How I gained marketable skills by running a One Direction fan blog

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I’ll say it. I was rather partial to a certain 5-member English-Irish boyband (Niall isn’t British, get it in your heads) in my youth (let’s pretend that means further back in the past, and not as recent as the group's break-up in 2016). Yes, I know that such a revelation is likely to annihilate the small pittance of social capital I have (although, given the typical Cindies DJ set, I really shouldn’t be taking anyone’s judgment).

I'd say I have a healthy level of respect for Harry Styles

How do I convey the magnitude of my former fondness for this boyband to you… Let’s start with the fact that in 2012, when my passion was at its most intense, you could ask me for the geographic location of the group at any given moment, and I could give you the answer in a member-by-member breakdown (e.g. In March 2012, the boys stayed on tour in America while Zayn went home to Bradford for his aunt’s funeral). I could tell you the names of every one of their immediate family members. I had seen their X Factor auditions so many times that I’d memorised the timestamps of my favourite moments (e.g. when Liam lifts his heel off the ground at 2:54 singing Cry Me A River).

Much love to the friends who stuck by me through the dark times

For me, the best part about being this devoted to something was, surprisingly, not my incredible wealth of niche (read: singularly useless) expertise, but actually the community that sprung up around me. You see, I was a One Direction fan at a very particular time in history – that period in time when Tumblr was a volcanic hotbed of fan activity, and when One Direction was hoisted to superstardom on the backs of thousands of fans like myself who spent hours online obsessing over their every move, every wink, and every new iteration of the suspenders-with-loafers aesthetic. This is my roundabout way of saying that, yes, I did indeed run a One Direction Fan Blog. And no, I am not going to give you the URL.

I pray the hackers amongst you don't find my blog with this screenshot

However, the odd cringe-attack aside, I’m actually very happy to have been such an invested fan, because of how much better it made me. Not just in the sense of surrendering my teenage cynicism to unabashed excitement about something, but actually in a more technical sense – being a fan helped me to upskill. In the few years I spent running my fan blog (still not giving you the URL), I learned how to use Photoshop; I learned how to rip videos from YouTube (okay I know this isn’t very impressive but bear with me, I’m building to something); I learned how to build meaningful friendships through my Tumblr inbox; I learned what is perhaps one of the most valuable skills of my generation: how to turn videos into gifs (did you think I was going to say coding? Think again).

I should also say that, whilst I was cultivating a digital One Direction shrine from my Tumblr dashboard, I also took up the demanding role of Kpop and Korean drama fan. As many videos didn’t have subtitles, I ended up learning to read and write Korean; because I binge-watched Korean dramas while running on the treadmill, I unwittingly became extremely fit and developed a strong enough stamina to come 8th in the year for cross country (a big deal for someone who, up until that point, had traditionally "accidentally" scheduled all her dentist appointments for the day of the race).

I made this high quality gif 5 years ago with my bare hands

I think there’s a tendency to dismiss the teenage fan; on my most cynical of days, I can be guilty of it too. After all, every time Maroon 5 curses my hometown of Hong Kong by doing yet another concert there, I roll my eyes at the crop-top-wearing, wallet-chain-touting young whippersnappers posting pictures and lyrics up and down my newsfeed.

I’m sure I was (and will now likely continue to be) the subject of the very same snide derision from my peers and superiors; after all, this sort of generational sneering is hardwired into our social arrangement. However, I owe a lot of my skill-set today to the embarrassing teenage years I spent gif-ing the Up All Night tour or editing a photoset of that time Harry Styles checked at the airport.

So the next time you think back and cringe at the memory of waving a hand-drawn sign at a concert or spending hours drawing a portrait of someone famous you used to admire, think about what you’ve gotten from it, and give yourself some credit.