How super internet fans went from pop stars to politics

In March, after France entered the blockade while the first wave of coronavirus stopped the nation, Lorian De Sousa turned to Twitter with nothing but time.

De Sousa, 20, a devout Smiler, a nickname given to fans of pop singer and actor Miley Cyrus, has created an account Out of context Hannah Montana, publishing random scenes from the cult Disney Channel show.

The account now has more than 65,700 followers.

“It all really started in April, when I randomly posted that Hannah Montana scene, for which we can see Miley’s character leaving her childhood home. … And today it’s basically, in a very subtle way, one of Miley’s biggest flat accounts on Twitter, ”De Sousa told NBC News.

Although the momentum of the bill gathered this spring, De Sousa had no idea it would become a tool for activism and political engagement.

This year, as political and social issues dominated the discourse in the United States, as a pandemic ravaged nations around the world and forced more and more people into digital spaces, apartment bills – bills dedicated to a pop star or celebrity – both in the U.S. and abroad they used their platforms to support or influence issues like the Black Lives Matter and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

On Twitter, flat accounts like De Souse are prolific, behaving like unofficial publicists, de facto PR teams and gossip columns for the stars they follow. There are dozens of accounts dedicated to a particular singer, rapper or star at any given time, with these super fans trying to knock out the artist’s next appearance when a new album falls, share their favorite photos and accurately track and compare sales and tickets on albums and songs.

Of the half-dozen apartment account managers who spoke to NBC News, most said a large, mostly like-minded audience allowed them to mobilize their followers to participate in social and political issues this year. They also attributed the pandemic to pushing people online, where they were more likely to come across apartment bills.

The term “apartment” is usually attributed to Eminem’s 2000 song “Apartment,” in which the rapper depicts a fan obsessed with him to madness.

Like De Souss’s Smiller status, flats usually have the sobriety associated with the star they follow. Lady Gaga apartments are Little Monsters, Taylor Swift apartments are Swifties, Ariana Grande stands are Arianators, Nicki Minaj stands are Barbz (short for Barbies), BTS stands are called Army and Beyoncé stands are identified as part of Beyhive.

But the relationship between Stan and the star goes in both directions, flats are mobilized to the point that they sometimes influence the behavior of celebrities. This mobilization around stars and celebrities can sometimes go too far and result in violence and even racism in the community. Stans have also been criticized for appropriating black culture such as African American Folk English or AAVE.

Summer apartments

Before the summer pandemic and social unrest, in 2020 she started with apartment bills that behaved normally.

The little monsters managed to leak “Stupid Love,” the lead single from Lady Chigat’s album “Chromatica,” weeks before the song’s official release. Rihanna Navy, fans of singer Rihanna, have been chasing clues as to whether and when the artist will release his ninth studio album. The Swifties celebrated the singer on the cover of the January 2020 issue of British Vogue.

But after George Floyd’s death in May, the Twitter apartment rallied behind the Black Lives Matter theme and anti-racism protests against blacks.

“Of course I have participated in many movements this year, especially in the Black Lives Matter movement. I remember that my account these days, at the time, had a completely different meaning. … Although I am French and from Paris, I was really worried about these movements, ”said De Sousa. “So over the course, I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to share my usual content in such a crisis.'”

Although all different types of apartments have come together to support those fighting for equality, in many cases K-pop apartments, fans of Korean pop music, have supported by trolling those who stood in opposition to the movement.

“Fandoms build on these characteristics that make them perfect activists and creators for change,” said Nicole Santero, 28, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, studying the culture and social structure of the BTS Army fanda, arguably one of the most influential apartment groups Worldwide. Santero is also a fan of BTS and runs the Twitter account ResearchBTS which has more than 90,000 followers.

This year, K-pop stans hijacked racist hashtags, flooding hashtags like #whitelivesmatter with nonsense or unrelated images. Networks of police tips online were flooded, in part, with pictures of K-pop groups and in some cases had to be shut down. Later in the year, K-pop apartments were flooded with the hashtag #MillionMAGAMarch, a demonstration in support of President Donald Trump after his failed re-election candidacy, with pictures of pancakes.

“Mobilizing on social media is super easy for fans,” Santero said. “They basically do it every day. So downloading these racist hashtags and trolling politicians is kind of this super petty example compared to the bigger, real world, the positive influences that fans are actually making.”

