Taylor Swift’s love life has been the center of attention throughout her decade-long career.
The singer-songwriter and cultural icon has always been the subject of intense scrutiny – so her fans are arguably very defensive of her. Swifties don’t hold back especially when it comes to the men she’s linked with, and it’s a known fact that you don’t want to be the guy who broke Taylor Swift’s heart. And although Swift has rarely ever confirmed if a song she wrote is about one of her exes – assumptions run wild when it comes to Twitter stan culture.
Taylor is currently one of the most talked about musicians in the industry while she’s on her iconic ‘Eras Tour’ and re-releasing her past albums to get her masters back. On Saturday night during a show in Minneapolis, Taylor pointed out that the world is only 13 days away from the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and she celebrated that milestone with a rare live performance of “Dear John” from the album. Whether or not you’re a fan, it’s pretty much an accepted fact that “Dear John” is about none other than John Mayer, who was in a pretty controversial relationship with Taylor back in 2009, when she was 19. Even John Mayer is sure the song is about him, based on his public comments about the song, including a 2012 Rolling Stone interview in which he said he was “really humiliated” by it.
Mayer is understandably not very popular among Swift’s stans – and they don’t go easy on him. But Swift has now made her stance clear and doesn’t want fans to go out of their way to defend her. Taylor made it explicitly clear in the speech she gave before playing “Dear John,” at the Minneapolis show, in which she also directly asked fans to refrain from cyberbullying “anyone they *think* she wrote a song about when she was 19”.
Earlier in 2021, when Taylor re-released her album Red (Taylor’s Version), along with an extended 10-minute version of the song All Too Well – Jake Gyllenhaal, who dated Swift when she was 20 and he was 29, received a wave of backlash from fans who believed the song was about him. Gyllenhaal responded to the backlash in an interview with Esquire in February 2022. “At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name. That begs for a deeper philosophical question. Not about any individual, per se, but a conversation that allows us to examine how we can—or should, even—take responsibility for what we put into the world, our contributions into the world. How do we provoke a conversation?”
Even now, despite not knowing much about the situation, fans rallied against her ex Joe Alwyn, whom she dated for six years. Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, stan culture has grown immensely and parasocial relationships with celebrities have become more common. Devoted followers of celebrities often feel a sense of ownership over their idols, which can lead to excessive scrutiny and even bullying towards those who were once close to the celebrity. Taylor Swift, who has had her fair share of high-profile relationships, has witnessed firsthand the negative impact this fan behaviour can have on her exes, as well as on her own mental well-being.
Even celebrities like Selena Gomez and Hailey Beiber have recently sent out messages asking fans to back down. The recent incidents have started a deeper conversation about the toxicity of stan culture and how artists can play a vital role in denouncing it by encouraging their fans to engage in positive interactions.