Home Music 12 Years, A Lifetime to Go: Growing Up In the One Direction Fandom

12 Years, A Lifetime to Go: Growing Up In the One Direction Fandom

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Article by: Kimmy @always_louwt art: _wdrawgs_

In August of 2011, just after I turned 11, I was on YouTube as I usually was in my free time and was scrolling through all my favorite YouTubers. I came across the What Makes You Beautiful music video. The rest is history… Kidding, I’ll tell you more.

I watched the video and Louis instantly caught my attention; he was the cutest thing ever in his little red pants and his stripes, AWW! I was instantly interested in them so I went back and started watching some of their XFactor stuff and it was love at first click. I was never into boybands or mainstream artists; I was a pop punk kid but something about these boys had me captured. I started buying all the magazines with their faces on it and I got a subscription to TigerBeat so I could read about them and pretty soon, my walls were covered from carpet to ceiling with posters. I was in deep. Gotta Be You turned me into a Nouis girl because once I saw how pretty Niall’s eyes were, I was HOOKED. This band became my whole personality and everything I would talk about.

I was a conservative sheltered kid. I didn’t know about the LGBTQ+ community or anyone openly in it but when I joined Stan Twitter at 11 years old, I was educated quickly as I found out about Louis and Harry. And the graphic nature of fanfiction even though I had no idea what any of it meant. 


Being a Larry shipper (we did not yet have a cute name like “larrie” or “rat”) during the One Direction days was so much fun. We were still called delusional and we were blamed for Louis and Harry’s friendship ending but we KNEW we were onto them. From “are you and Louis dating?” to the foggy Titanic handprint on the bus’ window picture to Harry singing to Louis during 1DDay to someone breaking out the dental records to “HE GOT THE DAGGER” and everything in between. I lived and live-tweeted through it. By “everything in between,” of course I also mean September 28, 2013. We found out that Harry and Louis went to the same Script concert on February 8, 2009, but the significance of 28 didn’t become what it was until four years later when we got these tweets. 

After that, 28 just never went away. We got Louis’ jersey number, Louis’ finger tattoos, Harry posting an Instagram picture with the numbers “90028,” the address in the Back To You music video, 28OP, and even Harry’s saddle on his horse in the Daylight music video. The significance goes deeper than just the number that Louis had on his jersey. When the “city hall” tweet first happened, everyone on Twitter just assumed it was just another lyric that Harry resonated with as he was known to tweet a lot of “random” lyrics that all seemed to connect to closeting, being queer, or Louis. However, it wasn’t until we saw Ashton’s tweet and the (now debunked) tweets from Anne and Ed Sheeran that we started piecing together that this was an important day. In the words of Niall Horan, God only knows if this was a “wedding” day of some sort or another anniversary but we do know that this was a memorable day to be a part of. 

Apart from being a larrie, growing up in the fandom gave me the opportunity to make some serious core memories… good and bad ones. Good ones including watching live Twitcams, Halloween 2014 when my friend and I dressed up as Louis and Harry, and going to concerts that would change my life. Unfortunately, I was raised by a single dad who didn’t believe in spending money on “dumb things” like concerts (he should see me now!) so I never went to a show until 2014. But from 2011-2014, these boys were “my because.” I have struggled with mental health issues since I was 8 years old and I always felt alone in my feelings.


When Midnight Memories came out, One Direction turned from my source of happiness to my lifeline. Diana was the song that made me feel heard and seen like they could actually “hear my call” even though they don’t even know me. Don’t Forget Where You Belong became my anthem; I was “living out of cases, packing up and taking off” between my parents house and I never felt like I had a home or somewhere where I belonged besides stan Twitter. I realized the fandom was where I belong. 

