The Internet Standoms Pop Culture

It’s okay to not want your fave to know you exist

The internet is a window that needs some curtains. Or shutters. Or drapes. Anything that creates a semblance of privacy, respect, and boundaries I think would do the internet some good. At the very least, maybe it would end the rampant, unchecked sexualization, fetishization, objectification, and dehumanization of celebrities by fans.

The internet and social media have made it possible for just about anybody to see anything. For those of us who are fans of celebrities (reminder: real-life people), this means that thirst tweet, smutty fic, or fan edit we just posted could very well be seen by the people we stan. And if that doesn’t embarrass us, then we need to have a conversation about fan culture.

In 2021, Twitter and TikTok users are both the poster-children for and the spokespeople against toxic fan culture. I regularly see tweets and videos that explain why people are so judgmental of fans in the first place. For a brief moment a few months ago, there was a trend where people admitted which celebrities they think they could pull on their best day. Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this trend, mostly because it’s not that serious and it does help humanize celebrities. But there were some people who made it obvious they were not joking. For these fans, this trend was a microcosm of how normal it is to sexualize celebrities.

A few years ago, back in One Direction’s heyday, Larry Stylinson was the pinnacle of toxic fan culture. While shipping real-life people is hotly debated in fandoms, Larry Stylinson shippers are considered radicals in the shipping community.

For most Directioners, even if we thought it would be cute for Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to date in real life, we left it at that. It was simply a thought we briefly had before moving on with our lives. We did not show up to concerts, meet and greets, and other public events on a mission to make it clear to the boys that we were obsessed with their sexualities and insistent on fetishizing their (probably non-existent) relationship. To this day, toxic Larries think Harry and Louis are trying to communicate to them through coded messages.

In fandoms where fictitious worlds are brought to life through the power of film and television, toxic fans blur the line between fantasy and reality. Star Wars fans’ (and Disney’s) treatment of John Boyega is one example. Shadow and Bone fans’ treatment of Danielle Galligan is another. In both instances, fans attacked the actors online, even going as far as sending death threats.

Basic human respect and decency dictate sending hate and death threats to anyone is horrible. And sending hate and death threats because a Black actor playing a Black character speaks up about how blockbuster series fail to explore the nuances of characters of color or because an actor playing a character isn’t curvy enough is the epitome of toxic fan culture.

Also, toxic fans are almost always involved when celebrities have to take a hiatus for their mental health. Toxic fans are why Little Mix is now a trio, why Chloe Bailey received so much misogynoir-fueled hate online recently, why Natalie Portman left the spotlight for a brief period of time, why Sulli and Hara are no longer with us, and even why Britney Spears experienced such a public breakdown (why do you think paparazzi were following her so closely? Because fans were too interested in her life).

Luckily there are people who are trying to correct this toxic fan behavior.

Lindsay Webster, of Buzzfeed fame, is a well-known Harry Styles superfan. In a recent YouTube video, she admitted she’s never actually wanted to marry Harry. She’s just a really big fan of who he is and what he does. This is very relatable, and it should be the only opinion held by fans. On Twitter and TikTok, I’ve seen fans echo Webster’s opinion with humor, reminding others in their fandoms that they’re probably not going to ever meet their fave, let alone marry them. Other fans have joked about how they cannot believe they stan a human person, while still others have admitted they never want their ult to know they (or their fan page) exist.

No one is saying you can’t stan celebrities. But celebrities should always be treated like people because they are people. Respect their privacy, respect their boundaries, and remember that they don’t owe us anything.

Keep going to concerts, meet and greets, book signings, red carpets, award shows, and more—but if you meet the celebrity you stan, don’t show them your fics, and don’t pull up the webtoon you drew of them in a furry relationship. It’s really not that hard to rein in the hate, creepiness, and judgment in favor of keeping fan culture light, fun, and enjoyable for everyone.

Even if you’re not one of these toxic fans, I still suggest we all get in the habit of logging off of the internet from time to time. There’s more to life than being a fan—and I say this as one. Go out and experience it. Or, at the very least, start small and go outside to touch some grass.

