Taylor Swift has long been known as an artist. Swifties are the loyal fan base behind her and can be viewed as a social group. This article will provide an introduction to the Swifties and how they work, connecting the group to important issues such as superdiversity and neoliberalism.
Welcome to the Swifties
When you turn on the radio, chances are you're hearing a song by Taylor Swift, one of the greatest singers of our time. The 27-year-old has been around for quite some time, having released her first album in 2006 when she was just 16. It was an instant hit, with their first album hitting 39,000 sales in just one week. It wasn't long before he became a major force in today's pop culture. Eleven years later, she's still a huge part of the pop music scene, and her new single is already breaking records, racking up nineteen million views in just one day. To be such an influential icon you have to have quite a devoted fandom, which you definitely do.
Figure 1. Preview of Taylor Swift's new single
Taylor fans call themselves Swifties, and the fact that they're a social group is the subject of this review. His followers come from all over the world. When you think of a Taylor fan, you might picture a girl singing all the songs. So what makes them different from other social groups? Obviously his love for Taylor. They show him how to create social media accounts for them, make YouTube videos, upload fan art, etc. But can it be more? Are there more rules to being a Swiftie than just liking your music? When can you call yourself a "Swiftie"? We try to answer these kinds of questions in this article.
Digital ethnography and data
Due to digital developments, the functioning and communication within fandoms has changed. The fact of the matter is that contemporary fandom is largely an online affair (as Figure 1 nicely illustrates), and so is the Swifties. Digital ethnography is required to study this social group, as members of the group act and communicate primarily online. The extent to which fandom operates will be our main source of information. In particular, we will focus on the fact that identity and behavior are always embedded in infrastructures (Maly, 2017). We will analyze this group on digital platforms, focusing on their behavior, communication and activities on these platforms. Therefore, our research field will be mainly an online field.
„Digital ethnography is a study of online and offline practices and shaped by communicationScan”(Varis, 2014). As the second part of the definition already suggests, Swiftie's offline practices are also influenced and perhaps even shaped by digitization. Many members of the group meet through digital communication, which shapes their offline practice as they met on the internet. In this case, the online and offline worlds are closely connected and there is almost no barrier between the two.
Swifties communicate and act primarily in the digital world, embedded in infrastructure.
Another important way we collect our data is by conducting interviews with Swifties members. As mentioned above, we need to examine digital environments to understand how this group works. The problem with this approach is that we only see what's on the screen and this can be misleading (Varis, 2014). By interviewing some of the group members, we hope to glean more "background" or "hidden" information that we might not be able to learn by simply studying "the screen." We also look at the offline perspective of fandom and not just social media accounts. In doing so, we create a broader perspective on the social group and see how the group is also influenced and shaped by online platforms in the offline world.
We did an interview with Hannah Jorissen, who is part of the Swifties fandom, via Whatsapp. Another source is Savannah Goodson, moderator of the Facebook group "Taylor Swift". This position as moderator not only gives her (1) a broad perspective of the social group, but she also has insight into her own participation in Swifties and into the behavior and interactions of the various members of the Facebook group. And (2) it gives an idea of the social structure of the group: it can be seen as a teacher (Becker, 1963).
We also receive information from the fan page.TaylorSwiftWeb.netfor more insider info on the fandom. These interviews are conducted via Facebook Messenger. We are aware of the limitations of our approach. Interviewing three people isn't much, and a medium like Messenger isn't ideal for conducting this type of interview. We would like to emphasize that these interviews only serve to triangulate the main data of our research. The main data consists of our online observations of swifties on different platforms. In short, we use information from individual fans, as well as information from fansites or fan bases.
In order to collect data about Taylor Swift fandom and to describe and analyze how it works, we also need information and analysis about fandoms in general. This theoretical framework for fandoms as a whole can be relevant to understanding how a particular fandom works.
Superdiversity and neoliberalism
The Swifties as a social group can only be understood within a very specific phase of globalization: neoliberal globalization. Swifts are a transnational phenomenon and new media are essential infrastructures for this social group. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the structure of our world has changed dramatically. Today we live in a super-diverse society, where diversity itself has become even more diverse (Vertovec, 2006).
