The most infamous rule on the internet is 4chan’s Rule 34: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” It’s a crude statement, that holds up surprisingly well (you can test this yourself; I don’t recommend it). But the central tenet of Rule 34 can be transmogrified into a more all-ages rule of the internet, which is, “If it exists, someone is a fan of it.”
This was the magic of the internet in its earliest days. Social outcasts, niche hobbyists, and others with very specific interests discovered that, though isolated in real life, they could find like-minded people online. Message boards, listservs, IRC, and on and on.
That concept — that literally every permutation of every single opinion on any subject is floating out there in cyberspace — is why I love the Stan Confessions.
Started in early 2012, the Stan Confessions is a Tumblr run by a Belgian woman named Emily, along with a small team of helpers and moderators. Stans (a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan” popularized by an Eminem song) submit their opinions via Tumblr’s Ask function, and those submissions are edited onto photos, pasted into a white box in generic Times New Roman font, and uploaded to the blog.
The Stan Confessions was borne out of Emily’s dissatisfaction with other confession blogs. “I couldn’t really submit any negative confessions, for one” she wrote over email. “Every confession posted was praising that celebrity in particular.” Negativity and debate are key to keeping submissions on TSC rolling in. Additionally, most of those blogs are single-topic, rather than looking at the full spectrum of pop culture.
As of now, The Stan Confessions is edging up on 54,000 followers and Emily says she spends an hour a day working through submissions. She attributes part of the blog’s success to the fact that users can contribute anonymously. “They don’t have to worry about being judged for their opinion,” she says. “It’s like, in real life you can’t talk about Harry Styles all day … but you can go online and read, confess and obsess about Harry all you want. Especially because other people do it, too.”
Many of the entries revolve around expected topics for the Tumblr crowd: female pop stars, boy bands, Disney movies, Ryan Murphy TV shows, etc. But they’re all part of an ongoing passive-aggressive conversation about modern pop culture. People feel a consuming amount of ownership over these celebrities and their work. Famous people must be defended at all costs, either by talking them up or putting others down.
Consider this string of subsequent Rita Ora confessions, arranged in chronological order.
And this constant jockeying is going on all day, everyday, about all manner of topics. The backlog on the Stan Confessions is likely enormous. On the site’s FAQ, a flowchart warns those submitting entries that it will probably take at least three months for confessions to appear on the site, the result of every entry needing a bespoke Photoshopped image. Currently, there is a temporary ban on Taylor Swift confessions.
But following the Stan Confessions’ stream reveals it as a sounding board for almost any opinion. Some of them may be tongue-in-cheek, but nothing on the Stan Confessions ever seems sarcastic or disingenuous.
Eventually, a vocabulary starts to emerge. Celebs “slay,” they are “iconic,” those who are ignored are “slept on.” Those who are to be imitated are “goals.” Stans of competitors are challenged to answer the eternal question: “When will your fave ever?” That’s when this blog is the most compelling; when that template for stanning is applied, in a genuine way, to the most unexpected, boring, or irrelevant topics.
Does Bill Gates really need adolescents on Tumblr defending him? Not at all, but it’s endearing to see it happen anyway.
This post has been updated with comment from the blog’s author, Emily.