How Deadheads and Directioners Made the Internet What It Is Today

Normal people tend to view stans in a few ways, either amused by their histrionic slang (“your favorite would never be”), impressed by their organizational agility, or shocked by their willingness to launch large-scale harassment campaigns. The relationship is one of intrigue and suspicion, not recognition; and so even those who self-identify as “chronic online” don’t always understand Stan’s motivations, content to see them as just a curious part of the online ecology. That’s true Kaitlyn Tiffanywriter of internet culture at The Atlantic, intervenes. her upcoming book, Everything I Need, I Get From You: How Fangirls Made The Internet As We Know It, delves into the trenches of online fandom – the fried memes, the bizarre and sometimes dangerous conspiracy theories – based on scientific research and her own personal history-loving One Direction. It shows how fandom has shaped our modern internet: it becomes our “dominant way of acting” and infiltrates our speech. The balance between first person experience and scientific analysis, humor and accuracy makes the book irresistible to read.

Below is an edited excerpt from Everything I Need I Get From You, which begins with a quest for Harry Styles’ vomit sanctuary and evolves into a history of online fanspaces, from Deadheads on the WELL to Directioners on Tumblr.

I’m looking for the shrine to Harry Styles’ vomit. I know it was on Tumblr – I remember seeing it there. In the fall of 2014, at the start of my senior year at college, I also recall a GIF set of Harry Styles answering an interview question about the sanctuary to his own vomit, nodding diplomatically and saying, first in one frame “It’s interesting. Sure,” and in the blink of an eye, “Maybe a small niche.”

Those are my memories. These are the facts. In October, Harry Styles attended a party at British pop singer Lily Allen’s home in Los Angeles. The next morning, driving a chauffeured Audi, in his sportswear, on his way back from “a very long walk”, he requested the driver to stop. On the side of highway 101 just outside Calabasas, he vomited at a metal barrier, looked up and closed his eyes with a camera. He’s sweaty, striker; his hair is dirty, up in a messy bun. Yet he still exudes the elegance of Harry Styles, parched in gym shorts and athletic socks, hands on his knees by the roadside. His cheekbones find the direction of the light, thanks to a reflex or a gift from God.

The day they were taken, the photos circulated in tabloids and on Tumblr and Twitter, and a few hours later, Los Angeles 18-year-old Gabrielle Kopera found the spot and tagged it for posterity. She drove there alone, then taped a piece of poster board to the barrier: “Harry Styles threw up 10-12-14 here,” she wrote in large block letters. The grainy photo she first posted on her own Instagram later circulated on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and all those messy-looking celebrity blogs that are really just search engine scams. Even more than the Harry Styles photos, I remember loving the photo of this sign. Harry Styles threw up here! That’s all he did, but since we’ve only seen him throw up once before (gross story), and we’ve never seen him do it on this one strip of gravel, the sign suggested it is worth recording for posterity. Harry Styles threw up here! Six months earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported that the then 20-year-old Styles had dropped $4 million on a five-bedroom home in Beverly Hills (a photo gallery of the home’s interior was removed from the story shortly after publication). Still, he got out of the hills, jumped out of the car in an upscale suburb, and vomited in the street. Why stop at a piece of poster board? Why no plaque?

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