Teen Tribes: Fan Clubs Take On New Meaning

Are you a Gleek? A Directioner? A Lovatic? A Belieber? There are hoards of teen tribes roaming the Internet and meeting up at pop culture events. Nowadays, every teen icon has its own posse that has often mobilized independent of the artist — and then is usually recognized and embraced by the artist. And these tribes aren’t limited to pop stars and music — there are also Twihards, Tributes, and Potterheads who formed around their favorite books and movies.

Teen fan clubs have been around for decades, but Millennial teens have added a new layer that is generation-specific. According to Neil Howe, one of the seven core traits of Millennials is that they are team-oriented and collaborative in nature. Their engagement with other teen fans goes beyond reading fan zines and writing letters to the stars. Millennial fan clubs aren’t formal factions led by club presidents. Today’s teen fan clubs are more like tribes in which everyone contributes to the group and helps build excitement around an artist, expressing their love on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more. There’s also not an us-versus-them mentality — most Beliebers aren’t going to fight with Directioners about who’s better. In fact, a few might fall into both tribes.

One reason these tribal teen fan clubs have taken hold is because social media allows teens to interact and connect around a shared passion. The see each other and chat on the star’s Facebook fan page and follow each other via Twitter. They get to know each other that way. And then when there’s a concert or event in their area, they can actually meet up in person.

What’s more, as a group, fans feel like they can contribute to the artist’s success. Without Beliebers pouring their love out on YouTube, Bieber may not have landed a record deal. Without Directioners clamoring to meet their idols, the bands’ “Today Show” performance would have been a stuffy indoor event, instead of an outdoor screaming teen fest. Millennials have seen how putting their support behind an artist can ultimately lead to their widespread success, giving them motivation to band together.

The key marker of today’s teen fans is that they’re all about having a shared experience around their favorite pop culture phenomenon, whether online or offline. They feed and validate each other’s love for the artist. Gone are the days of the two-person fan club that meets in their parents’ basements — now there are tribes of fans that meet online and gather in packs to support their favorite artists.

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