‘Stan Twitter’ Breeds Performative Activism


Sal Pendleton, Staff Writer

The topic of black people and their traumas has always been a favorite of Stan Twitter, especially when Twitter users can get all the likes and retweets imaginable, making Black History Month, their time to shine.

Stan Twitter has been a rising community on Twitter in the past few years. Twitter is an easy way for people to create communities that surround their interests. The word stan was first coined by Eminem in the 2000s with a song called “Stan,” which has basically come to mean an obsessive fan. The word has more so been reclaimed by fans of a specific piece of media on Twitter, and the negative connotations have been disregarded. While there is still a battle over if there is something wrong with being a stan or stanning someone (to be a stan of someone), it is at this point perfectly normalized.

This growing population has become huge; overall there are many different communities of stans on Twitter, and they’ve been able to become some of the biggest users on the app. Activism on social media platforms has become a quick and easy way to inform your friends and mutuals (people who you follow and also follow you back) about what’s going on in the world. Many people have the privilege of not caring about politics, even though they affect everyone and everything. The careless performative activism that occurs on Twitter plays into the “politics don’t affect me, therefore I don’t need to care” mindset of those who are privileged.

As happy as I’d like to be about the activism that surrounds BLM and BHM on one of the biggest social media platforms, it’s all very superficial. For most stan accounts, their talk about BHM has never been anything more than wanting to look good for their mutuals, or wanting to make sure it looked like they cared about others.

This has undoubtedly stemmed from the time when BLM became a recurrent topic. During that period, stans on Twitter felt the need to tweet messages like, “Everyone stop what you’re talking about and focus on BLM.” As important as it is to talk about BLM, tweets like these are what turned the movement into a trend back in 2020 and have created an environment for performative activists.

One of the biggest objectives of the BLM movement has always been equality; we want our lives to be normal. We want our lives to be seen as important as white lives, but making tweets like the one mentioned above are the reason why white people think we want our lives to be seen as more important than theirs.

These tweets often say two things: it produces the idea that BLM is a topic only to be talked about when something precipitates the conversation and it also forces people into performative activism.

When it comes to activism, Twitter users love to use a website called Carrd, where people can essentially create a site of their own. Stan Twitter utilizes this website to assist in lazily assembling misinformation. It looks really good in the performative activism populace when people tweet out their own carrds, but when constructing these carrds, users often don’t care to check their information.

It’s so easy for people to just retweet these carrds filled with careless misinformation and spread them to all of their own followers. Most of the time, users see these carrds and think, “this checks out as activism,” hit retweet, and go about their day.

This is extremely common; just about every user that occupies Stan Twitter has fallen into this trap. The notion of “You can’t talk about anything but BLM” has moldered for so long it’s turned into, “If I don’t see you talking about BLM, I’m unfollowing,” which is intrinsically just the perfect mask for the truth of wanting a skinny ratio, (Having a lower count of people you’re following than the people following you.) because that kind of stuff is what really matters to those on Stan Twitter. Of course, nobody wants their mutuals to unfollow them, so what do they do?

They perform the activism they’re being asked to.

Another piece of culture that resides in Stan Twitter users is having backup private accounts. Users have a second account usually set to private and only let a select few friends onto them. When the time comes to talk about topical news hitting the headlines, they hide on their private accounts, prattling about all the topics they actually find important. They use their main account to satisfy performative activism and use backup accounts to voice the things they really care about.

This happens because it’s perfectly okay to talk about big issues within the world while also keeping up with other things. In reality, throughout the day we all talk about different things and topics with different people, but Twitter expects one topic to rule the conversation all day long, which is unlikely and practically impossible in the real world.

During troubling times, so many preformative activists like to push this idea of “how can you think about insignificant things when someone just died?” But in the real world, nobody pushes off other conversation topics when something huge happens in the world. During day-to-day conversation, we still talk about both the new episode of the show that’s come out and also the BLM protest we attended in the same hour.

I’m sure everyone has witnessed this behavior even circulate to internet celebrities. I know I’ve seen internet influencers tweet out “Happy Black History Month” solely because their followers asked them to. And how bad would it look if they were to deny that?

Once Stan Twitter users are over the trend of talking about the lives of black people, they go back to their interests and don’t speak of it again until some other performative activist forces them to.

They never speak about any other problems that occur in the Black Community. They sit in complete silence when it comes to talking about casual racism or microaggressions said by someone they support, or they’ve got some way to defend them. They don’t care about the lives of any black person who isn’t in the very top headline of the news.

It is almost the bare minimum to continue supporting BLM and talking about it even when there isn’t something cataclysmic sparking the conversation, but it’s almost as if that thought doesn’t even occur to stans on Twitter.