What Is the Fan Phenomenon in Adolescents?

The teen fan phenomenon helps teens connect and have fun, but can pose some risks. Find out more in the following article.
What Is the Fan Phenomenon in Adolescents?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 23 November, 2023

Do you remember that singer or that actress that you admired so much and followed during your youth? You knew all their work, you were aware of their tastes, and you watched every interview and read every magazine article that talked about this person. The fan phenomenon in teenagers is nothing new, and minors of all generations come to experience it.

Today, thanks to the internet and social networks, the “relationship” with these celebrities is different. Young people follow them in real time. They even establish a certain kind of communication with them. This feeds a fantasy that, although it may be natural and common in this vital stage, can also become harmful. We’ll tell you why.

What is the fan phenomenon in teenagers?

It’s normal for children and young people to feel admiration, liking, or fondness for athletes, social media influencers, or music bands. However, the fan phenomenon has different connotations, as the feeling is much more intense and can border on obsessive.

As its name suggests, we’re talking about a fanaticism in which these famous people cease to be mere entertainment and become the center of the lives of young people.

Therefore, they take these figures as references and role models. From them, they assimilate aspects such as aesthetics and dress, attitudes, values, and behaviors. Their admiration for their idols turns into devotion, which prevents them from being objective about what they see and hear.

The main characteristics

The fan phenomenon in adolescents has some particular characteristics. The following are some of the most common ones and may be the key for adults to understand that this fanaticism is moving on to a new level.

The adolescent idealizes the person of whom they’re a fan.

They only perceive and value their positive qualities, extolling them, while overlooking their possible flaws or areas for improvement. They feel that this is someone who’s exceptional and wonderful.

They encourage others to become fans of this person as well

And, if someone criticizes the object of their admiration, the young person blatantly defends them, feeling that this comment is a criticism of themself. This could be taken as a warning sign. In fact, this overreaction suggests an unhealthy emotional dependency or an extreme idealization of the person in question.

They seek to resemble the celebrity as much as possible

In other words, they imitate their appearance, their way of speaking, and their attitudes. It’s also likely that they want to achieve the same success in the same area as that person. While it’s natural to find inspiration in public figures and aspire to success, it’s important to maintain our own identity and originality. Trying to copy someone in their entirety can lead to the loss of our own unique voice and perspective.

They know everything about that person’s life

They search and draw from all possible sources (social networks, forums, magazines, documentaries…) to achieve this. They also take a very active role in clubs or fan groups that share the same passion or admiration for that idol.

They try to establish a relationship that’s as close as possible with their idol

This may lead them to attend all their concerts or matches, interact with all their publications on social media, or try to establish a conversation through direct messages on some social media platform.

Why does the fan phenomenon occur in adolescents?

The fan phenomenon occurs at any time in life. However, it’s especially common in adolescence, as this stage is characterized by the search for self-identity. And in this construction of identity, the adolescent needs to identify with other people.

While in childhood, parents are the main referents, in adolescence, these idols are the models to follow. In a way, the fan phenomenon is a common process in the formation of the sense of self. And not only because of the admiration for that particular figure, but also because of the interaction that’s generated in communities or fandoms.

According to an article published in the journal Persona Studies, the subjective identity of adolescents related to emotions and feelings is supported by that group of people with the same taste in common, supporting the construction of a social and cultural identity.

Does it have consequences?

The fan phenomenon in adolescents isn’t negative in itself. On the contrary, it’s natural for young people to generate this liking or identification toward celebrities and it can be expected. The problem occurs when this admiration turns into devotion and leads to passionate, irrational, and chaotic behavior. Or when fanaticism leads the adolescent to lose some control over their life.

Some difficulties or negative consequences that arise in this regard include the following.

Adopting inappropriate attitudes

Taking the idol as a reference. For example, assimilating a vulgar way of speaking or starting to consume alcohol, tobacco, or other substances by imitation.

Losing sight of reality

Forgetting that the public figure plays a character or shows a small (distorted) part of who they are. So, trying to become that person isn’t realistic, and many of the authority figures in social media within generation Z promote habits or attitudes that aren’t recommended for everyone.

Letting go of obligations

Teens may overlook their daily obligations and activities just to immerse themselves in that fanatical passion. Likewise, they neglect studies or lose friendships because of their admiration for this celebrity. If this happens, you’ll notice that your son or daughter’s fanaticism toward their idol isn’t healthy.

They generate a parasocial relationship with the celebrity

The teenager may feel that they have a real friendship with that famous figure. According to an article published in the Journal of Genetic Psychology, this can happen to any young person. But it’s more common in those who have a preoccupied or anxious attachment.

Address the fan phenomenon early on

If, as a parent, you detect that your child has become a fan of a singer, sports team, or public figure, you have nothing to worry about. However, it’s a good idea to have some supervision and accompany this admiration so that it doesn’t turn into obsession.

So, try to take an interest in the tastes of your child, listen to them, and share them to some extent, so you can know if they offer a good or bad example. Also, help your teenager not to lose objectivity, reminding them that the media aren’t always transparent and that people are more than what they choose to show to their public.

Above all, encourage them to develop their own personality and criteria and not to merge with the image or personality of any third party. In any case, if you see that this fanaticism is causing discomfort or interfering with their studies or social relationships, don’t hesitate to seek psychological support.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.