Because of this, I begged and begged for One Direction tickets until finally, I got tickets for my 14th birthday. September 11, 2014 will forever be one of the best days of my life. My original seats were at the back of the floor and I was so happy to be there. Once the show started, I went absolutely feral; screaming, jumping, crying, singing, sweating. About three songs in, a security guard came over to my group and asked how many of us we had. I told him and he said to follow him. He proceeded to bring us closer and closer to the stage. We had no idea what was happening as he took us to two open seats in Floor Section A6. He handed us two tickets and the seat that he brought me to was row 11, seat 11. For years, I had been wishing every day at 11:11 to see my boys and to be surrounded by the fandom that I considered my family. Then, there I was in row 11, seat 11 on September 11th watching my boys from only 11 rows away. I was there singing the songs that had saved my life back to the boys who had given me so much peace and happiness. I have never believed in fate more than that day.

screaming, jumping, crying, singing, sweating

I am still making good core memories to this day. I went to a One Direction 13th Anniversary club night and had the best time. It wasn’t the same as seeing the boys live again but it was the next best thing. I felt the same as I did when I was 14 and I first saw them. I again went absolutely feral; screaming, jumping, crying, singing, sweating. It felt so good to celebrate these boys. My sister dressed up as 2011 Louis and I dressed up as 2011 Harry in his Harry ♥️ Louis shirt and it felt like I was home. There is no better feeling than celebrating my favorite people while being surrounded by my sister and my 1D family.

With the good core memories came bad ones. March 25, 2015, shook my life. Everyone in the fandom knew where they were when they read the One Direction post about Zayn leaving the band. I had just finished a geometry exam when I took my phone out, saw the post, and left the class in a panic attack. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t have any Directioner friends at school but all I knew was that I had to get away. I tried to call my dad to pick me up but he just laughed at me and said I was being dramatic. The only people who seemed to understand were my friends on Twitter. I had never met them but they knew exactly what I was going through and we dealt with the heartbreak together. 

I saw One Direction twice at Rose Bowl then again at OTRA on July 11, 2015 (the 11th, how funny) and at Jingle Ball in 2015. Then… Hiatus. I was 15 and these boys meant everything to me and they were going on break. I still had my community on Twitter but it wasn’t the same. I stayed active until 2018 and at that point, a lot of my old friends and mutuals didn’t really care anymore and they’d given up hope. I graduated high school and I, too, gave up hope. I stopped being active, I went off to college, I lived the “normal” life and there were so many days that I didn’t think I’d be alive to see age 20, or 21, or 22, or 23 because life got bad again. It got so hard and I didn’t have my community that helped me through my dark days. I still supported the boys through their solo careers and I knew when they dropped music but I didn’t think stan Twitter was still a thing. I thought I had to be an adult and stay off Twitter and figure my life out alone.  

Coming Home

It wasn’t until I saw the AOTV trailer in February 2023 that I realized that stan Twitter was still out there and the sense of community was still the same. So I came back. Rejoining stan Twitter after being away for those 4 years was weird for me. All my previous mutuals were still inactive or deactivated so I lost about 3,000 followers. I didn’t know any of the active accounts or the new Twitter lingo. Slowly, I made some new friends but it wasn’t until my Louis shows and bracelet trading that I truly felt at home again. My sister and I made 600 buttons and over 300 bracelets to trade and give away at our FITFWT shows.

At first, I was nervous that no one would want what we made or that I would have a hard time finding people to trade with but that was not the case. I ended up giving away ALL of the items we made and I met some of my favorite people in the fandom through these trades. 

The response that I received and the outpour of love on Twitter after the shows were indescribable. I had so many DMs and Tweets from grateful people and I gained a lot of new followers who I now consider friends. I did not expect to be accepted back in so easily but wow, I am so thankful that I was. 

Life is so good and I have made so many new friends. I’m so happy to be able to freak out and express myself. I love that I can share what it was like to grow up in this fandom and know that people want to read what I have to say. I am so proud of these boys. I am so proud of this family. I am so happy that I fell back down the rabbit hole that is stan Twitter. I am so lucky to have known of this band and these boys for as long as I have. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my corner because of this silly fandom. 

I am so happy to be happy and I am grateful that I owe my life and so, so much to these  five boys. I was only 13 when Don’t Forget Where You Belong came out but it resonated with me. I had this idea when I was 15 that I wanted to get the song tattooed but each word be in a different member’s handwriting. Growing apart from the fandom and finding my way back has shown me that I was right about this family being where I belong. For the 13th anniversary, I finally got my tattoo.

It’s been a long long 12 years in this fandom but it feels like no time at all that I was just an 11 year old girl on YouTube clicking on What Makes You Beautiful. We’ve made it this far as a family and I am so thankful for One Direction for allowing me to be in it.

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