What Boy Band Fandom Taught Me About Fake News
When I was in middle school, I loved One Direction. A major part of my life was dedicated to the band; I had Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts that revolved around “the boys.” My friends and family who didn’t belong to a fandom used to make fun of me and say that I was wasting my time on something stupid, but a lot of great things have come out of this 1D obsession. I mean, Halsey got her start singing songs about Harry Styles and running a fan blog. For me, One Direction fandom taught me how to navigate the internet, how to respectfully disagree with others (the Larry Stylinson ship war, for starters), and it even pushed me to learn how to edit videos so that I could post fandom-related things to YouTube. But I think the most important thing I learned from being in a fandom was learning how to tell if something was fake news.
I was most involved in the One Direction fandom when the world was at the height of its so- called “One Direction Infection.” Every day, a ton of new stories about the band would appear online. These stories would claim vastly different things. Rumors of relationships, new music, fights, and even potential band breakups swirled around the internet. At first, I believed every single thing. I trusted anonymous sources and every website, blog, and fan account at face value. I had never really spent much time on the internet, and I just sort of figured that if something was published in an article, then it must be true.
I quickly learned, however, that this wasn’t the case. I probably should’ve known then that people would create completely fake stories for attention or clicks or money. I started to figure out what news I could trust, and what news I should be more skeptical of. Firstly, I recognized what websites often posted untrue stories, and steered clear of them. I focused mainly on publications that had a better vetting system for news stories. When it came to stories about specific people, I only believed news about them after the person in question had confirmed it. I never believed anonymous sources or even people who claimed they were close to the band. These people would often say whatever they had to for a paycheck or 15 minutes of fame. Lastly, I always confirmed news I saw on social media. If I saw a tweet that had something compelling, I’d Google it to see if there was any truth. Usually there wasn’t.
As I got older One Direction became a less important part of my life. I eventually stopped listening to their music and I no longer kept up on their whereabouts. However, I didn’t forget about everything that I had learned in the fandom; when fake news started becoming a political issue, I already had ways of dealing with it. During the election (and after, for that matter), it seemed like fake news was everywhere, but I used the tactics and skepticism that I got from being part of a fandom to recognize when something was fake. I know it sounds weird, but I think that if I hadn’t been part of the One Direction fandom, I would have a much harder time telling if a news story was real or fake.
So, the next time someone tells you that you’re wasting your time listening to your favorite band or writing a blog about your favorite TV show, just tell them all the things you’ve learned. Yeah, I learned a lot about Harry Styles…but I learned a lot about the world, too.
By Hannah Robbins, 16