Sometimes, when perusing Twitter dot com and enjoying the posts of musicians I like, I have a little scroll down to see what other fans have been saying to them. In among the usual "choke me daddys", I noticed something else: a whole lot of "I FUCKING HATE YOU!" and "I WISH YOU WERE DEAD!" from people who appear to be fans. The times I have seen artists call them out, the stans-in-question scream they were finally "noticed". They pin the tweet, put the date in their bio, their friends congratulate them. When they are finally blocked, "blocked by x on date" goes in the bio too. To me, it's one thing to scream into what you believe is the void without expecting a response, but it's another to not feel bad – to be proud, even – when your words affect your fave negatively.
Back when I'd send Good Charlotte detailed, essay-length messages on Myspace as a teen, I never would have considered telling Pete Wentz I hated his guts just to get a reaction. But, obviously, I am now old, and the language of fandom has changed since 2006. That's to be expected. But… why so mean? I found my answers by diving into the place where fans dwell the most: in the mentions.
Noisey: Hi, Tori. What kind of stuff do you usually say to your faves?
Tori: It really depends, but it's mostly sarcasm or something rude. I just think it's funny and that they understand what I'm saying or how I mean it… even though I've never met or talked to them.
Why do you do it?
I think, at the end of the day, I just want to give my fave musicians a laugh. They go through a lot of stress and if I can lighten up their day by saying something stupid, then I feel that my job as a fan is accomplished.
Do you ever worry whether they get upset?
There's no context for what you say online. I can try to make a joke that is only for one fan but it could be taken seriously by the artist and then I've offended someone. It's a risk you have to take as a fan: make a rude remark that'll get the fandom laughing and get big on Twitter, or say something sweet and heartfelt for your fave to possibly see by some stroke of luck. I guess it's just easier to take the risk of hurting them and getting noticed rather than just being another sweet fan.
Right. Why do you think people show their love in that way now?
As times have changed, how we express ourselves has too – this is just one of those changes. The internet makes it a hundred times easier to get noticed by your fave, but also so much harder to do so. You have direct access to them anytime, but they have millions of followers with the same intentions, so it's not that easy to stand out. It becomes a bloodbath of fangirls/boys trying to show love and get the attention they've craved for years. I think people get so sassy or rude because we get bored of not getting noticed, so we think of something that would make us and our online friends laugh.
How do you think you would behave if you actually met them, though?
I'm a really awkward person in real life. I'd probably see them standing there and either scream or cry. If I had the guts to actually go up to them then I'd most likely be a stuttering mess and say something stupid like, "uhh, spaghetti" and run away because I was so scared.
Kiley, 17, @tigerlord227: Waterparks fan
Noisey: What kind of stuff do you usually tweet Waterparks?
Kiley: The type of things I normally say are things along the lines of "rat", "trash", I use curse words like "bitch". I also say "fight me" quite a lot and I'm not sure why.
What's the meanest thing you've said to them?
Personally, I don't believe I really say mean things. Everything that I tweet is more for comedic purposes or supporting them from what I remember.
But … OK. Why do you do it?
I'm not quite sure why I do it, I think it's just like one of the phases and a new part of the language.
Do you ever worry about if they get upset?
To be completely honest I never really thought of them getting upset, if they ever did and are reading this I'm sorry, but I think they know we mean it as a joke.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen other people say to bands?
Weirdly enough I see a lot of people saying to either run them over with a truck or some mode of transportation. I also see a lot of people tweet at them to punch or kick them.
How do you think you would take actually meeting them?
I have met Waterparks before and I didn't really know how to act. I was shaking quite a lot, because of course you're behind a screen and not facing them when you tweet things but when you're in front of them, especially for the first time, it's hard, at least for me.
Devin, 20, @perksofmusic: The 1975 fan
Noisey: What's the meanest thing you've ever said to a band you like?
Devin: I think the worst that people say I've done is physically yell in person and tweet at Awsten Knight from Waterparks for wearing yellow crocs.
Mainly for jokes, since the artists are the same age as us – they have the same sense of humour. They don't take us seriously just like our peers don't. At the end of the day, we are all just kids who get the same kind of sarcasm and are being real to one another. It's not like they're on a higher platform than any of us. As a music major in university, I know how they reached the achievement they have and where they started. They're just kids who make music that influences others and were able to achieve success better than most. I treat them how I'd normally treat my friends.