Keep up with entertainment news and trends and follow our brand-new Pop Culture Instagram account

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

Looking for more content like this? Follow our brand new Instagram account!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Here’s why your single friend always gives the best relationship advice

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I give excellent dating advice. However, if you were to ask me for my dating credentials, I would hand you a blank piece of paper.

For some, being serially single is not a choice. But for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I have been single for all of my adult life, and I thoroughly enjoy the independence and solitude—which I know freaks people out. While some single people date, I do not.

So how does this make me—and other serially single people—expert at giving dating advice?

Let me let you in on a few secrets of the trade.

The first secret is not actually a secret but a well-known fact: Almost all forms of content are about love.

Save $20 off pleasure products at Lora DiCarlo for Vagina Appreciation Day. Sale runs April 23rd - April 25th.

Even content that exists outside of traditional romance genres usually includes love and sex. For example, that action movie you just watched, was there a romantic arc in it?


Most movies, television shows, and books have provided blueprints for all kinds of relationships. A lot of these blueprints have helped me understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

I’ve also read more than a fair share of fanfiction. Honestly, when you asked for my dating credentials, I could have sent you the link to AO3 and, if you’ve ever read any fanfiction, you’d have immediately understood why this gives me so much credible dating insight.

Even being someone who grew up alongside the Internet has made many of us mini experts on random topics. Most of us didn’t necessarily seek this information out; it just appeared on our Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram feeds.

Here’s the real secret: All relationships are the same.

Whether platonic or romantic, open or closed, monogamous or polyamorous, all relationships are made of the same ingredients. The dictionary definition of relationship describes the connection between people. And we all have experience with that. I may not date, but I do have lots of friends.

Some of my friendships have failed while others have thrived. This has helped me gain insight on communication, boundaries, and respect—insight that applies to both platonic and romantic relationships.

I’ve also watched most of my loved ones experience all kinds of different relationships. As you can imagine, being single gives those of us who are serially single plenty of free time to observe other people’s relationships—and, if you’re a Virgo like me, judge these relationships in order to perfect the advice we give to those who may (or may not) ask.

Just because your single friends haven’t dated anyone—casually, seriously, or at all—doesn’t mean we’re not familiar with the territory. All of our observations add to our dating advice credentials.

In fact, we’re kind of like therapists.

Because we’re removed from romantic situations, we have clarity uncolored by personal bias and experiences.

Most importantly, your serially single friends arguably have the most experience with prioritizing themselves and their needs. This makes us adept at keeping your best interests top of mind if you come to us for romantic advice.

We want you to be yourself and to love who you are. We will encourage you to take the time to learn more about your wants, needs, and goals before diving further into romance.

The best advice I can give as a serially single person is to try out being single. Being single has a lot of perks, the top of which is that it can give you the time, space, and energy to explore you who are.

I’m not saying everyone should be single. I’m just saying don’t knock it till you try it.

And, don’t worry. I promise I won’t say “I told you so” when you realize being single helped you become a better romantic partner.

Happy dating!

Looking for more like this? Find more on our Instagram!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

Sexuality Dedicated Feature Love + Sex Love

Even experimenting with my sexuality seems like a step too far

My whole life, not being straight wasn’t an option I allowed for myself. I knew it was just so much easier to what was expected by my family, friends, and society. A remnant of my upbringing, sexuality in general carried a lot of stigma and pressure. But now that I am on the cusp of adulthood, I wonder how different everything could have played out if I allowed myself to explore. 

I can’t even recall the first time a girl had caught my attention, that’s how far back it was. I must have immediately justified it as liking her hair, or the way that she dressed. Perhaps, I reasoned that I just wanted to look like her, and maybe I did. But then, as I went through my teenage phase, I would often fantasize about girls. I didn’t develop any crushes on anyone I knew, but I wondered what it would be like. 

Scrolling through Tumblr, a haven for young people questioning their sexuality, I found myself wandering over to those pages with the artsy nudes. Appreciating them just for their artistic merit, of course, I would say to myself. But afterward, I would feel such shame that my chest grew tight. What was I doing? Who was I? I never brought it up to anyone else, but I remember being on the verge of tears as I reasoned to myself that all girls were like this. I was just young and curious. From then on, my sexuality became a tough cycle of self-denial and censorship. 

