ‘Harry Shit’. Numerous tweets and comments popped up hating on him. In the boys’ documentary two summers ago, he cried on camera saying, “Why do you hate me?”. I bet he still gets that way, but a majority of people don’t realize it.
Here’s the ironic part of this situation: look back on some of One Direction’s tweets and you’ll see that they cyberbully their own fans. When the boys were in New York City for the release of their latest album, fangirls had been mobbing their hotel, as well as the band themselves. Liam took to Twitter to tell his fans he had had “nothing but abuse” during his day off. Louis called all fans who thought he and Harry were together fake. Excuse me?! Any fan is a real fan.
In an age where anyone can find anyone anywhere at any time, it’s almost scary that this has happened. We’ve seen how it takes a toll on celebrities. The worst case was probably Demi Lovato, who had to go to rehab partially because of bullying, both physical and virtual.
It makes you think, what and who is this generation becoming? If we worship these celebrities and they constantly thank us fans, why all of a sudden, have we turned on each other?