The new media technologies that came with superdiversity are essential to the development of fandoms, which are a great example of what Maly & Varis (2016) call "superdiversity". Maly & Varis not only point to the new migration patterns as a cause of the diversification of diversity, but also to the diversification as a consequence of the rise of digital media and the economic paradigm shift (2016). digital media created''new forms and standards of identity construction and cultural production(Maly, 2017).
The Swifties are clearly an example of these new forms of identity production. You are fully networked with digital media. Fandoms and thus Swifties not only communicate offline at concerts or meetings, but also online via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc. Their community is largely formed online. Individual fans subscribe to Swiftie-centric social media to keep up to date with the latest gossip, facts and tour dates for their hero. Their online existence is often noticeable as the fandom creates popular and trending hashtags that are often noticed by other users as well. Because of this, non-Swiftie digital media users will also experience its presence.
Fandoms like Swifties showcase the super diverse, digital, neoliberal world we live in today.
In addition to the importance of digital media in understanding the Swifties, we must also include the importance of the new economic structure in explaining this social group, namely: '“a neoliberal paradigm focused on niche production(Maly, 2017). Basically, our society has become more and more consumer-oriented. As consumers, people can form different groups to differentiate themselves from others in society. The market is producing all these kinds of new products that would never have been made if it weren't for people's consumer behavior (Jayne, 2005). Producers want to make a profit, so they make what consumers want. Swifts are such a lucrative niche - the social group is deeply commercialized.
If we look back at the extremely diverse society, we can see that all these different people are forming new types of groups based on all these new products. They are the result of the capitalist myth par excellence: you are what you buy. Thanks to digital media, these new niche groups can reach a much larger number of people due to the higher level of organization they can achieve. For example, in the past, someone from India would never have access to the work of Taylor Swift and her fans. Now virtually anyone with internet access can find information about the pop artist, enjoy her updates, and watch her new videos at the same time, the same way American swifts do. Our neoliberal society has pushed people to get involved in new groups; The Swifties are one of these new groups.
Swifties is a super diverse community where a lot of differences can be made
Our social group, the Swifties, isn't difficult to associate with the term superdiversity, a term often used when examining the modern western society in which we live today. It's a super diverse transnational group itself, full of different ethnicities and other diversities. As mentioned above, our normal everyday life is heavily influenced by the digital world and this has created a new sense of what it's like to be part of a fandom. The fact that our chosen fandom focuses on Taylor Swift sets her apart from other fandoms. Fandoms are an aspect of social diversity, and within our social group we can make even more distinctions. Of course, we can also distinguish swifts by gender, class, age group, motives, preferences and profession. This may make our study a bit more difficult as the group is non-homogeneous and contains a diverse group of individuals. The group itself is a super diverse population. But what makes Swifties the fandom it is?
norms and rules
There are some pros and cons between Swifties. They aren't written down anywhere, but every decent Swiftie agrees with them and plays an important role within the group. The following quote (originally in Dutch but translated to English) illustrates some of the rules and regulations:
"I can't really say that there are clear "rules" among the fans. I have several social media accounts focused on Taylor Swift and I think there are some social standards. Bullying is (obviously) not welcome. Bad words are not really appreciated. Accounts that post hate on other accounts are often criticized and sometimes removed, but that's not often. We're quite a cold fandom and very supportive. So the rules were never really necessary.I once joined a Taylor Swift fan app that had clear rules but mostly revolved around the content of the posts. In fact, it's really impossible to imitate Taylor. This was fairly common in this app and the admins removed these accounts immediately..” (Hannah Jorissen, WhatsApp Interview, 2017)
She acknowledged the fact that among fans there are no explicit rules, but of course there are all sorts of unspoken social norms that fans are supposed to abide by. Swiftie fandom tries to be nice to one another, and because of this aspect of fandom, explicit rules have never been necessary. So, according to Hannah, there are no obvious rules that fans have to follow; instead there are social norms. As Howard Becker saysoutsider(1963, S. 1), „Social rules define situations and the behaviors appropriate to them, designating some actions as "right" and prohibiting others as "wrong."”.” Applying this to the norms mentioned by Hannah, they can be viewed as rules, specifying certain actions as right and others as wrong. Swifties are "nice," "not bully," love Taylor Swift, see her as a best friend, and don't imitate Swift.