But it didn’t always feel that way to me. Even after I started questioning my sexuality, I was still okay with moving on as I always had, being straight. I normalized it to such an extent that for a while, I stopped questioning it. I pursued relationships with guys and it felt normal, if still controversial to the conservative community around me. When I got older and went on an exchange program for a year, I did the same. On the dating apps, I didn’t hesitate to click ‘men’ as my preference. During my last week there, I swapped phones with a friend to swipe through a dating app for fun. On her screen, a woman’s profile popped up. I knew that she was bisexual, but for a second, it felt like the world was playing tricks on me personally. “She’s cute,” my friend said, peering over. She was.

I felt regret. It was my last few days away from home, so I felt that I had missed my chance to try going on a date with a girl. Although even the thought made me feel nervous, I still regretted never trying and now the door to experimenting with any of that seemed firmly shut. I already planned in my mind how I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends, how I could downplay it if they found out. It was crazy, that I was already prepared to keep it a secret. It struck me that day that I was afraid of experimenting because what if I really was bisexual? Just placing that term anywhere next to me felt earth-shattering.

Perhaps it was fear, or just a desire to avoid conflict. I had always been a non-confrontational person and would rather choose to avoid tension even if I have to give some of myself up. Already in a precarious relationship with my cultural identity and family because of my so-called liberal ideas and forward-thinking when it came to feminism and gender, I didn’t want to seem even ‘stranger’ in their eyes. I didn’t want to be rejected. Every move I made caused ripples, even that year away from home was a scandal. If I dared to experiment, who knew what would happen? It seemed like whether or not I was bisexual, just experimenting had the potential to complicate my life. 

I was afraid of that uncertainty. So I never put myself out there. The fact is that I might have tried it out and found that I actually wasn’t romantically or sexually attracted to women. I could find out that I was. If I had known then that sexuality could be fluid, that it could change over time even without the pressure of labels, would experimenting have been any easier of a choice to make? 

But I still wonder, what if? I think I’ll always wonder about that. I also think about other things I am afraid of exploring because of culture, family, friends, and other external factors. Hopefully, as more awareness is brought to experimenting and sexuality, things will change for the better, and more people will feel comfortable exploring important parts of themselves. As for me, I’m not sure where my life will take me. I wouldn’t rule out anything in my future. This is only the first step, confronting my internal ideas of ‘normalcy’, and I suppose it’s okay to not know if and what comes next.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Pop Culture

I formed life-long friendships using only pop culture references on my first day of college

If your first day of college is approaching, you’ve come to the right place. I’m about to tell you the story of how I became friends with some of my dearest friends – entirely by using pop culture references.

You know that whole thing about hiding your nerdiness in a closet? Well, don’t do it. We’re not living in a 90s film where the nerds and the geeks get scorned by the popular kids for liking things with magic and dragons. Hell, after Game of Thrones, that kind of stigma doesn’t exist anymore.

In college, you’re likely to find more people like you than you think.

I was going through orientation on my very first day of college and I met a girl my age who in the first five minutes exclaimed, “No shit, Sherlock!” twice. She had a curious phone case with some quote I didn’t recognize. An hour into our conversation, I subtly dropped the old Tumblr spy code; it’s a signal, a way to recognize people who belong to the same community, and something so random that an outsider would have no idea: “I like your shoelaces.” I took a leap and risked it all. It was summer, she was wearing sandals which clearly had no shoelaces. She could’ve thought I was positively insane, but luckily for me, she didn’t.

She gave me a sideways grin and nonchalantly replied, “Thanks. I stole them from the President.” At that point, I knew she was like me. We both started laughing, and the third person who had been involved in our conversation gave us funny looks. I asked both of them whether I could add them on Facebook, and my newfound fangirl sister had “Alec” as her middle name.

I remember that sensation of bliss when I asked her if the name was from Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters Chronicles and she said yes (this was long before the tv show, mind you, and I had never found someone as passionate about the series IRL as I was on social media). Next, we exchanged numbers and Twitter accounts, and guess what? We had been mutuals for years. She instantly recognized my username and said she’d been a fan of my fanfiction forever. She even had a quote from one of my fics saved on her phone. Crazy, right?

