My late teenage years were spent the way many others spend theirs… fangirling over musicians (and later others). Whilst most 16/17/18 year olds were busy partying (or whatever ‘normal’ or ‘cool’ teenagers did) I spent my evenings in my bedroom endlessly scrolling Tumblr looking at repeated images and GIFs.
You may think I was late to the party because “aren’t most fangirls tweens/in their early teens?”… Maybe. It honestly more depends on what you end up fangirling over and when they become a thing. The first thing I properly fangirled over was The Wanted. Yep, the boy band that ‘rivalled’ One Direction.
When The Wanted released All Time Low in July 2010 my little 15 year old heart melted. I’d always loved music and I especially loved a good boy band (or band of boys). It all began with Busted back in September 2002 (What I Go To School For). I remember when I heard they were splitting up and my tiny 9 year old heart was well and truly broken. After finding out that Charlie was the reason they split up he went from being my favourite member of Busted, to my least favourite (sorry Charlie, but I was 9 years old and you broke my heart). I quickly moved on. McFly were newly on the scene and I took an instant liking to them. I still like and enjoy McFly‘s music (I did go through a slight off phase because people were teasing me for liking them) but the ‘fangirl’ phase was short lived, if lived at all.
At the time of The Wanted releasing All Time Low I was just starting out in a new friendship group, was awfully shy and awkward, and rarely spoke out. I remember one day I went to the cinemas with this new group of friends and there was a poster of The Wanted outside advertising All Time Low. I remember everyone saying how they weren’t that keen on them and I daren’t say I actually liked them for fear that I’d be teased the same way I’d been teased before… so I kept quiet. I carried on liking The Wanted, asked for their album for Christmas and never really spoke of it to my new friends. It wasn’t until the summer of 2011, when I became closer with one of the girls from the cinema trip, that I admitted my liking of The Wanted. Or at least I admitted I had a crush on one of the members. Whilst we were both in the same friendship group we hadn’t really had much one-on-one interaction/communication before. In all honesty I thought she hated me because she never spoke to me. It wasn’t until later on I realised she was the same as me in that she was shy and quiet around new people (me being the new person in the group). I’m so glad that I told her because she told me that she liked them too. Over the years we’ve shared so many memories together, been on numerous adventures and ultimately become best friends.
Shortly after finding out that I had a friend who liked the same (boy)band as me The Wanted announced an arena tour, and after convincing my mum to let me go I booked tickets for my friend and I. I was so excited. My first ever concert. I started counting down the days immediately. A couple of months later, October 2011, I joined the
wonderful world of Tumblr and my fangirling levels increased by a million percent. I became obsessed with ‘knowing everything’ and endlessly scrolling Tumblr was my way of finding things out. Looking back it definitely reached a point where it was affecting my studies but I was in too deep at the time to notice. College was tough enough anyway. There were so many expectations. So much pressure. A need to do well to get into university. Going to university was something I’d dreamt of doing for years, but at the time of going through college I just wanted to do things that made me happy. Fandom made me happy. Admittedly I could have done better in my A-Levels but I made it into the university I wanted to attend so I was happy.
During my first year at university my fandom world fell apart. Everything my happiness was built on just smashed into tiny pieces. The Wanted announced they were taking a break from the band to pursue individual projects. My heart was empty and I felt a real sense of loss. Who was I without fandom? Fandom had become so much apart of me because I let it. I let it take over who I actually was because I hated myself so much. I wanted something to define me so people would think of me as a crazy fangirl. Being known as a crazy fangirl was easier than letting people see the real me.
A few months later and I found myself in a completely different fandom, the YouTube fandom. I needed something to fill the void in my heart and YouTube took over. Me being me it didn’t take long to pick ‘favourites’, a hand selected few people who I put on a pedestal. During my second year at university my world was rocked again. This time by a family illness. I was miles away from home. I didn’t know how to cope. So I locked myself away in my bedroom and turned to YouTube. I found comfort in the people I watched. I didn’t feel so alone because in a way I had them.
The cycle of obsession had a hold of me again. I longed for happiness. I tried to fill voids in myself with fandom. It wasn’t long before an opportunity arose to attend a theatrical show by two of my favourite YouTubers. I was blessed with a housemate/best friend who was also a fan of them. My mind was filled with determination. Not only was I going to get tickets for the both of us, I was going to get VIP tickets. We booked tickets on a whim (after a few alcoholic drinks) and once again, I had something good to look forward to.
