The Rise Of The Mega Groupie Or Teenage Fangirl

Shot of a young woman rocking out to an awesome show at a musical festival
Shot of a young woman rocking out to an awesome show at a musical festival

When I was 14 I loved Jason Donovan. OK, I'm admitting this in public, but I adored him to the point I covered one whole bedroom wall with his posters and cried one night when the devastating thought hit that I'd probably never meet him, let alone have a kiss.

In my day, the 1990s, that was as far as being a groupie went. Posters on walls and waxing lyrical with friends (however dodgy the lyrics sung by the object of your affection were). And if you were lucky, really lucky you saw them in concert. Fast forward to 2014 and while watching my own teenager fall in love with her latest crush, I realize being a modern fan brings hero worship to a whole new level.

These days girls are not just groupies they're mega-groupies or 'fangirls'.

The term 'fangirl' has even become verb. To 'fangirl' or 'fangirling' means sitting on a computer trying to contact your object of desire, often for hours at a time, desperate to be noticed.

Thanks to social media, fangirls can live and breathe with the object of their affections as there are so many ways to follow them; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

For the uninitiated YouTubers are often teen boys, mainly from the States, who do silly/funny-if-you're-a-teen things on camera and attract millions of girl followers, like my daughter, here and abroad.

On Twitter these lads often tell fans they're about to go on a 'following spree', This means if you tweet them they might follow you back; cue massive excitement from my teen and her friends. Once I heard screams so loud from her bedroom I ran down the stairs convinced someone was hurt but nope, a teenage YouTuber from America had just typed: 'Following spree later' from his bedroom.

Worried about my teen's rising obsession I turned to a mum friend whose daughter is now in her 20s and she smiled sagely and said: "Don't worry having a crush is just another 'phase'". But I never realised what an intense one it could be.

The prize of being followed by your idol is one stage below the ultimate prize of meeting them; a whole new and very expensive cottage industry known as the 'Meet and Greet'. Although Justin Bieber charges an eye watering £5000 for an after concert 'meet and greet' (involving a half hearted arm-around-shoulder snap) many of my teen's crushes invite fans to gatherings in parks or even to Nandos.

A year ago my daughter had a huge crush on 'The Janoskians' (again a group of teen boys, this time from Australia, who do crazy things on YouTube like, er, eat a sugary doughnut and dare each other not to lick their lips) who announced to fans they were holding a Meet and Greet in Hyde Park.

Concerned about big crowds I went along with my then 12-year-old and was very glad I did. Around 3,000 girls turned up, their continuous shrieking cranking up to ear splitting level when the boys arrived, flanked by beefy security men.

As the lads tried to make their way towards the relative security of a bandstand the throng of fangirls wouldn't let them anywhere near. Then after just a few hundred yards they found themselves surrounded by a mob, albeit one with long hair clutching Paul's Boutique bags.

My daughter and I got close enough to see real fear in the poor lads' eyes as police were called and The Janoskians were hustled away in a riot van. At this point it was the boys who were in tears, not the girls.

Afterwards when my child announced that afternoon 'the best day of her life so far' I could have wept with them.

At her latest meet n' greet Cleo was more successful (in her eyes) and proudly told me how she'd managed to slip a piece of paper with her own Twitter account name into the object of her affection's pocket. Ingenious perhaps, but apparently so many girls were trying the same his trouser pocket was stuffed.

Later when I found my teen sat crestfallen at her laptop the next day I asked her what was wrong.

"He's not followed me Mum," she cried. "It's not fair! I've tweeted him 100 times."

At this point I made her shut the laptop and go for a walk with me, in the world real among real people.

"You know being a fan girl is a little bit like being a stalker," I explained gently.

"But me and my friends like being stalkers," laughed my teen. "I just wish they would stalk me back!"

Weeks later my daughter's phone was cut off and when I rang the phone company to enquire why they said she'd overrun her call limit with texts and calls to America. Knowing my child didn't know anyone Stateside I guessed her 'fangirling' was behind it.

I guessed right. A YouTuber had put his phone number online to gain more followers. The hunted seemed as desperate for validation as the hunters.

I confiscated my teen's phone and banned her from all fangirling for a week. Monitoring my child's ability to stalk wasn't something I'd have added to the list of 'mothering skills' but it's on there today. This might be 'Just a phase' but one I'll be relieved about when it's over.