We’ve been laughing and crying about innumerable books, television shows, films and Broadway musicals for the past years and I know that wherever life may take us, no matter how physically distant we could be, we’ll always share our sessions of crazy.

You want to hear about another time fandom introduced me to one of my best friends? It was the beginning of my junior year during lunchtime in a crowded college cafeteria. I was in line waiting to get my food and I spotted a girl I didn’t know wearing a Slytherin scarf. I must have been staring because she looked up and smiled at me. I was, incidentally, wearing a scarlet Hogwarts jumper. Three seconds later, we both blurted out what we were thinking: “love the house pride!” Who says that Gryffindors and Slytherins can’t be friends?

Clearly, they’re wrong. We stayed up every week to watch a show where our OTP never gets together (you know the one) and sing all the words to Starkid’s A Very Potter Musical and speculate on people’s Hogwarts houses.

The three of us – along with other nerd friends that I met in similar comical scenarios – went on to found a Fandom Club at our university, to bring together people from all fandoms and discuss our current obsessions, watch and read things together, and share feels. We’ve organized so many events where we sat together and talked for hours about how a piece of media impacted us and the world. We went to cons, did cosplay photoshoots and invented fun games. We hosted theme parties and involved the entire student body. We’ve met so many fangirls and fanboys who introduced us to so many new things. I wouldn’t have met my crazy friends that I cry about dead fictional characters with if I’d never made that silly Tumblr joke on my first day.

So my advice for your first day – or first day back! – is to step out of your comfort zone, explore, challenge and dare. It’s the only way to start fresh.

Tech Now + Beyond

Sharing my art online changed everything for me

Art is constantly changing. In the same way that it evolves, so do the platforms we use to project it into the world.

One of the most amazing things about being alive right now is the ability to share anything you want, or anything you create, by simply choosing where to post it.

While these technologies grew over recent years, job opportunities grew as well. People went from not being able to make a living to finding opportunities in small-scale digital media. From video editors to make-up artists to dancers, a newly rapid influx of content demanded these types of artists. And now because of this, these types of artists are finding fulfillment while still bringing in a paycheck.

I’ll be honest, for me personally, the dream of success through art felt foolish and unattainable when I was young. It was hard enough trying to be a budding artist. But braving auditions and competitions with anxiety piling on top of it all was even harder. I remember making firm goals in my youth but shying away from opportunities out of fear. My writing, my music, and everything else that I created was for myself, and no one else. Sharing was just too hard when you had to see the reactions on people’s faces.

I found small communities online as I got older. Unexpected places like Tumblr gave me a safe outlet from which to jumpstart my artistic motivation. I found myself in a constant state of creation. I would give writing advice to my peers and answer questions about my music. I was able to make small connections and help others find their own tiny victories. After a while, I started finding those tiny victories of my own.

It felt like something finally clicked, after all of those years of not knowing how to share what I make. That environment of constant feedback framed a perspective for me that still affects how I create.

Because we exchange content differently now than we did even ten years ago, mixing concepts, genres, and types of art forms to find what speaks true to you is more common than ever. And without the constraints of geography and travel, simply using the right tags can help connect artists to their target audience, no matter how far away they might be.

Even the simple, and often painful, act of networking is more accessible. Between LinkedIn, remote positions, and connections with creators who already have a digital presence, it isn’t so hard to track down opportunities. This especially makes finding these opportunities easier for disabled or chronically ill artists, like myself.

I feel like the industry I was meant to work in didn’t exactly exist when I was growing up. I look around now and see more chances to create and inspire rather than more challenges. By simply being alive right now, I’ve gotten to share art and build relationships with other artists in ways I would never have imagined. I’m able to supplement my income and build on my dreams.

Am I currently able to support myself completely by creating art? No. But I get the feeling that someday very soon, I will.

Tech Now + Beyond

Social media was both my friend and my enemy during my hospitalization

In February of 2016, a room on the pediatric oncology floor of the hospital became my very own. It’s where I would live for the next 5 weeks while undergoing rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The goal was to replace my crappy immune system with one that actually works. I’d be able to fight infections and become less of a regular at the ICU. I was absolutely terrified. Crippling anxiety and a deep fear in my gut filled every moment leading up to my hospitalization.