Do you ever worry they might not take your joke that well?
I never worry about upsetting them because, again, they have the same mentality as us. Also, they always joke back to us. It's a weird kind of special bond.
Have you ever said anything like this in real life?
After an All Time Low concert where Waterparks opened, Awsten wore a pair of bright yellow crocs. After the show I chatted to him and brought up what he was wearing, because he's a person who likes acting like an idiot. To make it simple, I was pretty much like "what the fuck are on your feet and what's with that shirt?" – he was wearing a sweater with himself knitted on it. He understands how much of an idiot he is so of course he laughed and told me he only had the sweater on because a fan gave it to him.
Danielle, 18, @parxboys: As It Is/Waterparks fan
Noisey: What kind of stuff do you usually say to bands?
Danielle: It really depends on the content of the tweet but Waterparks (mostly Awsten) just post funny dumb things a lot, so it could be things like "wow I hate all of you" in response to a bad pun. I've said that I'm unstanning for some dumb joke. It's more about being dramatic than it is mean.
Then what's the most "dramatic" thing you've said to them?
I think when Awsten posted some poor fashion choice as a joke I said that it was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. Or, once, I said I fucking hate As It Is. It's more a joke than anything. I think it has more to do with having a dramatic dry sense of humour than about being mean, though personally my humour tends to be insult-based.
Do you you think it might upset them?
Not really. If they only see that tweet and not my bunches of others praising them and kissing their asses I think it's ridiculous. But most bands do recognise it as a joke and do engage in the same way.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen other people say to artists?
Whenever people say sexual things it's a little wild. And I don't mean shit like "I WANT HIM IN MY ASS", because that could be interpreted as just dramatic, but when it's like detailed sexual things it's just cringey to me.
Why do you think people say that shit to their faves?
I think people aren't as outwardly affectionate as they used to be and a lot of this language comes from stan Twitter and isn't really used anywhere else.
Aly, 21, @alydamminger: Niall Horan and All Time Low fan
Noisey: How much would you label what you say as mean?
Aly: I've never said anything "mean" to anyone online because I was a victim of cyberbullying growing up, so I'm usually pretty careful about what I post. Sometimes, I tweet things that are a little sarcastic (for example, saying "stfu" to artists/celebrities etc, when they tweet something random or witty or controversial but it's always in a sarcastic, joking sort of way).
What if they don't get the joke, or the sarcasm doesn't translate?
The bands/artists I interact with most often are people I've grown up with. For example, I've listened to All Time Low and The Maine since 2007 when I was in middle school and they were small and lesser-known acts. Since then, we've all grown up and, although they've both become very successful, to me, they've remained a constant and are still very much the same boys I knew ten years ago. Because of this, and because they're all pretty down-to-Earth, I feel like I know them personally. Therefore, I don't really think twice before sending a response to them.
Why do you think people say mean stuff to their faves?
I think these people are just looking for attention. They're hoping that the bands and artists they're tweeting will notice them and, in return, follow them or respond back to them. I also think they're looking for attention from other users who will further encourage these behaviours, in an attempt to seem "witty" or "funny" or "quick" online and gain more followers.
What We've Learned
When I embarked on this mission, I expected a few things: that the fans would be mostly younger teens, that they're well-versed in quickfire, deadpan humour, and that they were so wrapped up in what they were doing that they maybe weren't aware of how it could impact someone. It turns out some of them were roughly my age, and how we demonstrated our fandom diverted along the way. I also found that, for the most part, they know what they are doing. Their "mean" jokes are often for the benefit of other fans and are written with the emotional remove of so much of the sharpest teen online humour. With bands like All Time Low, these vocal fans don't seem to see about how a musician in his late twenties might interpret people ten years younger expressing "love" by calling them ugly or saying they hate them. They don't all seem to consider how their words taken at face value might impact their relationship with their faves if they were ever to meet or interact – tone notoriously doesn't always translate when written down. It's as if they see musicians as either entirely separate creatures who cannot be hurt, or as friends on their level. It's wild to me – but, then, maybe I'm just really fucking old.