My experience of the One Direction Twitter “fandom”

Over the weekend I experienced the much talked about wroth of the One Direction “fandom”.

It started when my girlfriend and I were waiting at a juice bar in a Sydney shopping centre. My girlfriend, Amie, a One Direction fan, started mumbling something and motioning to the end of the queue. She had spotted band member Harry Styles, flanked by a couple of hefty looking companions. I turned around to get my juice and when I looked back she was tapping Mr. Styles on the shoulder and then shaking his hand. She beckoned me to take a photo, and Styles and I shared a begrudging “alright mate”. 

We were quickly moved on by his security just before a group of girls flocked towards him. Styles left, wishing us a good day as he walked past us. When we were outside I tweeted the photo I’d taken. Here I made my first mistake, tweeting the name of the shopping centre where the photo was taken. It was unnecessary information and only served to increase the number of retweets I eventually received, as fans excited to meet him shared the information on his whereabouts.

I soon got a few retweets as well as people tweeting at me. They kept trickling in and after a while it was moderately annoying. Later, I was watching football and my phone kept going off. It was then that dedicated One Direction fan accounts started tweeting the photo, tagging me and mentioning “my wife” in the picture. I then started noticing other people tweeting the photo without attributing it to me. And some not even mentioning the location.

There are thousands if not millions of pictures of Harry Styles out there. Why would any of his fans be interested in one of him with a fan they do not know? After a little while, my girlfriend thought about the potential fallout on Tumblr, a network on which she is particularly active. Shortly after, one of her friends contacted her on Facebook saying she’d seen her photo on Tumblr. We checked and saw there was over 1000 notes. This has since grown to around 3000. We didn’t even begin to look at the comments. This was just absurd and we both got quite annoyed at it.

This is where I made my second mistake; underestimating the craziness of their fan base.

I tweeted this and all hell broke loose:

Floods of tweets came in, abusing me, most with the similar attitude that if I didn’t like it, I shouldn’t have have put it on the internet, and that I was stupid to expect anything else. I started to reply to a few, explaining my issue with it, but it soon became too much to keep up with and no one really seemed to understand my problem. Except one person:

I feel like I need to clarify an important point, a point which very few of the fans tweeting me seemed to understand: it is not okay to take a photo from someone’s profile and distribute it without permission or any form of credit or attribution. I can deal with the retweets, I get that it’s part of Twitter but to take that picture and tweet it independently or share it across another networks is seriously strange behaviour. I am acutely aware that if you put something on the internet you should be prepared for these things to happen but that doesn’t stop it from being fundamentally messed up.  Twitter, in its terms of service, says:

This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.

Fair. Tweets can be retweeted. However, it also follows up with this:

Twitter has an evolving set of rules for how ecosystem partners can interact with your Content. These rules exist to enable an open ecosystem with your rights in mind. But what’s yours is yours – you own your Content (and your photos are part of that Content).

Despite posting the photo on the internet, I am still the owner of it and although it was not re-used for commercial gain, the principle in itself is disturbing. (As a brief aside, I haven’t even checked Instagram and I don’t want to. Later on I saw weird mashups of various fan photos (fan fan-art?).) I then tweeted this and got a new wave of abuse (I guess I should have learned, right?):

It was almost a genuine question, I was getting infuriated with the quantity and frequency of tweets, and even more so at their attitude towards sharing content. I even managed to tolerate their horrific spelling and grammar. (Although some were too good not to retweet.)

 

I was conscious that arguing with kids always makes you look like bad, so I just stopped replying to them, except when it appeared as if I was being threatened. My friend, Nathan, jumped in with exactly my sentiments.

I began to think more about it and how this cross-section of a generation is truly scary. Hopefully their attitude towards the internet will change but right now they’re just doing it wrong. On another weird note, I didn’t retweet Nathan but our subsequent conversation did attract some attention from One Direction fans. I can only assume they were stalking my profile. It was pretty freaky seeing people constantly retweeting me.

One Direction fan retweeting @timothyhodge
One Direction fan retweeting @timothyhodge

After it died down I decided to search my name on Twitter. Thankfully there weren’t many results but I did notice some from two people who tweeted me numerous times in quick succession, one by a person who claimed to be nineteen. Yes, an adult.

One Direction fans tweeting about @timothyhodge
One Direction fans tweeting about me

I don’t think they understood where I was coming from. I pretty much left it to die down and I’m quite glad I did. Otherwise, I think it would only have got worse. I wanted to contact the original Tumblr poster and ask them to remove it but Amie didn’t want me to. It wouldn’t have undone all the reblogs and, as much as I hate to say it as I wouldn’t like my actions to be dictated by the potential reaction of teenagers (and that’s precisely why I’m blogging this), it would probably have escalated it further. The whole thing was completely bizarre, a very strange experience that was, to some extent, actually quite worrying. To my knowledge this was at the featherweight end of the One Direction “fandom” but I came out of it with one thought: Harry Styles’ fans should be more like Harry Styles. I don’t know much about him but I found him polite, friendly and considerate. For some light relief here are a few of my favourite tweets that I received:

 

Tim Hodge
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Tim Hodge

Tim Hodge lives and works in Sydney. He specialises in web content including SEO and social media. He also writes about craft beer, art, culture and football.

Feel free to contact him on Twitter @timothyhodge, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Tim Hodge
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About Tim Hodge

I'm Tim, a human being living in Sydney, Australia. I spend a lot of time despairing over Leeds United and the rest of it writing, making/looking at art, reading, watching films and dabbling in SEO, social media and content marketing.
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