Yeah, I was worried about inevitably losing my hair and the physical trauma my body was about to experience, but I never anticipated the toll it would take on my mental health. I knew it would be bad, but there’s so much I couldn’t have prepared for, especially how lonely I’d be while isolated from the rest of the world.

At least I had my phone, I thought. At least I can check my apps and feel connected to what was happening outside of my hospital room. My phone turned out to be a source of pain as much as it was my lifeline to the world outside.

I had visitors from time to time, and my family stayed by my side but I wasn’t myself. In such a bad place mentally and physically, I was barely able to mumble a greeting when visitors arrived. I had my phone, though, and this allowed me to reach out to my friends at my own discretion. If I was having a good day, I’d get on the phone just to hear my friends’ voices.

I checked Snapchat daily although I didn’t post a lot of my own content. Scrolling through Twitter and catching up on headlines was another way to pass the time and stay informed. I used Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and even Timehop so I could remember a time outside of the hospital. I could go for some walks on the floor but even the windows were locked, preventing me from breathing fresh air for over a month. The Internet was there for me, providing me with horrific news (you all remember 2016, right?) but also my connection to life beyond the oncology ward.

While I’m thankful for social media, I also experienced an unheard of amount of FOMO. Most of my friends were either living their post-grad lives or finishing up their senior year of college. The only way I could remain involved was to watch from the outside. I began to feel bad for myself, desperate to get back into the world and be a part of all the fun I saw on Snapchat.

I felt really conflicted. Part of me wanted to throw my phone at a wall and never have a notification again, but I knew the disconnect would be even harder to deal with. My friends had every right to post, and I know now from talking with them that they were also in a complicated position. They’re all so loving and compassionate that they agreed amongst themselves to slow their roll on social media, especially during times they knew I desperately wished I could be with them. But, there were still posts I saw that made me feel bad and there was no way to avoid it unless I avoided my phone altogether.

Life was happening on my iPhone and I wished I could leap through the screen and join the party. This continued on for the 100 days of post-op recovery. During this part of my journey, I was cooped up with my dad at his house. I was too sick and too immunocompromised to leave. This time, there were no locked windows but medical restrictions. Instagram posts of parties and hangouts seemed to sting even more from my dad’s couch. I was so close, but still so far from the freedom I longed for.

I’m appreciative of social media during a time when I had no physical access to the outside world. At the same time,  I also became a bitter spectator, desperate to re-enter the world I saw through Instagram filters. If I had to do it all again, there’s no doubt I’d have my phone by my side. I still would pick the fear of missing out as opposed to missing out entirely. Plus, I am able to see clearly now what I couldn’t before. Social media shows all the fun, excitement, and glamour that people want to highlight. Yet, at the same time, we all have our own struggle going on behind the scenes. We scroll through Instagram and mostly see the best of other people’s lives and compare that to our own. 

It’s hard to not compare yourself to others whether you’re in a hospital bed or not. We have to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles despite how they present themselves on social media. While it didn’t always feel this way, social media also gave me hope. It served as a reminder of life outside of the hospital. I clung to the fact that time would pass. I’d emerge from the darkness, ready to enter the world and see it with my own eyes, #nofilter.

Life Hacks How To Use The Internet Tech Now + Beyond

4 ways to delete toxic people off social media – and your life

Everyone has the right to cut toxic people from their lives. It’s usually messy, and not generally easy. But much of the time, it’s necessary for our own mental well-being. However, the way we move on from relationships has changed with the evolution of social media. And so, the coping tools we use should evolve as well.

Lately, it doesn’t really seem possible to cut anyone off completely. Thankfully there are still some tools and tricks that I’ve found to make sure I felt safe creating distance between myself and a former loved one. Sometimes it can be simple, and other times it takes a bit more effort. But in any case, these tips have always helped me find a solution.

1. Unfollow/Unfriend

[Image description: A person touches their phone while saying ‘Delete. Erase. Unfollow. Whatever.’] via giphy
This one seems obvious. But honestly, I’ve kept people in my social media sphere just out of fear of angering them. But in situations where you simply need to break a tie or give yourself a break from seeing their face, removing them completely is my go-to.

