The Irish Medical Times - The Swift Effect: Why being a fan can be good for you


Becoming a ‘fan’ seems to be part of the human experience, at some point, most people have taken an interest in a particular sports team, entertainer, author, TV show, hobby, etc. 

But are there any actual health benefits to being a fan? In particular, a Taylor Swift fan?

It’s quite remarkable to think that music exists in every culture, it is clearly beneficial to the human race, it helps improve mood, reduce stress and boost self esteem. It is often an integral part of any celebration, or indeed sad occasion. It can be listened to alone or in groups, a person can even create music with their bodies (if that conjures up an image of schoolboys burping in time to the radio, I mean humans are wired up to sing). 

Popular music often deals with themes young people struggle to navigate such as love, friendship and self discovery - these are Taylor Swift's bread and butter. There are studies to show that listening to certain types of music can lower your cortisol and heart rate, therefore, an obsession with music appears to be a positive force. 

But fandom usually goes beyond the offering and into the person making the offer. My daughter is interested in what Taylor has to say, she is curious about who Taylor chooses to surround herself with, what is she wearing, what does she like/dislike, who has been mean to her and why (there is a list, it starts with K). 

Swift aligns herself with many social causes which come through in her songs and videos that flow into my child’s developing mind. One of which is Girl Power and modern day feminism. She says ‘No’ to bullies, believes in pursuing your dreams, and being kind to all (although, if pushed, her ‘mad love’ will turn to ‘bad blood’). She is also very respectful to her parents, especially her mother, a cancer survivor. 

Among the perfection, there is a risk that Taylor is one umbrella swing away from a Britney breakdown. The life she portrays is quite unique and will be largely unattainable to those hoping to grow up and become the next big thing. But overall, I find her to be a positive female role model. 

Communities can form out of the love of celebrity. It may seem asinine to the outsider but the social connection can be a lifeline for some, especially those who struggle with life in the real world. I can physically see my daughter bonding with other friends over their shared love of this country-pop-indie-folk sensation. When the bloom is off the rose (sorry Taylor, it happens to us all), it won’t undo the bond my child will have forged. Having something in common, even a past addiction, can be a strong connector. Any Strawberry Shortcake fans out there, you know what I’m talkin’ bout. 

Body image is something I am keeping an eye on (not for me, that ship has sailed!) but as my daughter becomes a pre-teen I know the pressure to look a certain way will start to seep in. Taylor Swift had an eating disorder in the past, she talks openly about it and promotes body positivity. 

She jumps around the stage in knee high boots and some sort of leotard - is this because she is body positive or because she is thin and beautiful and perpetuating an unrealistic beauty standard? At her concerts she also wears long flowing dresses and pretends to be a snake, so perhaps the outfits can be seen as part of the showmanship.

Or is she simply throwing her “22” hat in the ring for an Olympic tryout? She dances and sings for 3 hours straight, no support acts. That's an Olympic effort right there. 

There are also some obvious physical benefits to listening to your favourite singer including the cardiovascular workout from the dancing, and the endorphin release that comes with the excitement of concerts and new songs.

However, can a healthy interest become unhealthy? 

Of course, any kind of obsession has downsides. The elusive concert tickets for Taylor Swift cost an arm and a leg (which might explain why one of her stage outfits is missing both an arm and a leg). The pressure on parents of young fans, not only to find the money, but to find a ticket, is immense. 

Is it even wise to have thousands of young people packed into a stadium that can barely hold them? If there is an emergency, are these minors equipped to walk to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion?! I say this as a parent who has sold her soul to get tickets, I am clearly willing to take the risk as I think the concert will be a once in a lifetime event (and I’m sure my daughter will like it too).  

My 10 year old woke up at 3am the morning Taylor’s album dropped at 5am, the early start is outrageous for many reasons. I like to see my kid excited about something, but it shouldn’t involve the whole house waking up before dawn - Swift is no Santa. (Although, in her heart is a “Christmas Tree Farm”)

Being a fan of something can make you a target for teasing. Or on the flip side, talking about your obsession with fellow obsessors can make others feel left out. 

If I look at Taylor Swift objectively, I like the cut of her jib (even if it’s missing an arm and a leg!). She is talented, she writes her own songs, she has a good head on her shoulders and she puts out good messaging for her fans. 

I’m not convinced there is any major physical health benefit to being a fan, or major disadvantage to not being one. There are some things to keep in mind - it can improve your mental health, promote bonding, might get you singing and dancing, but be wary of cost, herd mentality, and how messages are being interpreted. 

You might wonder ‘Why does it matter if Taylor Swift is good for your health?’ Perhaps you can’t abide her or have no idea who she is. To put it simply - she’s a Nashville singer who blows up the economy of every country she tours in. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you soon will.

“Who’s afraid of little old me? You should be”- [from the Tortured Poets Department]

Read the original online article here - The Swift Effect: Why being a fan can be good for you