It wasn’t enough that I was just attending the show, I had to take it one step further and try to help fellow fans to connect IRL through the show (if you know you know). My life was then dedicated to single handedly running that blog and the satisfaction I got from seeing people interact was overwhelming and like nothing I had expected. The show date came around, I had a great time, and then returned to the void and continued running the blog. News then came about that the show would be going on tour in another country and the traffic to my little blog became overwhelming. It well and truly took over my life (mostly evenings/early mornings because of time difference). By this point I had other people to help me run the blog but the majority of it very much fell on me. This really affected my studies and honestly made me unhappy but the feeling of being needed, of being praised for doing something, was too strong. The tour continued. Went to other countries. I carried on with the blog, inbetween tours I made the blog a general ‘update’ blog. In a way I was thankful when the whole tour was over because it meant I was free from it all, but by then it was too late. I’d finished university. The damage it did to my studies was over. I still managed to get a respectable degree but I can’t help thinking that if I’d put the same effort I’d put into the blog (and everything else it contained) into my studies, could I have gained a few extra marks and gotten a higher level degree?
At this stage in my life I no longer consider myself a fangirl. I used to be one, but I’ve outgrown it. Sure I still enjoy the things I used to like, I support The Wanted‘s solo careers and I obviously treasure all of the memories. I’m not saying that if The Wanted do decide to get back together and create new music as a band I won’t support it, because of course I will, I just don’t think I’d have the same mentality as the 16 year old who was enjoying her first concert.
Fandom can be great. It can give you a great sense of belonging. A safe haven when the real world gets tough. A reason to be happy. But they can also be toxic. People can be mean to their own (people in the same fandom). Certain people don’t understand the boundaries between ‘fans’ and ‘celebrity’. There are lots of double standards. The unnecessary wars between fandoms. Fandom can so easily become an addiction. Just like there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, there is also a fine line between casual observer and obsessive fangirl. Fangirling isn’t a new concept, it’s been around for decades (most notably Beatlemania in the 1960’s), yet fangirling has added a whole new level with the Internet. You feel so much closer to the people you admire because it’s so much easier to interact with them.
I don’t regret any choice to fangirl because I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had. It’s just the actual act of fangirling and the way I chose to do that somewhat ruined me. I got too invested in it all. I had no real way out other than to just completely cut Tumblr out of my life. This is something that was hard for me to do at the time, but now I hardly ever go on there (at least my ‘fangirl’ account anyway).
I also have come to realise that it was slightly wrong of me to put the people I look up to on pedestals. They’re just people, the same as us. The only real difference is that they have a larger following and influence over people. Meeting some of the people I looked up to (and still do look up to) was a humbling experience. I always wished I had met The Wanted when I was younger, but I’m glad I didn’t get that chance. 16/17 year old me would have just made a fool out of myself. I’d have said things that would have made me cringe now looking back. Or worse, not said anything at all and regretted it. Whilst I have definitely been ‘star struck’ meeting a couple of people they’re usually the ones that I thought I’d be fine around. I found this so weird, and I don’t know if it was or is the same for anyone else. People who I perhaps didn’t fangirl so much over are the people who I can’t speak to. Maybe it’s because I feel I don’t know them enough, or I feel I don’t deserve to meet them because I’ve only liked them for a short time. Maybe it’s all just in my head and I’m over complicating the smallest things.
The past year or so has really taught me that the people I look up to are just people and you can just have a normal talk with them. This isn’t revolutionary information but it’s taken me a while to understand this. Everyone is just going about their lives. Some are living their best lives and doing what they love on a daily basis and others are still trying to figure that out. Knowing and doing what makes you happy for a living doesn’t make you a better person than those who haven’t figured out a way yet.
We can all achieve greatness, we just have to believe in ourselves. Role models are great, just maybe don’t regard them as perfect beings because nobody is perfect. Don’t let somebody elses life become yours. Make and live your own life.
- Through attending my first concert, I was introduced to Lawson and quickly became obsessed with them as well (shocker), attending a number of their concerts, a signing and met them outside a radio station. Whilst I do, and certainly did, love Lawson I never really felt the same towards them as I did The Wanted.
- The ‘theatrical show’ mentioned was Dan and Phil‘s The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire and as I mentioned in the post you’ll know the blog if you know.
- I met Nathan Sykes, of The Wanted fame, at one of his single signings almost 2 years ago and whilst I don’t class myself as a ‘fangirl’ of his, he will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Whilst I say I was a part of certain fandoms, I never really felt much apart of them and didn’t really make many friends through them. I was an observer of fandoms. I always felt like I was the odd one out. Almost like I didn’t quite belong there.
- I continue to attend signings and similar events however these are rare and I don’t ‘fangirl’.
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