And when I say completely, I mean completely. Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat… the works. Unfriending them on one platform but then stumbling across one of their posts on another one is the worst. Whatever your reasons for cutting them off, leaving threads open invites you to go looking through the profile. Simply put, it’s not worth it. It’s okay to miss someone. But it’s easier to make emotionally healthy choices when you aren’t looking at their dog every other day.

2. Don’t be afraid to use that block button

[Image description: a man selects the block button on his phone.] via giphy
Seriously it’s there for a reason. The best thing I could have possibly done for my mental health was just to remove toxic people from my social media. But sometimes it goes beyond that. Depending on the nature of your former relationship, you might feel uncomfortable with the idea of that person being able to creep on your profile. Some platforms still allow other people to contact you via direct message even if you aren’t friends. Blocking is a form of self-care. The energy spent on worrying about that person contacting you is better spent on something you enjoy. You don’t owe them a conversation.

3. Be picky

[Image description: a woman says ‘You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.’] via giphy
Maybe you’re not ready to remove someone from social media completely. You have your reasons, and that is perfectly fine. You still have privacy options. Since these focus on Facebook settings, they’re particularly useful when dealing with toxic family members.

If you just need to keep certain posts away from a specific set of eyes, you can use the custom privacy options when sharing or creating a post. There you’ll be able to select certain friends who won’t be able to see your posts. You can keep it just for the one time or make it your default option for the future.

Another option for Facebook is the restricted list As I mentioned earlier, there are times when I felt unsafe unfriending someone. In one particularly bad situation, it was simply fear that they would get angry and retaliate by harming me. I was thankful to find out that the restricted list keeps them from viewing any of your non-public posts or information, while still technically keeping them on your friend list.

4. Let someone know

[Image description: Snoopy and Charlie Brown share a hug.] via giphy
When it came to the man who assaulted me, I wanted him to find no trace of my goings-on. Like I told my mother, he did not get to have any access to my life. So, I asked her and my grandma to delete and block him as well. Knowing that he wouldn’t be scrolling through his feed and looking on at anything my family tagged me in made me feel so much more secure. It felt like the final step in a long process of making myself feel as safe as I possibly could.

Basically, it’s hard to end relationships with so much social media surrounding us. But whether it’s a toxic family member, an aggressive person you met on a dating app, or just an unhealthy friendship, you have the right to the amount of privacy that you request. And despite what you may be led to believe, you don’t owe anyone anything. Feel free to shoot for your most stress-free social media experience, if at all possible.


My secret life as an undercover fangirl (and how I finally came out)

Remember when being a nerd was considered bad? When “nerd” and “geek” were used as insults for socially awkward people with glasses? Luckily, we have progressed.  

Once upon a time, there was a big stigma towards people who admittedly loved fantasy and sci-fi, now the world is obsessed with Game of Thrones and the Marvel films have broken all kinds of records in every country.

I remember middle school and being teased for liking books with dragons at age 13. I remember bringing books on class trips and getting eye rolls when I explained that yes, there’s magic in this one too. So after a while, I started becoming super secretive about my passions. Not that I ever denied them, but I created a different Facebook account to discuss “nerd things only.” It was the age of Facebook groups and pages.

Then one day I discovered fanfiction. I was reading theories about the upcoming Eragon book, and I stumbled upon a fanfiction site. I was completely sucked in. I’m positive that the number of hours I’ve spent reading fanfictions up to now amounts to several months, if not years. Soon I found myself writing fanfiction. I realized it was something I’d always done, in my own way: even as a child, when sometimes I didn’t like how a certain scene played out or a certain book’s ending, I would rewrite it – albeit in my childish way – and pretend my version could replace canon. I can’t say that I ever became notorious for my fics, but I had a decent following. People would email me asking for updates and send me reviews or comments.

I signed up for Twitter long before it was cool, and I was told by a peer fic writer to use my fanfiction username. I discovered fandom Twitter in its early days when it was merely a safe space for us to freely discuss without being judged before it became the problematic and toxic place it is now. Then I signed up for Tumblr. All of this undercover. Never once did I ever mention my name on these platforms, and it wasn’t because I was afraid the “creepy people from the internet” would see me; on the contrary, I lived in fear that somebody I knew IRL would find out I blogged about fantasy books at night.

