How Deadheads and Directioners Made the Internet What It Is Today

Normal people tend to view stans in many ways, either amused by their histrionic slang (“your favorite never could”), impressed by their organizational dexterity, or horrified by their willingness to launch large-scale harassment campaigns. The relationship is one of intrigue and suspicion, not recognition; and so even those who identify as “chronically online” don’t always fully understand the motivations of stans, merely seeing them as a curious part of the online ecology. It’s there that Kaitlyn Tiffanyinternet culture writer at The Atlantic, intervenes. His forthcoming book, All I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created The Internet As We Know It, delves into the trenches of online fandom — deep-fried memes, bizarre and sometimes dangerous conspiracy theories — drawing on academic research and his own personal One Direction-loving history. It traces how fandom has shaped our modern internet: becoming our “dominant mode of commerce”, infiltrating our discourse. The book’s balance of first-person experience and scientific analysis, humor and rigor makes it an irresistible read.

Below is an edited excerpt from All I Need I Get From You, which begins with a search for Harry Styles’ vomit sanctuary and expands into a story from online fan spaces, from Deadheads on the WELL to Directioners on Tumblr.

I’m looking for Harry Styles’ vomit sanctuary. I know it was on Tumblr, I remember seeing it there. In the fall of 2014, at the start of my senior year of college, I also remember a GIF set of Harry Styles, answering an interview question about the sanctuary of his own vomit, nodding his head diplomatically and saying , first in a frame, “That’s interesting. Sure,” and in a second, “A little niche, maybe.

These are my memories. These are the facts. In October, Harry Styles went to a party at British pop singer Lily Allen’s house in Los Angeles. The next morning, in a chauffeur-driven Audi, in sportswear, returning from a “very long hike”, he asked the driver to stop. On the side of the 101 freeway just outside of Calabasas, he threw up near a metal barrier, looked up, and locked eyes with a camera. He’s sweaty, peaked; her hair is dirty, up in a messy bun. Yet dehydrated in gym shorts and gym socks, hands on knees by the side of the road, he still exudes Harry Styles elegance. Her cheekbones find the direction of the light, thanks to a reflex or a gift from God.

The day they were taken, the photos circulated in the tabloids and on Tumblr and Twitter, and a few hours later, an 18-year-old Los Angeles-based girl, Gabrielle Kopera, set out to find the location and l label for posterity. She went there alone, then stuck a piece of billboard on the fence: “Harry Styles vomited here on 10-12-14,” she wrote in big block letters. The grainy photo she first posted on her own Instagram later circulated on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and all those junky-looking celebrity blogs that are actually just search engine scams . Even more than the Harry Styles photos, I remember loving the photo of this sign. Harry Styles vomited here! That’s all he did, but given that we’ve only seen him vomit once before (gross story), and we’ve never seen him do it on this gravel strip, the sign suggested it was worth recording for posterity. Harry Styles vomited here! Six months earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported that Styles, then 20, had lost $4 million on a five-bedroom house in Beverly Hills (a photo gallery of the house’s interior was deleted from the story shortly after the publication). Yet he came down hills, jumped out of the car in an upscale suburb, and threw up in the street. Why stop at a piece of billboard? Why not a plaque?

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