The Hard Work of Being a Fan Account

Cyberbits #12: How online fan accounts for Addison Rae, Ana de Armas, and Doja Cat keep followers in the know

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The Hard Work of Being a Fan Account

Anna, a high-school student based in Europe, spends anywhere between 30 minutes to 5 hours on her phone each day. Much of it is on Instagram. But she’s not liking pictures and posting selfies—she’s running two fan accounts for the TikTok star and online personality Addison Rae. Her accounts total nearly half a million followers: @everythingaddison has 236K followers, @addisonsnapchats has amassed 226K.

“I made @everythingaddison in January last year because I really loved editing and had also fallen in love with Addison Rae. Instagram was such a great way to show my edits and it was the app I was most familiar with. I decided to make an update account for her as well, for fun, just to store some photos, and did not expect any of the accounts to blow up the way they did.”

For Anna, the accounts she runs are part fandom, part artistic expression. The “edits” she refers to are her photoshopping skills: images she uploads have been manipulated to evoke a particular vibe or aesthetic. Often photos are combined or collaged together. Some edits are faux encounters—for instance, to our knowledge, Addison has never been photographed with the actress Zendaya. But on Anna’s fan account, you can find a meeting of the two celebrities. She’s done the same with other stars, superimposing the TikTok creator with artists like Billie Eilish, plus Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj

It’s this creativity that’s led to the account’s steep growth since her first post on January 21, 2020

“I made my accounts when Addison was only a small influencer, and there weren't a lot of fanpages for her at that time. I guess people found me when they searched for Addison fan pages. I have also always tried to make sure my feed is clean and my edits have good quality, and I think that is something people like.”

Fan accounts are a pillar of social media, central to the celebrity and influencer ecosystem. From fan Instagram pages to stan Twitter profiles, these social accounts allow fans to express appreciation for celebrities and creators, earning an audience by providing the best images and information—digging up interviews, finding obscure photos, and creating, as Anna does, invented celebrity scenes altogether. These social media accounts are an evolution from the dedicated fan websites that were an online mainstay in the ‘90s but seem less popular today. 

Social fan accounts serve as a devotional digital version of tabloids, often sharing pictures from traditional paparazzi, but also from social media: fan accounts take and repurpose the Instagram posts and stories, Snapchats, and tweets of their central figure. 

The number of Beyoncé fan accounts is impossible to measure, but a quick search result on Twitter or Facebook will have you endlessly scrolling across the names of dedicated accounts and pages created by the Beehive. Between the entire family, The Kardashians have inspired an infinite number of these fan accounts themselves—including the youngest members (Psalm West, Kim’s youngest son, has dozens of fan accounts on Instagram, despite being too young to even know what an Instagram is). From Chris Evans to Viola Davis, fan accounts worship at the altar of celebrity. The best fan accounts are the ones who provide a level of access and insight that others do not: 

Are they uploading new photos first? Can they find retro photos from before a star was famous? Do they have the photos and videos that a star tweeted and deleted? 

These attributes make for a star fan account. But sometimes, gaining followers simply requires you to offer something unique yourself. 

In late 2019, a Twitter account for the Cuban actress Ana de Armas, @ArmasUpdates, was born, driven by a desire to create a fan hub for the Knives Out star that catered to the English language audience.  

@ArmasUpdates diligently grew the account with what they describe to me as “great photo set selections of photo shoots and clever wording of tweets to news and updates.” They note that the account was created with the intention of having fun. It was with this same spirit of silly sarcasm they started providing commentary alongside photo drops, featuring Armas, then dating Ben Affleck, strolling together around Los Angeles during the height of the pandemic:

The tongue-in-cheek humor earned the account more likes and followers than ever. But it also earned a block from the star herself, spawning this April 2020 viral tweet:

The tweet made the person behind the account a brief celebrity in their own right. They were interviewed by The Cut about the posts that may have spawned the ban, where @ArmasUpdates noted she was “obviously disappointed” but admired the move from Armas nonetheless.

Despite taking the ban in stride, the fan account became the brunt of hate for months—both toward Armas and the person behind the profile. @ArmasUpdates briefly deactivated their account. They returned with a statement on Twitter, making mention of how the online animosity was affecting their mental health:

“It got to the point where hate was coming from all sides. For the first time, I felt that my account was a bubble for hate — even directed towards me, personally, as the owner of the account.”

Critique, even as light-hearted as the tweets from @ArmasUpdates seemed, are rare in the world of stanning. Stans, almost by definition, are deeply uncritical of the people they follow, sometimes leaning into sycophancy. @ArmasUpdates’ tweets caused an uproar because they were humorous, but also because they were uncommon. 

