How One Direction Fangirls Have Influenced the Internet According to Kaitlyn Tiffany

Is there anything that originated with One Direction fans that still exists today?

KT: There were honestly a lot of fandoms that took advantage of the internet early, like Beliebers and Rihanna’s Navy, in addition to One Direction [fans]† They embodied the idea that fandom is responsible for the artists they support and should have a creative role in their careers. For example, One Direction lost The X Factor, and fans decided they lost the show but won the world. The mythology – whether this is really true or not – is that the amount of social media action they got made them stars and gave them careers. At one point, fans decided that a certain song should be a single, so they let it happen unofficially. There are rumors that certain international fans have taught each other to use VPNs to fake US streams. The DIY approach to pop music fandom started with these early fans.

The desire for intimacy within fandom – something that instantly makes you one of the crowd – is interesting to me. As a fan, I know it’s fun to be a part of something that no one from the outside can really understand. Do you think there are platforms out there right now that give fans the same opportunity to frantically pile up inside jokes and shape their own lore like Tumblr did?

KT: I’m not convinced there’s a major Tumblr Renaissance right now. I don’t think it will ever become the center of internet culture as it was, but it goes on and on, and there are still people who exercise their fandom mainly on Tumblr. But I don’t think there is a good replacement for it either. You’ll now see much of the insular fan community experience on Discord, such as private channels for small groups of fans that require you to be invited to join. There’s also a lot of fan activity on Reddit, which isn’t so isolated, but it’s another platform with pseudonyms and throwaway accounts. I think there’s a withdrawal from being in public because Twitter has gotten so much attention as a place for fans, and a lot of it has been negative, so a lot of fans are looking for quieter places to interact.

I was just there VidCon where all these fans of a Minecraft YouTuber collective called Dream SMP went absolutely wild – it was mostly young girls who lost their minds about British guys. It reminded me of the Directioner days of yore. What do you think those newer fandoms (and established ones that are still transforming, like Nicki Minaj’s Barbz and BTS Army) could learn from One Direction fans?

KT: The great tragedy of the One Direction fandom is that it eventually shattered due to conspiracy theories that were simply divergent ideas about reality, such as that Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles were secretly in love, or that Louis Tomlinson didn’t actually father a child). It thus became impossible to reconcile the resentment that had built up around such sensitive lines, and that was sad to see. Now if I were to join a fandom, I’d suggest making a note of how this became a major soft spot for One Direction fans.

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