Let’s start with the definition of ‘fangirling’ from The Urban Dictionary;
From the noun fangirl
To make loud high pitched noises (this includes squealing, yelling, or talking so quickly that it doesn’t sound like they are actual speaking a real language) or show their excitement for the object of their obsession though movement (this includes jumping, running in circles, etc.). Fangirling involves a lot of physical action unlike fanboying and can be quite annoying.
Thank you to the trusty source that is Urban Dictionary for starting us off there with a humorous take on fangirling. On the surface, yes I guess it’s funny, and most girls have done it at some point in their lives. But there is a side to it which concerns me and make me worried for impressionable teenage girls in 2013.
We all know that we live in a celebrity and reality TV obsessed and saturated culture. Hell, I’m as guilty of being sucked in as the next person. Much to my boyfriend’s disgust I devour episodes of the Kardashians, I pretend to hate TOWIE but love it really, and recently I’m also addicted to Made In Chelsea. Hands up, that’s me. But that’s kind of where it starts and ends. It is also part of my job as a radio presenter and journalist to be up on popular culture and to know who’s who and what’s what.
Growing up, my girlfriends and I loved Take That. I’ve still got my scrap book with endless pictures ripped from Fast Forward magazine with accompanying VERY cringe-worthy captions. My bedroom wall was obliterated with posters of Mark Owen and we thought we were the luckiest girls in the world when we got to see them at Earls Court 30th August 1995, Block 6 Row F (I only know this because my scrap book with ticket is in front of me, honest).
But 18 years on I think ‘fangirling’ has changed, and been taken to a deeper, more worryingly intense level. And I know this from my own experiences on social networking site, Twitter. Everyone uses twitter for something different. I use it for work, networking, chatting, meeting people and research. But it’s also a huge and easily accessible meeting place for fans. Just look at Justin Beiber – the most followed person on the planet with a staggering 40 million+ followers. Most of them are his loyal fanbase the ‘Beliebers’. And boy do they take it seriously. It’s like a religion. In the mornings if I’m doing a quick bit of research for my radio show on twitter and I search Justin’s name I am met by a wall of tweets, updating every second of fans desperately trying to attract Justin’s attention in some way. Some are truly desperate, others sound sad. Some are just nasty to each other.
I’ve also noticed, as a radio presenter that fans think they can get to their idol, their ‘God’, through me. In the infancy of my presenting career and my early days on twitter, I thought it was cute. Until I realised many of these girls (they’re not all girls by the way, but definitely the majority) are dedicating their entire lives to it, while real life is passing them by. One girl, who’s twitter account was a shrine to girlband The Saturdays literally pestered me for weeks – telling me that we should be playing their new record. When I glanced through her timeline there were thousands of tweets about The Saturdays, to The Saturdays, and to other Saturdays fans, posted at all times of day and night, and it made me sad. I somehow felt that this teenage girl was missing out on real friendships, real relationships and perhaps was using her obsession with The Saturdays to fill a void in her life. Of course I’ll never know if this is the case. But I got a very strong feeling. I was also recently pestered for a good couple of weeks on Facebook, Twitter and email by a teenage fangirl who wanted us to click on links and share information about American popstar Demi Lovato. Give the girl her due, she was tenacious. I just hope that she will be as tenacious when applying for university places or jobs in years to come.
I also see young girls tweeting their idols saying they wish they were them. Wish they had their hair, their boobs, their teeth, their talent, their fame. These tweets break my heart. I want these girls to have their own ambitions and realise that fame doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. I want to tell them that they need to work hard for their exams because it’s a tough old world out there. I want to tell them that they can be happy even if they don’t have Katy Perry’s perfect hair (most of it is fake anyway). I want to tell them they probably won’t ever live a celebrity lifestyle, but that is OK. I want to tell them to get off twitter and chat to their friends about boys, do their homework and go shopping at the weekends. I want to tell them to think about what amazing, empowering careers they could lead one day and that tweeting their popstar gods and goddesses relentlessly won’t help them achieve that.
It’s fine to have role models, we all do. I just worry that in a world soaked in celebrity and infiltrated every day by social media – there is going to be a lost generation of teenage girls who missed the best years of their lives because they were too busy concentrating on someone else’s dream.