“I’ve been vilified for having a critical perspective of the namesake of the account by other fan accounts with the same namesake. I’ve tried to reason with most of them and only a minority seem to hear me out. Nevertheless, I am always open for collaboration and discussion towards our fave.”

Aside from the waves of hate that come and go, the account also takes more time to run than someone might expect. Though mentioning being fully employed in the healthcare field and viewing this account as a hobby, they spend upwards of 3 hours per day working on updates—searching on Google, Twitter and Instagram for any new media.

“People underestimate the commitment and time of putting out content for a person who has no idea who you are...Especially, the consistency it takes to run a successful account with a certain type of persona so that people are interested. I think that’s why the account took off because of the implied personality I latched onto it with the tweets about Ana’s life and career.”

Anna, the student behind Addison Rae’s Instagram fan accounts, exhibits the same level of commitment and consistency, which can at times be stressful. Currently, she’s on summer break from school and doesn’t have a job, allowing for more time to edit photos and grow her accounts. 

However, during the school year, despite not having a lot of school work and just a few hours of school during weekdays, she’s run into scheduling conflicts and can’t help checking her accounts while at school—browsing Twitter and Instagram for Addison updates, staying in touch with photographers who send her new photos, and checking the internet star’s tagged photos on Instagram a few times per day: 

“Because of time differences, I have had to stay up pretty late at times or I have had to wake up very early. I remember not having the time to get ready before school because I was so busy posting updates from [an Addison Rae appearance on] The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. With a lot of followers there also comes a lot of expectations. People tend to forget that I am an actual human running two accounts, some just expect me to post all day.”

The person running @DojaCatStats, a fan account on Twitter for Doja Cat, takes a decidedly different approach to running their account. They log in, post, and log back out, separating their life from the hobby. It’s worked: the account has grown to over 20K followers with this laissez-faire method. 

But this “detached” approach to running a fan account has come after years of experience being extremely online. They’ve run fan accounts on Twitter since 2018, specifically “chart” fan accounts that provide the cold-and-hard numbers of how a pop-artist is faring on music charts—from streaming numbers and platinum status to radio plays and awards. The stress of keeping up was all-consuming:

“I was too dedicated to the account in an extremely exaggerated way and that didn't do me any good...I always wanted to post things first and I always wanted to have more likes than everyone else. When that didn't happen, I felt really bad. I was always aware of everything to always post things first and sometimes I stopped doing things to take care of the chart because I was obsessed and thought if I didn't post a certain thing first my credibility would drop and people would stop following me.”

Often, fan accounts can be flagged by Twitter or other platforms over copyright complaints. For @DojaCatStats, it meant having their accounts suspended and starting from scratch, compounding the stress: 

“My old account was suspended several times and I always created others and tried to recover. It was stressful and made me very sick, but it became so constant that there was a moment that I just got tired of creating. I think being suspended did me good. Afterwards, it made me realize that it wasn't worth dedicating myself so much to an account that in the end won't bring you anything big.”

After their last suspension, they took a year off chart accounts for their mental health. They returned last December with a greater sense of control, a desire to have fun, and the mindset of not stressing over the “bullshit.”

“It's really cool but you have to do it for fun. You can't make it a job. If that happens it will do you a lot of harm. If you create a chart for fun and update it for fun, everything is perfect.”

This “for the love of the game” mindset was present in all the fan accounts I spoke with. Aside from the rare paid shoutout, fan accounts are hard to monetize. This is in sharp contrast to their print tabloid counterparts who make money from advertising and sales, enticing readers with salacious headlines and the print version of clickbait. Online gossip rags can monetize with online ads, trading clicks for dollars. But most fan accounts are essentially providing publicity for stars without compensation. The stress that comes with creating the best updates is driven by a love for the account’s celebrated star and the followers amassed along the way, not money. 

In a way, the fan accounts that stan creators are creators in their own right. They too are curating or creating content for social media, amassing followers, and are even subject to the same scrutiny—or even hate—as the people they build fandoms around.

The creator behind @ArmasUpdates hopes to keep running their account for the time being, but foresees a point in the distant future where they might pass the torch:

“There’s going to be a time where I will fully steer into adulting and leave the account. I would pass it along to someone that I trust. I know Ana will have a long career and the account should remain to follow it.”

Anna has a lot of energy left for running Addison Rae accounts on instagram and sees no end in sight: 

“The only reason I spend so much time on my fan pages is because I really love doing it. I love talking to my supporters and followers, so that’s the main reason I spend so much time on Instagram...I am hoping to continue my accounts as long as possible, but who knows what I got time for when I go to college or start working. My accounts give me so much joy, and they will always be remembered. I have made so many good friends and it would be devastating to quit. But as for now I have no intentions of quitting in the near future.”

Bits from Around the Web

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