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Taylor Swift Phenomenon: Obsessive Behaviour in Fandoms

Explore the phenomenon of Taylor Swift fandoms, understanding the reasons for Swiftie's obsession and the potential for cult-like behaviour. Learn about healthy fan attitudes and behaviours.


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image by rawpixel

Table of Contents



Introduction


canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada
canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Taylor Swift is an American singer who started her singing career at a very young age. She was born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, on December 13th, 1989. Though she is well known for her talented voice, she is also praised for her excellent songwriting skills. Her talent in writing heartfelt poetic lyrics that resonate with many people's love life has made her gain a massive fanbase. In October 2014, Taylor Swift released her fifth album, 1989, her first album that marked her transition from country music to pop. Since the release of that album, she has gained a considerable rise in popularity amongst teens and young adults. In 2024, she broke the world record by being the first and only artist to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year four times with her Midnights album.  


Her vast success and astounding talent have become an inspiration for many young girls who see her as their role model. The fans who idolize and support Taylor Swift are referred to as Swifties. These Swifties have shown impeccable dedication in supporting Taylor in her 18 years in the music industry. One might argue that some Swifties are on another level of idolizing to the point of unhealthy obsession. In this blog entry, we will discuss this unhealthy obsession of fanatic Swifties towards their idol.



What is a Fandom?


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image by cookie_Studio

It is not uncommon for people to develop an unhealthy obsessive behaviour when adoring their idols. This phenomenon has been seen for decades. Massive obsession over artists such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Michael Jackson has been shared. In today's world, these fan obsessions can be seen in idols such as Taylor Swift and the internationally adored Korean boy band BTS (Bangtan Boys). These massive fandoms have grown at a fast pace internationally. 


Fandom is generally described as individuals with intense affection for a particular activity or subject (Smith, 2023). This group finds a sense of community and belonging when being part of a fandom. Numerous research works have studied how celebrities influence attitudes, actions, and beliefs. For instance, they may promote certain purchasing behaviours (Malik & Guptha, 2014; Wang et al., 2013) or even affect views on politics (Austin et al., 2008; Veer et al., 2010).


 Though this can negatively affect many individuals, it can also become a positive influence if these celebrities can use their privileges and platforms responsibly. Evidence shows fans are more likely to accept the messages promoted by a celebrity if they have a deeper connection to them (Basil, 1996; Brown & de Matviuk, 2010; Chung & Cho, 2017).



Why Would Someone Become a Swiftie?


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canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

There are many reasons why someone would become a Taylor Swift fan. Not only is she able to write and sing heartfelt lyrics, but she also has a strong persona. Her loud and strong opinions on feminism have inspired many people and spread awareness around this topic. Taylor has continuously shared her experience facing and overcoming hardship as a female artist in the Hollywood music industry. Many of her fans also resonate with her powerful song lyric writing skills. Her catchy melody and simple yet relatable lyrics have made her gain enormous popularity. 


Throughout her career, Taylor Swift has received massive backlash from various people, including her peers and the mass media. The infamous "Kanye West Incident" in 2009, in which Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's speech as the winner of the VMA 2009 Award, pointed out how Beyonce was a more deserving artist to win the Best Female Video category. 


However, Taylor Swift's downfall began in 2016 after Kanye West's song "Famous" was released. The usage of vulgar words towards Taylor Swift in Kanye's song did not have any consent from Taylor. However, later, Kim Kardashian uploaded the alleged recordings of how Taylor had consented to the lyrics in Kanye's song. This has caused a massive hate train towards Taylor Swift; many have called her a "snake" and publicly announced the death of her music career. 


After years of hatred from the public, Taylor Swift was later able to debunk all the accusations thrown towards her and made a viral comeback song directed to her haters. Her release of "Look What You Made Me Do?" from her Reputation album, which was released in 2017, was a massive success. The album generated around 1.2 million USD in the first week of release, breaking many milestones and records. 


Many of her fans have become more solid and united in supporting Taylor ever since. After the relentless hate and false rumours almost ruined Taylor Swift's career, many people admire her ability to return stronger than ever. Public sympathy and admiration brought many new fans to her Swifties fandom. Though there are no concrete numbers on how much Swifties are globally, a recent Morning Consult survey reveals that approximately 53% of American adults claimed to be Taylor Swift fans, with 16% classifying themselves as the singer's "avid" admirers. This research shows that almost half of The United States enjoys listening to Taylor Swift. When joining Swift's fandom, you ultimately join a vast community with the same interest and admiration towards the same person. 



