Stay on the internet for any length of time and you’ll run into a fan or, more likely, hundreds or thousands of fans all at once. We are talking about Barbz, Swifties, Navy, Beyhive, Army, Selenators, Beliebers, etc. a bit like an avalanche that buries you alive: out of nowhere, a sudden online burial of excitement, wit and alienating jokes.
The Atlantic personal writer Katlyn Tiffany‘Yes, Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Made The Internet As We Know It, released this week, it serves as a guide for moments like this and many more. Tiffany, a One Direction fan herself, takes fandoms seriously, and in doing so, comes up with something far more interesting and weird than their most popular coverage allows. The passion fans have for their favorites, she says, has fueled the social internet, shaping its voice and patterns and, in some cases, what is or isn’t a popular feature on this or that platform.
Tiffany’s goal was, in part, to replace the “rudimentary image” of “a screaming, hysterical fangirl who is falling to the floor and overcome with emotion” with “more specific images of different fans who were using the fandom for different purposes,” he said. me recently on the phone. Below we talk about the positive aspects of the fandom and its darker sides, from the conspiracy theories of Larry Stylinson to those around Depp and Amber heard.
(A note before I get into the Q&A. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask Tiffany, a director, to define the complicated concept of “Larry Stylinson,” so here’s the absolute shortest explanation I can handle: one part of the Directioner fandom, known as Larries, believes that two of its five members, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, they are in a secret relationship but are forced to pretend to be straight to please the media and the band’s management. The decades-old fan theory, which isn’t true, has brought the 1D ranks together, pulled them apart, and expressed itself in some aggressive online trolling of Briana Jungwirt, the mother of Tomlinson’s child. The latter situation is known as a babygate.)
Vanity Fair: Why was One Direction the right target to explore fandom on the internet?
Katlyn Tiffany: First of all, it was easier to do something through One Direction because that was the experience I personally had. It’s fun for selfish reasons but also useful for practical reasons, because a lot of things on Tumblr in particular erode or become hard to find over the years. So it was helpful to have something that I was immersed in at the time and to be able to try and piece it together by finding people who had archived stuff and stuff like that.
So that was the practical reason. And then the other reason is that I think pop music fandom is probably the most visible type of fandom to most people on the internet. I think maybe aside from, like, the Marvel fandom, which I’m absolutely clueless about, I thought picking a pop music fandom would also be important for that reason.
And then thirdly, the One Direction fandom, to me, has seemed like a really rich example of pop music fandom on the internet because of sheer timing. That fandom basically began to form just as Tumblr was becoming a major platform and as young people first joined Twitter in large numbers. Fans of One Direction could really so cleanly embody this idea in the contemporary fandom that because you’re doing so much work promoting the star you love and enjoy interacting with them behind the scenes, you feel like you have some kind of hand of a creator in their career and a responsibility for them.
What are some of the hallmarks of how a fandom, Directioners or otherwise, created Twitter or created Tumblr?
In the early days of Twitter, it was basically like this empty space and people weren’t really sure how to use it or what it was for. So there were some groups, I think, that started using the platform early on. One that I talked about in the book was “weird Twitter”. So like your @drils basically who were perfecting this kind of humor and vernacular on the internet. Then I talked a little bit about Black Twitter, which was a huge cultural force in the early days of Twitter that was written a lot about. I didn’t realize this until I did some research for the book that got a lot of writing about, like, what is BlackTwitter? Why is my entire feed Black Twitter when I log into Twitter at night? The writers eventually figured out that it was because the Black Twitter community was really following each other and amplifying each other’s stuff, like, kind of intentionally, kind of unintentionally.