When juveniles are involved, this becomes an issue. The faces behind these Twitter accounts aren’t spam bots or hackers; they’re real teenagers operating under the anonymous cloak of the Internet. Child psychologist Dr. Fran Walfish worries for those with frail self-discipline. “Teenagers absorb some of the strengths and identity of ‘self’ from a star, which is a positive,” says Walfish. “But when the adolescent or young adult uses the majority of their mental space to fill up with celebrity fantasies, it blocks further development. And that’s the main objective in adolescence, so parents have to really monitor that. They should create an electronic curfew where their kids are not on phones or computers.”
Even if they’re not stalking their subjects 24-7, the space between reality and alternate reality gets easily blurred. Over the summer, before she was strong-arming Rocsi on Twitter, ShaVonté would rise every morning to spend two hours under her striped bed sheets, spying Nicki’s timeline and chatting with other Minaj offspring before brushing her teeth. She speaks to fellow Barbz via keyboard far more than she speaks to high school friends via telephone.
She can rack off Nicki’s shoe size (5), fav foods (cranberry and almonds) and prior employment (Red Lobster) in one breath, and she’s actively gunning for a spot on the rapper’s coveted “Following” list. “Team Minaj, we’re a family,” says ShaVonté. “We’ll be jealous that she’s following [other fans], but then we tell them congratulations, because that could be us next.”
A prime candidate for Stan rehab, ShaVonté can admit when she’s gone overboard. The aspiring pediatrician realizes how her addiction to Nicki on social media has overshadowed her own personal maturation. “I was in the middle of eating cookies and out of nowhere thought, I don’t know what Nicki Minaj is doing! And I ran to Twitter,” she says in disbelief. “I was like, hold on, I stopped eating to go see what Nicki Minaj is doing? I just kept refreshing the page over and over, even though she wasn’t tweeting anything, like, Oh my God, I’m actually obsessed with her. It was a problem.”
It has a name. Psychologists label this Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)—becoming so consumed with something or someone out of fear that you’ll miss a golden moment. Despite often feeding her Nicki jones, it’s something ShaVonté wants to control before the school year ends, especially since homework gets done “in the middle of the night between me waiting on her to tweet,” she says. And maybe more so because of a mishap that occurred during French class while taking a test: “I was so tired. The teacher said, ‘Write your name,’ and I wrote, ‘Nicki Minaj.’”
OVER A LATE DINNER at an Applebee’s in Queens, N.Y., Dev, 23 (who declined printing her full name), sips on a strawberry mojito and remembers feeling instantly embraced by the Twitter turf of Beyoncé Stans. “I wanted a place to be able to talk about Beyoncé without judgment,” says Dev, a girly girl who in between selling cable rates and caring for her 3-year-old daughter interacts with 9,000-plus followers under the name @RealTeamBeyonce. “When I first got on, someone tweeted something I always thought—that they love Beyoncé’s fingers—and I was like, ‘Yo! I’m not crazy!’ I had to retweet. After that I was like, ‘This is my home! This is where I’m supposed to be!’”
A clear sign, though, that her real-life quality time was suffering: her boyfriend of 11 months made a sarcastic comment about Beyoncé not caring about Dev’s efforts, and an argument ensued. “At that time, he felt like I loved Beyoncé more than him, which probably I did. Everything I do is with me hoping I end up bumping into Beyoncé. So don’t go there with me. Don’t. And now he knows,” she says with a chuckle. Nowadays, Dev has scaled back on tweeting “all day long,” to five, maybe six, times a day, noting her daughter and 9-to-5 as higher priorities. Bey’s silence on Twitter (she’s only tweeted four times since joining in 2009) leaves her and some Hive members envious of the closeness between other Stans and their shepherds, says Dev. Still, that doesn’t lower the volume of their loyalty.
In May 2012, culture critic and hip-hop journalist dream hampton went on a Twitter hiatus after being hassled by a swarm of bumble Beys (hampton later said that wasn’t the cause). The incident started when a Beyoncé fan uncovered and tweeted a personal photo of hampton’s daughter with Beyoncé; other Bey Stans reacted by dogging her looks. When hampton confronted the 20-something suspect, the Hive went ham with insults, like, “YES BITCH! SHUT YO’ SHIT DOWN!!!!” from @iRoyalPeaches, a now inactive account—unaware of her real-life relationship with Bey. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Dream needed to calm the hell down,” says Dev while nibbling on tortilla chips. “And for her to feel like she needed to run and tell Beyoncé was just… Did she think Beyoncé was going to come give millions of her fans a pow-pow because of it?”