In June, BTS and their record label Big Hit Entertainment donated $ 1 million to support the Black Lives Matter campaign. In about a day, their fans settled that amount.

“The word is spreading so fast through these networks. We really see how fans can quickly get together and take collective action. As for what we saw this year, K-pop and BTS fans have definitely attracted a lot of attention, especially with their participation in the Black Lives Matter movement, ”said Santero. “They are very aware of the power they have.”

Although Santero said K-pop flats in their activism did not attempt to be political, some experts say the act of dealing with an issue like the Black Lives Matter, though outside the typical American political binary of left and right, is essentially a political act.

“Everything you do personally is political, which means that everything you do is informed by some systemic or political ideology,” said Casidy Campbell, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan who studies the internet, technology and black girls. “If I as a black man or anyone can criticize what you’re doing, there’s something political in what you’ve done.”

Politics and housing

As protests marched through the country in June, and the coronavirus continued to ravage the country, Trump was preparing to hold a pre-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

His supporters who planned to attend were encouraged to book tickets online. But when the ends of the internet, like Twitter’s apartment, got the news that tickets could be booked for free, they took the opportunity to troll.

Although it is unclear whether the tikTok stances and users, who banded together for the troll, had an impact on the low turnout of the rally, they still took the winning round on social media.

As the election approached, apartment bills used their platforms to advocate for certain candidates.

“We were actively tweeting‘ vote blue, ’so people were engaged,” said Moyin Sekoni, 17, who helps run Doja Crave, an apartment bill for singer and rapper Doja Cat. “And that was just the icing on the cake, when Doja put on Instagram the story that she voted.”

In most cases, the political preference of the bill account will rest on the values ​​and public attitudes of the star the bill sets.

“It just shows our fan base, the flats, we can all get together behind Gaga and talk about her music, but we can also get together for the same goals because Gaga is passionate about them,” said Jake Phillips, 19, of Los Angeles. who runs Lady Gaga, updates her Twitter account. “I think it’s important because I have such a small entourage that other people can find these resources from my account.”

In 2020, Stans used his influence for the purposes they believe in and earned some praise for his role in helping advance social issues. But the housing culture itself has long struggled with toxic and problematic behaviors, which include racism, black culture appropriation, and violence.

Under the microscope in the main stream

Although flat culture has made the leap from an internet niche group to the mainstream after its involvement in social and political issues in 2020, spotlights this year have also posed bare questions that have long plagued flat culture – especially on social media.

Moyin said she witnessed racism and fanaticism in the apartment community, sometimes in the form of “troll bills,” which accounts were created just to incite a mob against those the apartment believes they have harmed their favorite icon.

“He will put Lady Gaga as his profile picture and then tweet evil things, racist, xenophobic things to make people angry at Lady Gaga,” Moyin said, describing an example of misrepresentation and racism happening in the apartment community.

Santero mentioned that many K-pop fans actually prefer not to be identified as apartments because of the often negative connotations that apartments have earned over time.

K-pop was plagued by accusations of appropriating black culture, for example, wearing black hairstyles like braids and shirts, “talking in black,” and even wearing black, according to Vox.

In recent months, white and non-POC apartments in the community have also been inspected for appropriation of African American vernacular English or AAVE.

“Language is appropriated and there is often no recognition of where it comes from. It’s becoming a trick. It can almost come as a caricature of blacks, ”Campbell said. “On top of everything … you have access to different possibilities or you find it ridiculous when really your idea of ​​how to use the language really isn’t that original.”

Campbell said there is a Catch-22 when it comes to housing culture, especially when the housing culture culture moved into the political empire this year.

Stans is appreciated for supporting movements that strive for equality and an end to systemic oppression, but the effort must be more than a one-time event – especially when so much culture is rooted in black culture.

“There is a limit to which you must be aware that you are crossing. When does it affect you and when do you download too much? “Campbell said.

All account managers who spoke to NBC News recognized the toxicity that exists in the apartment community. But many have said they want to find ways to continue advocating for the purposes they believe in, saying their participation in social and political issues will not end in 2020.

“I plan to use my account again in the future to support political activities. It’s something I really want to do. It’s still something I do even now, when I see that something I think is wrong or that I really want to put stress on, like a social issue or anything else, ”De Sousa said. “I just want to use my account to put emphasis on it and just to make more people aware of what’s going on.”