These norms do not deviate significantly from the rules of etiquette that prevail in society at large. Bullying, for example, is not allowed among Swifties, and we also reject it in society. As Howard Becker (1963) states, an outsider is a person who breaks the rules agreed upon by a group. Someone can be considered an outsider if they break the established rules within Swift fandom. From an 'etiquette' point of view, one could say that this social group remains subject to the same socially created rules of politeness and as such cannot be considered a counter- or sub-culture as it describes it. Becker in his analysis of the social groups he examines in his book. The key element that Swifties organize around is being a Taylor Swift fan: following various media online, installing the app, buying records and merch, and working for Taylor Swift by watching movies and on Click links to get a good ticket to his show. Swifties aren't "counterculture," but they're distinctly different from metal fans or skaters. Our modern society today consists of many different groups and segmented transnational cultures; Niche fandoms are just a product of the online culture we live in now. From this perspective, Swifties can be seen as outsiders. Alternative music fans will probably laugh at them for following a "pathetic artist"; others will criticize Swift for enslaving her fans.
Today's societies are a collection of niches, and only if you love Taylor Swift unconditionally can you be a Swiftie. All the rest are strangers. Our request for "rules" for being a Swiftie influenced the responses we received. All respondents answered that "there are no rules", after which they explained "one rule":
For example, Savannah Goodson (Messenger interview) also confirms that there are no rules to being a Swiftie: "There are no rules, we just LOVE Taylor Swift so much and will do whatever it takes to stand up for her! she is oursBest friends!!"Except, of course, that you have to 'LOVE' Swift and 'Do anything to defend her.'
If there are certain explicit rules between Swifties, that's always the case in certain communities or fan pages. Some fan communities or apps have what is called an "admin" who manages the content (interview with Hannah Jorissen) and creates certain rules that we can see in a Swifties Facebook community called "Taylor Swift". These rules are not Swiftie rules, but serve to maintain group peace (Fig. 4): they organize the interactions in the group. Managers therefore have a major impact on structuring interactions and maintaining common sense in the group. On a global scale, these rules organize Swifties as an English-speaking political group structured around Swift-Talk. The most important rule maker is Taylor Swift herselfnew system for purchasing tickets for concertsFor example.
Figure 4. The rules that members of the Taylor Swift Facebook group must follow
To call yourself Swiftie you have to love Taylor Swift and of course be a fan of hers. However, owning one of their products is not a must:"No, you don't have to have goods, many Swifties are younger teens who don't have a job.(Savannah Goodsen, Messenger Interview, 2017). This is also confirmed by the TaySwift.com fan page: "From the point of view of our group definitely not! Just because someone can buy a lot of products doesn't make someone any less of a fan who can't.“. (Interview via Messenger, 2017).
In terms of language and behavior, it is definitely not enough if someone in the group bullies another person and verbal abuse is not appreciated either. When this happens, bullies are severely criticized and in some cases even removed from the group. Respectful behavior is very important and fans will treat each other with respect within the fandom (Hannah Jorissen). In general, bullying between fandoms is not sanctioned between fandoms. There is even a website called "Stand against fan bullying' to put an end to this phenomenon.
The crusaders who structure the social group are Taylor Swift herself and the fans of the social group, who have a large following and therefore a lot of influence over other fans. Taylor Swift is the person who unites all of these people. People in the social group adore and love her, making her an incredibly influential person for the social group.
Also, there are many fan accounts with a large following. Individual fans are active on social media and can have a large following. In addition, there are also various Facebook communities and fandoms that operate on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (Figure 6). Smaller fans will look up to these people or fandoms and thus have a big impact on the fandom. This includes the ability to create specific rules, such as B. the one in Fig. 4.
Cowardly. 6 Facebook search results for Swifties (left) and TaylorSwiftWeb Twitter communities (right).
In summary, the Swifties are a typical social group of our time; its members work and communicate mainly through online infrastructures. The group can be associated with concepts such as superdiversity and neoliberalism. Of course, to call yourself a Swiftie, you have to be a fan of Taylor Swift. Other than that, there aren't any clear traits or rules for being a Swiftie, as owning goods isn't even a necessity. Swifties are bound by social standards and norms in their hobby, but there are no clear rules. When there are rules, they are used to keep the peace within a given community.
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Jörissen, Hannah. Interview per WhatsApp. 2017.
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Taylor Swift Web. Messenger-Interview. 2017.
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