Recently I came across an interesting article about “stan culture”, which I highly recommend reading. It sparked something in my mind that I had been thinking about for a long time and wanted to speak up about: young people on social media. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be all like “ugh this new generation is horrible”. It’s gonna be quite the opposite, actually. I want to talk about how I am concerned for those people, because not long ago, I was one of them. If you are a “youngster” on the internet, this article is also for you. I don’t want to talk about you, I want to talk to you. What I want is for you to learn from my mistakes. And I hope you will listen.

But first, what exactly is “stan culture”? Stan culture consists of self-proclaimed “stans”, which are basically fans, often related to pop culture and music artists. At 22, I am still part of stan culture, but over the years I noticed some major issues arising. Like the aforementioned article said, stan culture can be very toxic. People get bullied, harassed and sometimes even threatened if they even dare to speak badly of the thing or person someone “stans”. But you can read all about that in the other article, because I want to speak up about what I learned from being a part of stan culture.

Don’t get me wrong, being in fandoms has quite literally saved my life. I’ve formed many online friendships over the course of eight years, of which quite a lot resulted in me meeting those friends in real life. Being a stan of something makes me feel like I belong somewhere, especially if I am surrounded by other stans. It gives you a sense of power. And that can be dangerous. Though I can proudly say that I never harassed anyone who spoke against the things I like, I did witness some of my fellow stans do so. I never called them out for it, and that was my mistake.

Stan culture nowadays

Let’s fast-forward to the here and now. I think the biggest group of stans is on twitter, and they’re often under 18 years of age. Like I said, I am now 22, so that’s not too far off from 18. But I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon my teenage years, and what I came to realise is what concerned me. It’s what I see with these young stans too.

What I see is young people being naive. And no, that’s not meant as an insult, because I was (and sometimes still am) naive too. Most young people are, it comes with the age. I’m just hoping I can make them aware of it. Another thing I see is young people not realising that their actions have consequences. They don’t realise when they are doing damage in any way. And the third thing I see, and which especially applied to myself when I was around 15/16, is the over-idolisation of people. It’s very easy to ignore the bad stuff your idol is doing when you’re obsessed with them.

So I have a message for all the young stans out there. Please think for yourself. Don’t follow groups. Question everything. If someone in your stan group says a certain thing or person is bad, ask them why. Do your digging. See if it’s true. And if it is true, handle it responsibly. Don’t go looking for a fight. Do not provoke anything. Don’t spew hate, that includes anon hate. You can spend your time so much better. Be the better person. But also be wary. Don’t let people use your good nature against you. There are bad people in the world, and if something is too good to be true, then it’s likely that it’s not true. Be careful with your personal details. Be careful with your money. Don’t let people manipulate you into doing things you don’t actually want to do. No always means no. Please remember that.

You’re all lovely and wonderful people and your teenage years are an important part of your life. They help you grow into the adult you’ll be later on. And I hope that adult will be strong and compassionate. I hope they will see the world with their own eyes. Not those of others.