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There is Life Outside of Being A K-Pop Stan

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

Isn’t it strange the extent some people are willing to go through just to support the artists that they love? I believe it’s one thing to admire your faves, promote them with other people within your online community to discuss all the reasons why you love them, create funny memes, purchase their work (even en masse, if you want), but I believe that there should be a limit. Some things within stan culture just should NOT be normalized.

Going days without showering to sit in front of 8 of your devices, mouth parched, armpits smelling, sheets stained with unidentifiable fluids to stream an artist’s new song on a continuous loop? Sending death threats to people who have a different opinion than you over the most trivial things just because you believe your opinion is superior? Encouraging your followers to commit credit card fraud to purchase more of your favourite artists’ music so that they’ll score higher on the charts for album sales? Blindly following the celebrities you love even when they do something problematic and being fearful of respectfully calling them out because you think that’s “throwing them under the rug?” Posting fancams under serious issues like a recent death and saying, "Maybe if they stanned ____, this wouldn't have happened?" Attacking journalists online and questioning their journalistic integrity because they wrote an unbiased article about someone you support in a way that didn’t paint them out to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ you think they are?

Yeah, those are just some of the many things you shouldn’t do and they seem like common sense, but common sense is not something that everyone seems to have - unfortunately.

Just look at some of the replies I received on Twitter for criticizing a a sculpture that EYE thought looked anti-black in the brown version it's sold in. I received over 500 responses (Twitter replies and mentions) in TOTAL in under 12 hours from fellow BTS fans and this is only a small sample of some of the replies I got:

Link to my original tweet with almost 400 replies:

And this was one of the few amazing replies I received in response to my tweet:

The reason why I’m writing this article is because I’ve been involved in many different fandoms in my lifetime across all platforms from having a Tumblr account dedicated to Teen Wolf in elementary school to when I was obsessed with Mindless Behaviour to currently participating in many different K-pop fandoms. All of them brought endless amounts of joy in my life because there’s nothing better than being able to get a good laugh (and sometimes cry) with people I may or may not know online over the music, people, and content that we both love. It’s such a heartwarming experience to be able to relate to others about something that we can be unabashedly passionate about, free of judgement.

Being a part of several K-pop fandoms has been equal parts humorous as its been embarrassing because we could go from fangirling over the fact that our favourite idol just dyed their hair lime green to getting into arguments with other K-pop fans who feel like it’s okay to bash idols they don’t stan. We could go from sharing a fancam and using it in all of our tweets in hopes of it reaching it 2 million views to watching as some of our mutuals attack columnists and journalists for not writing what they wanted about their favourite group and asking for the magazine editorial that hired them to fire them. It’s incredibly intense and can get quite nonsensical.

And, obviously, there’s not a single fandom or online community that’s perfect, but I cannot speak on every single fandom because I am only one person and am only currently experiencing the absolute rollercoaster that is the online K-pop community. (READ THAT AGAIN BECAUSE I KNOW SOMEONE WILL COMPLAIN ABOUT WHY I DON'T SPEAK ON THE TOXICITY IN ALL KINDS OF FANDOMS).

We need to do a better job at ensuring that people feel more welcome online. We’re already living in a cruel world that does its absolute best to kick down people and make them feel unworthy. People are being denied job opportunities because of the colour of their skin, are not allowed to get married because of their sexual orientation, and are being bullied and abused in their personal lives by the people around them. We come online and take part in these fandoms because we expect them to be inclusive of everyone, open-minded to all of us, our experiences, and our opinions, and a fun environment where we can share content, support the ones we love, vote in important polls, and just de-stress (except during comeback season). But, that’s not the case and it’s quite unfortunate.

If people are not dragging other stans and calling the people they love “flops,” they’re spreading malicious and defamatory rumours online, threatening to unstan an idol or its group if they’re caught dating (or even breathing near someone of another gender) like a regular, young adult, sending hostile anonymous messages to just about anyone who says something of a different opinion than them, and more.

This kind of behaviour has never made any sense to me. Rather than for us to be coming together in a wholesome union and bonding over the hard work, perseverance, and creativity that the people we support put into their work on a daily basis, people use their insecurity-induced hatred to harass other stans. It’s even more disheartening because instead of for us to be encouraging these artists from Asia just trying to build a future and career for themselves despite all of the barriers they may face within their own country and xenophobia they experience when trying to break out into the West, people slander, bully, and even manipulate their followers because they feel like they’re invincible online and can do or say no wrong.

We need to do so much better, not only so that we can properly represent the people we support, but also just as individuals. We need to do a better job at understanding that not everyone will share the same opinions as us and that is OKAY. We need to do a better job at acknowledging that there are real human beings behind these display names and bullying them may affect them more than we think. We need to a better job at accepting constructive criticism and not taking it as a personal attack. We need to do a better job at not exploiting our followers into blindly following us or our beliefs as if this whole K-pop stanning is a cult, when it really isn’t nor should be. Stan culture romanticizes addiction which leads to the escalation of obsession. We need to develop healthier practices both online and in our personal lives, so that we’re not making fandom culture a more uncomfortable experience than it already can be sometimes. I want people to remember that even if K-pop is something that brings you joy and happiness, that there is still life outside of this.

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