Through the lens of stan behaviour; the phenomenon of Tacha

Former Big Brother Naija housemate, Anita Natacha Akide simply known as Tacha is trending again today, under a new pretext, yes. But the phenomenon itself is far from new. It has in fact since become an accepted norm in Nigeria’s Twitterverse – a day without at least one Tacha trend is one that must earn itself by presenting a more all-consuming and multifaceted topic of discussion than the immense capacity of Tacha’s devoted followers to come up with trending hashtags for their ‘Queen’

Elsewhere in the world, Tacha’s relationship with her fans who seem devoted to the point of insanity to a lot of non-fans, not only has a name, but a history and actual extensive writing done about it.

The name is ‘Stan culture,’ a subset of pop culture that can arguably get as toxic as anything pop culture has a potential to be. Any range of arguments can be made for and against Stan culture, but that is not what we are doing here. What we are doing is pulling apart the layers of complexity surrounding the phenomenon that is responsible for Tacha’s enduring virality on social media and what that might herald for Nigeria’s celebrity culture. Maybe when we emerge at the end of the zigzag. that is, this piece we will all better grasp the psychology behind this happening which at first glance seems bizarre, and who knows, we may come out of it also frantically tweeting the latest Tacha fanbase hashtag, because finally we too get it.

What does it mean to be a ‘stan’ and where does the Tacha fanbase stand when viewed through the lens of stan behaviour?

The term, like everything wonderful in pop culture according to older millennials, emerged in the 2000s. Popular rapper, Eminem released a song called “Stan.” The story of the song follows the character Stan, an over-obsessive fan who writes Slim Shady (Eminem’s alter ego). At first, Stan is optimistic and friendly towards Slim, but he gets more and more upset whenever Slim doesn’t write back. The writer becomes a violent stalker towards Slim and does violent actions to himself and the people around him.

That is the back story, but of course, as with everything culture whose very nature is set in a foundation of constant flux, the idea has since become expansive to encompass behaviours as varied as online adulation characterised by religiously sharing posts dedicated to the Stan’s favorite, to blind devotion that defies criticism, to online interactions that border on trolling where stans will drop an unrelated comment under people’s posts with a video of their favorite stars.

Tacha stans easily fit most of the aforementioned traits, plus more, so let’s do a rundown:

  1. They would pool money for her, even when she is actually better off than most of them:

This seems bizarre especially when you remember they are neither paying for a live performance, nor for an event ticket that will afford them an opportunity to see her. On a Stan scale of 1-10, that is at least 10.

2. They aggressively, as though the very fate of existence depends on it, go the extra mile to ensure she stays relevant, on the internet at the very least:

Most of the hashtags generated and furiously pushed by Tacha Stans are to drive one thing or another that Tacha is involved with.

When she featured in a music video alongside fellow BBN ex-housemate, Omasola, her stans trended #TachaYoutubeCruise, and aggressively streamed the video, landing it over 100,000 views in mere days. This has nothing to do with the substance of the song, it is strictly due to the inexplicably immense love the internet sensation enjoys from her Stans.

3. They distinguish themselves, Stan-style with a unique name, and their idol with a unique title:

In the style of Standoms globally, where megastars like Lady Gaga have a Stanbase with self-styled tag, her own Stans proudly calling themselves Little Monsters, Justin Bieber has a Stanbase that identify as Beliebers, Nicki Minaj‘s as the Barbz, and Beyonce‘s ruthless minions self-style as the BeyHive. Tacha’s own disciples refer to themselves as ‘Titans’ and refer to Tacha as their ‘Queen.’

Not many queens wield the power that she does though. The dedication they pour into this one-sided affair is such that Tacha’s career trajectory is not only assured to go up but to do so in the way these Stans determine is best for Tacha.

This has been demonstrated before when just fresh off the scandal of being evicted so close to making it into the top five in Big Brother Naija, celebrity presenter Do2un tweeted that he’d be the first in the whole country to interview Tacha. Her fans came for his jugular and reminded him that he didn’t support Tacha while she was toiling in the house and now he wants to take the glory of being the first to have a media interview with her.

In the studied style of Stans, the backlash from Titans got so bad he received death threats, to the point he had to apologise online and call off the interview. He would later be granted the interview. However, in the manner of an alpha beating a pack member into submission,  the balance of power had been ripped from Do2un into the hands of Titans who lay every win at the feet of their queen.

Stans will plough through any threat, perceived or real, against their favourite. And that’s exactly what Tacha stans do.

Is stan culture a problem? What does it do to the internet we all use? Most importantly, what is the psychology behind this bizarre subculture?

Everything has a potential to become toxic. Even water when consumed in excess can lead to low sodium levels in the blood (hyponatremia), which can be dangerous, same applies to this subculture. Stans can be vicious to anyone they perceive as even remotely posing a threat to their idol.

When stan behaviour devolves into extreme actions, such as sending harassing and inflammatory messages and threatening others, it becomes a problem. This has been observed in fandom of artists such as Beyoncé, whose Stans will rip  the head off a baby lamb if it dares pose a threat to their Queen Bey.

Stans may not necessarily be bad for the internet we all enjoy, even if we can’t all be as devoted as them to their favourites. However, stans represent a type of group polarization, reducing critical thinking. Group polarization describes the extremity that certain groups have making decisions than they initially would otherwise. According to the article “On Stan Culture,” if your opinion is different from theirs, then you’re wrong. There isn’t anything you can do to argue, compliment or negotiate your side. Your side is wrong, and their side is right. The internet allows these people to be together in isolated spots and they feed off each other.  You can’t interact with them, and you can’t avoid their content, that can be a nuisance.

The quirk that is Stan subculture has an explanation in psychology. Dr. Daniel Faltesek, a New Media Communications professor at Oregon State University, says that Stans do the things they do because of a key idea called “parasocial interaction.” According to “Parasocial Relationships: The Nature of Celebrity Fascinations,” parasocial interaction is a hypothesis that focuses on one-sided relationships, usually a fan towards a celebrity, where the former party exerts lots of energy, time and feelings into one person and the latter not knowing of their existence.

So perhaps rather than scorn them, we should have compassion for Titans, and whatever else Stans may crop up in celebrity culture over the coming years.

The phenomenon of Tacha, though not new when viewed through a global lens, will nevertheless baffle observers in Nigeria for a very long time to come. Which is no fault of Tacha’s or her Stans. In a country where everything is either divinely caused or diabolically orchestrated, it comes as no surprise that diving deep to understand things is just something that most people can’t be bothered with. Thankfully, that is why we are here.

Now that you understand the makeup and the power that Tacha’s Titans wield, are you ready to join the throngs and switch your social media handles to Tacha stan accounts? You don’t need to answer that, just do you, in moderation of course. I say that 10 retweets a day is not a bad start, what do you say?

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