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A Psychological Look at Stan Culture

Fully committing to stanning a celebrity means one can never be calm and collected ever again in their life. There is no “taking it easy”. There is only an (imaginary) podium—one where the stan must ensure their favorite celebrity is always number one. By any means necessary. (No, that is not an exaggeration.) 

To first understand what stan culture is, it is important to know its origins. In the 2000s, the word stan, a combination of stalker and fan, made its first appearance into pop culture after the release of Eminem’s song “Stan”. The song and music video depicted a young man so dangerously obsessed with Eminem he ends up committing murder-suicide after being endlessly ignored. 

So it is of no surprise that the stans of this day and age are just as equally obsessed— and sometimes equally as crazy.  Above all, these stans are incredibly lonely, finding comfort and community in the parasocial relationship they have built with their celebrity. 

Online culture would fully cement stan into pop culture, bringing forth an era of fans who go above and beyond when praising celebrities. The most well-known of these stans belong to music stars such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Nicki Minaj—Swifties, The BeyHive, and Barbz, respectively.  

The blind support from these stans has resulted in a lot of things: intense harassment, attack campaigns (most times against other stans), and doxxing. All of which is done on Twitter, now X, as that is where many stans conjugate.  These happen in cases ranging from someone tweeting out they simply don’t see the appeal of the artist, and most recently, in cases where the artist’s likeness is used in a detrimental way— such as the recent explicit and consensual AI photos of Taylor Swift. 

See, there’s range. 

All this shows is that stan culture is not exactly binary. It’s incredibly complex and can be studied in many ways—artistically, economically, and psychologically. Truly, stan culture is an anthropological goldmine. 

But stan culture has resulted in a lack of accountability for many of these artists. 

Taylor Swift has been accused of being—to put it bluntly—an eco-terrorist for topping the biggest celebrity CO2 polluter list two years in a row. In 2022, her total flight emissions came in at 8,293.54 tonnes or 1,184.8 times more than the average person's total annual emissions. In 2023, she produced 138 TONS of CO2 emissions in three months while in a relationship with Travis Kelce. To offset the damage in those three months, Taylor Swift will have to plant 2,200 trees. The climate crisis is an incredibly serious issue that people (scientists and regular folks choking on paper straws included) have been trying to combat for many, many years—and yet when this news broke out, Swfities were quick to come to her defense and say that Swift needed a private plane for her own safety. 

(To which I say, start planting, girl.)  

In all seriousness, Swifities did not see the news as something to take seriously, they instead saw it as an attack. It wasn’t simply an observation for the sake of the planet; it was an attack on a woman at the top of the world—literally and figuratively. It was "anti-feminist." "All the other male celebrities produce just as much CO2 as her, so why is it an issue when she does it?" The very obvious problem here is the failure to consider power dynamics—Taylor Swift is a very rich, very powerful, white woman—and the failure to see the climate crisis for what it is—a crisis. This is not a spread on a tabloid. This is very real. 

But every excuse made for her allows for her to continue because she will always have endless support. 

Nicki Minaj has the most infamous stans of all time. The Barbz are well known throughout the internet and pop culture sphere in general for doxxing and harassing anyone who critiques Nicki Minaj. Recently, Nicki Minaj went on a 24-hour tirade against Megan thee Stallion after the release of her song “Hiss” where Minaj was convinced the line “You’re not mad at Megan, you’re mad at Megan’s Law was a dig towards her husband Petty and brother Jelani, both of whom are registered sex offenders. 

(Before anything – what a bar.) 

This event took Twitter by storm, with many coming to Megan’s defense and praising her, all while criticizing Minaj’s reaction to a bar that didn’t mention her or either of her (still not excommunicated) family members. One instance saw Tiktoker Bela Delgado in a now deleted TikTok airing out Nicki Minaj’s business, especially the instances where she supported sexual abusers and performed a lap dance for a thirteen-year-old. 

This would lead to Bela Delgado, along with their family, to then be doxxed and sent death threats. 

These actions aren’t new for the Barbz. When news broke that Nicki Minaj’s husband is a level-two registered sex offender in New York and had spent several years in jail for both attempted rape in the first degree and first-degree manslaughter, Barbz took it upon themselves to wholeheartedly defend Minaj. All because of the parasocial relationships that have been created. 

First coined in the 1950s, parasocial relationships are social bonds audiences develop with media personae and are incredibly meaningful for those who experience obstacles in developing real-life social bonds. Meaning these relationships result from loneliness. 

There has been a recent lack of community throughout western nations, but there has especially been a lack of community within the United States. In a study done by Baylor University, when sociologists “speak of the ‘loss’ of community, there are at least two distinct meanings: psychological and territorial (Bateman Driskell and Lyon 2002). Psychological focuses on the social interaction of the community and analyzes the alienation from the loss of community. Territorial focuses on the specific area and the diminishing identification with place. Both meanings share the same primary source for the loss of community: the urban society - and excessive individualism, alienation, and a resultant lower quality of life.” 

Lack of green space, gentrification, and anti-loitering laws—the internet is the only place to “hang out.” Capitalism (shocker) plays a huge part in people’s loneliness as individualism is strongly encouraged. The person next to you is your competition. Success is all that matters, and that is why stans have strong parasocial relationships: these celebrities have reached the very top and can therefore do no wrong. In fact, the stan may one day stand alongside them, reveling in their fame, one dox at a time. 


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