Toxic Stan Twitter: Online community abuses social media platform


Photo by: Keyla Blanco

In 2019, it is estimated that there will be 2.77 billion social media users worldwide. The growth of social media in the 21st century has had many positives: people around the world use it to keep in contact with friends and family, as a form of entertainment, or even a news source. With a rapid growth of online users, one of the more popular areas of social media can be known as Stan Twitter.

The word “stan” is used to describe someone who is a “super fan” of something. Stan Twitter is the community of fans on the platform who use Twitter profiles to tweet about their favorite things, like celebrities or movies: the things they “stan”. Stans do not only exist on Twitter. There are  a community of stans on nearly every social media platform, including Instagram and Tumblr, but Twitter is by far the most popular.

Stan twitter has been around for years; One Direction, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift were among the most popular musicians talked about. Since its beginning, this community has grown to also include fans of other forms of entertainment such as movies and television shows. As the internet grows and changes, so does social media, and stan Twitter is no exception.

As an avid Twitter user and someone who would be considered a part of stan Twitter, I’ve seen how the community has grown and changed first hand. I first started my stan account, back in 2013 and have been on and off of it since then. It wasn’t until recently that I had realized how toxic this form of social media had become.

The 75th annual Golden Globes took place on the first Sunday of 2018 and stan Twitter was ready in full force. Before the show began, people were tweeting about their favorite celebrities that were present on the red carpet, while they also tweeted about how their favorite entertainers and movies/shows were “robbed” or “snubbed” of a nomination. One of the more popular ones being the nomination for Best Director, because Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) were two very favored directors despite not being nominated.

As the Golden Globes red carpet came to an end and the show began with Seth Meyers’ opening speech, stan Twitter were quick to hit “tweet”. Posts about “cancelling” Seth Meyers for an inappropriate joke about sexual harassment were quickly put at the top of my timeline. I continued to watch the show and check my Twitter timeline during commercial breaks.

When the best director category was announced by Natalie Portman and Ron Howard, Portman made a point to announce the category by saying, “Here are the all male nominees for best director.” After this she received much praise for calling out the subtle exclusion of female directors in such an important category. I was among those who cheered, but later felt guilty for it when I looked at my timeline. I saw people saying things along the lines of “Natalie’s message was important but she’s a zionist so don’t support that.” Zionism is another issue in the world that is used to “cancel” – a word used by stan Twitter to announce that they should not be supported.

As category nominees and winners were announced, stan Twitter erupted in discussion. When the category for Best Television Series- Drama was announced, many were angry at the loss Stranger Things took to The Handmaid’s Tale. As a fan of Stranger Things I was a little upset at the loss, but I recognized the fact that The Handmaid’s Tale is a great television drama and deserves the recognition. Many failed to do the same. Within the next commercial break there was a surplus of tweets, much of which were hatred directed at anyone involved with the production of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Stranger Things fans weren’t the only ones tweeting hate to celebrities: there were a handful of people tweeting absurd things at a young actor, 15-year-old Gaten Matarazzo (Stranger Things). The Golden Globes highlighted the Time’s Up movement by having entertainers wear all black to stand in solidarity, and some chose not to do so. Matarazzo was one of the few who dressed in something other than black, as he wore a dark blue suit. The teenager was scrutinized and hated on by several Twitter users, despite the fact he was vocal about the movement and showed his solidarity by wearing a Time’s Up pin on his suit. Keep in mind, he is 15 years old and most likely doesn’t style himself for big events like this.

Other actors were sent hate tweets due to failing to follow the “dress code.” I find this very hypocritical considering that those same people sending hate tweets were the ones calling the all black dress code “useless” and “unhelpful.” But stan Twitter went out of line well past calling out failure to follow dress code. As I mentioned earlier, hate tweets were sent at multiple entertainers who won awards because said Twitter users believed their idol deserved to win.

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) was a victim of hate tweets after she won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, the fan favorite being Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Fans who favored Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) for Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series – Drama were quick to tweet about the loss to Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale).

Stan Twitter has grown to become a part of the internet that thrives off hatred and “cancelling” celebrities. The issue goes beyond the night of the Golden Globes. Of course not all members of stan Twitter participate in it’s callout culture, but it’s still a big part and therefore a big problem. I used to enjoy coming onto my account and talk about my favorite things, but it has now become a place where I see nothing but the latest callout, and at times bullying, of a celebrity or even fans of said celebrity. This isn’t to say that some don’t deserve to be called out for their inappropriate behavior, but most of the time it’s excessive and unnecessary.

I’ve been fortunate enough to make friends online due to having similar interests. I made these friends through stan Twitter, and there are other reasons I believe it isn’t all bad. The internet is of great use to our daily lives, and the communities within them can be just as great. There will always be negatives to the internet, the toxicity of stan Twitter being one of them. I believe this can change if we no longer feed into the trolls controlling the hate accounts. If we don’t give the online bullies the attention they seek when sending out such hateful tweets, they tend to lose interest in the subject at hand.