Characteristics of Obsessive Behaviour in Fandoms


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image by teksomolika

When someone decides to become part of a community, they develop a sense of

belonging through a solid interpersonal bond. This is one of the reasons, besides being an active enjoyer of the artist's work, why someone willingly joins a particular fandom. Jenkins (1995) believes that when people experience tremendous difficulty, fandoms develop into extended families through providing friendship and support to one another. 


However, strange obsessive behaviours are commonly seen among Swifties. Many believe this fandom has formed an unhealthy obsession with Taylor Swift. Of course, not all fans have reached an extreme obsession with the singer and purely enjoy Taylor's songs and persona. However, fanatic fans of Taylor Swift have continuously raised eyebrows. The obsessed fanatics of the singer have shown many behaviours that resemble cult-like traits. 


(Fandom) Obsessive behaviour

Hero worship 

Many Swifties see Taylor Swift as more than just their role model. Her inspiring persona and exquisite works have made many people see her as more than just an artist. Fanatics of the singer have gone to a stage where they see Taylor as their hero and are willing to defend the singer even if they risk their reputation and credibility. 


Financial burden

Being a fan of Taylor Swift and supporting her music career is not a cheap thing to do. Many of her merchandise and records are sold at a costly rate. Fans must spend from USD 500 to USD 7000 to attend Taylor Swift's concert. 

Groupthink

Due to the strong sense of community between the Swifties and others, they all share similar values toward the singer. This leads to a mindset of us-versus-them, where these fans can enter a state of isolation and inability to interact with people who do not share the same mindset. 


Healthy Fan Behaviour


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canva edit by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Higher degrees of celebrity worship seem to be tied to a lower level of mental wellness, and there is some evidence that intensely personal and borderline-pathological celebrity worship may reflect neuroticism and psychoticism, respectively (Brooks, 2018). Furthermore, Scharf and Levy (2015) discovered a correlation between increased levels of idolization and children's poor adjustment in class. 


These findings show that the higher the level of celebrity obsessions, the higher the risk of getting mental illness. As a fan, admiring an artist should become a positive experience, not something that can harm someone's mental state. These are some ways to ensure you keep a healthy attitude when joining a fandom.


  • Be aware of yourself and create boundaries.

Understand your own limits and only join a particular group of people if it benefits you and your well-being. Create a healthy boundary between your fan life and personal life.


  • Avoid overexertion.

Keep yourself from involving yourself in all fan activities. If needed, rest from the community to help you prevent fandom fatigue.


  • Be careful with the financial aspects of being a fan.

Be mindful of your spending, and avoid overspending on merchandise or any fan experience. 



Written by Ida Ayu Merlyn Ardhia Prada

Edited by Virginia Helzainka


References 


Austin, E. W., Van de Vord, R., Pinkleton, B. E., & Epstein, E. (2008). Celebrity endorsements and their potential to motivate young voters. Celebrity Studies, 11(4), 420–436.


Basil, M. D. (1996). Identification as a mediator of celebrity effects. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 40, 478–495.


Brooks, S. K. (2018). FANatics: Systematic literature review of factors associated with celebrity worship, and suggested directions for future research. Current Psychology, 40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-9978-4

Brown, W. J., & de Matviuk, M. A. (2010). Sports celebrities and public health: Diego Maradona’s influence on drug use prevention. Journal of Health Communication, 15(4), 358–373.


Chung, S., & Cho, H. (2017). Fostering parasocial relationships with celebrities on social media: Implications for celebrity endorsement. Psychology & Marketing, 34(4), 481–495.


Malik, G., & Guptha, A. (2014). Impact of celebrity endorsements and brand mascots on consumer buying behavior. Journal of Global Marketing, 27(2), 128–143.


Scharf, M., & Levy, M. (2015). The contribution of familial characteristics and idolization to children’s body and eating attitudes. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 1943–1954.


Smith, S. (2023). The science of fandom and online communities. Stephen Smith.






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