What Is a “Stan,” and Where Does the Name Come From?

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Someone holding a card with the Twitter bird drawn on it next to a hashtag.

Are you a “Stan”? You’ve likely seen this term on social media sites, but what does it mean? We’ll explain, and equip you with the knowledge to spot Stans in the future.

What Are Stans?

Fans at a pop festival in Barcelona, Spain.
Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock

If you’ve been on any social media in the last five years, you’ve likely encountered the term “stan.” A stan is a highly devoted fan of a particular person, like a musician, actor, author, or influencer. Stans are characterized by their high commitment and intense involvement in a performer’s fandom.

The term is used as both a noun and a verb. Someone can identify as a “stan” of a pop artist, or they can also “stan” a new song or movie.

The History of “Stanning”

Eminem Rap Artist Song
Time Out Music

The term “stan” comes from the song of the same name on Eminem’s 2001 album, “The Marshall Mathers LP.” The track tells the story of an obsessed fan named Stan, who writes the rapper multiple letters. Eventually, Stan’s obsession spirals out of control, and he becomes violent.

Some suspect Eminem named the character Stan because it was a combination of the words “stalker” and “fan.”

Several years after the song’s release, the term was picked up by early internet forums to refer to ardent fans. Since then, it’s evolved into a catchall term for self-identified online fans of all types of media personalities and artists. It’s used on all social networking sites, but especially on Twitter.

A movement called “stan culture” has also appeared. Many online stans communicate, behave, and self-identify in specific ways. Being a stan usually involves joining a particular artist’s fandom and building a community with other like-minded stans.

What Do Stans Do?

Twitter Logo and Tweet Format

Most internet stans are part of a collective known as “Stan Twitter.” Its anonymous nature, coupled with the ability to actually interact with celebrities, has made Twitter the most popular place for stans to meet up.

Most stans don’t use any personally identifying information in their Twitter handles, either. Instead, they usually create a name and use a profile picture related to the celebrity they stan.

Stans are often able to organize and create large-scale movements that have a momentary impact on social media. They engage in the following activities to support their favorite artists:

  • Actively streaming or purchasing new songs and albums so they’ll rank higher on music charts.
  • Regularly posting or tweeting about their favorite artist to raise awareness.
  • Creating and popularizing various hashtags, trends, and memes.
  • Joining advocacies and raising money for charitable causes their favorite artist supports.
  • Participating in “stanwars.” This involves arguing with the stans of another artist, who’s a perceived rival.
  • Defending their fave artist during any controversies or scandals.

Stans also frequently like and reply to posts from celebrities who have a social media presence. Many stans also participate in more insular activities, such as creating memes and sharing inside jokes with other stans in the community.

A smartphone recording a live concert.
I’m friday/Shutterstock.com

An unusual part of the culture is the dominance of “fancams,” which are short clips of dancing Korean pop stars. Stans typically reply to various unrelated posts with these, to communicate the performing skills of these artists.

RELATED: What Is a Meme (and How Did They Originate)?

Stans and Online Culture

Stans have had a profound effect on overall internet culture. The most evident example of this is the expanding usage of “stan language,” which is a collection of terms frequently used on Stan Twitter. Some examples include “bop” (an enjoyable pop song), and “sis” (short for “sister”).

In recent years, however, the media has emphasized the toxicity of stan culture. Due to their anonymity, insularity, and dedication, some stans regularly participate in nefarious activities. These have included trolling, doxing, bullying, and the targeted harassment of others online.

Conversely, many artists enjoy this level of interaction and self-identification among their fans. It can also be especially positive when stans use their vast numbers and organization to perform political advocacy or raise money for charity.

RELATED: What Is an Internet Troll? (and How to Handle Trolls)

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