As the years passed and fandoms grew on social media, I became ““popular”” (note the double quotes) and respected in several fandoms. This gave me the confidence to stop being so secretive about what I did online – it was nothing bad, after all – and I started opening up to my closest friends about it.

Popular culture also underwent a huge shift: thanks to many successful franchises in the 2000s like Harry Potter, Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, etc., fantasy became more and more normalized. By 2011, when the last Harry Potter movie came out, nobody used “nerd” as an insult for fantasy-loving people anymore, because you had children, teenagers and adults alike crying in theaters about the end of an era. An entire generation wasn’t afraid to show their emotions because we all grew up with these films and books, and it was the case that the rest of pop culture kept up. In the 2010s there have been hundreds of fantasy films and television shows that were blockbusters. You didn’t have to be a nerd to like them, you simply had to go see them.

Six years ago, Game of Thrones was “that show with swords, sex, incest and dragons” to most of my friends. Now I can’t name more than five people who don’t watch it. In the same way, the Marvel Cinematic Universe normalized comics and superheroes, a genre that had always belonged to the underdogs.

Recently I came out of hiding. My Twitter and Tumblr handles are easily attainable. They’re connected to my writing profiles, thus linked to my full name, and I feel comfortable sharing every aspect of me to my friends and the world.

I completely came out of the nerd closet when I founded a Fandom Club at my university, a place for nerds to meet and discuss our favorite books, shows, films, video games, etc., and only then did I realize how many undercover nerds like me there are out there.

There is still a stigma directed at fantasy, that’s undeniable. Being obsessed with a sports team is still more socially acceptable than being a fangirl, even if the former entails staring at dudes running after a ball and the latter includes reading and analyzing pieces of literature, reviewing, theorizing, and often producing your own content. But for millennials, being a nerd is more than acceptable now. It has become cool.

Gender & Identity Life

It’s time to let yourself say no

Being a yes person is almost never a good thing. There was a point in my life when I thought it was. Every year, people tell me to be stronger. Be braver. To learn how to say no. And I’m trying, I swear. But it isn’t that easy when you aren’t built that way. When the nod of your head comes more easily than the formation of an n and o by your mouth.

In Pakistan, girls are meant to be submissive. Pakistanis like meek girls. They like girls that hide their gaze and shyly smile at you from a distance. But the ones that shake their heads, the ones that defy the norms, god we hate them. They should be ostracised, they say. I used to always say yes. It was as if it were built in my bones. But somehow, I became part of the latter group. The girls that were too loud, the girls whose voices rose when they were shushed. It’s okay to say no. Practice it. Preach it. If you don’t want to do something, just don’t. You are not supposed to please anyone but yourself.

Say no to smiling

[Image Description: A gif of two girls being told, “you girls are so pretty, you should smile” and then making funny faces.] Via giphy
Embrace that resting bitch face, or half-assed face or whatever it is that you do. That aunty that asked why you’re frowning at that wedding last weekend? Don’t let it get to you. When you get that, “Babe, please smile” remember that your smile is worth more. It isn’t there to make anyone else feel comfortable.

Say no to that 2 a.m. “you up?” message that you’ll only regret in the morning

[Image Description: A gif of Emma Stone giving a thumbs up.] Via giphy
Your time is worth so much more, and boys like that, worth so much less. Sometimes when you’re at a low point in life, you accept less than you deserve, it’s understanding your worth that makes the difference. So ignore messages that mean nothing in the morning, because with daylight, comes clarity, Wait for it.

Say no to late night McDonald’s

[Image Description: A gif of a child saying “Chicken nuggets is like my family.”] Via giphy
I know the cravings. It’s Saturday night, you’re going home with your friends and someone suggests McDonald’s. It’s just routine now, you don’t even think about it. But sometimes, it’s okay to say no., Because eventually, your body will begin to betray you.

Say no to everyone that tells you that you can’t

[Image Description: A gif of a girl saying “you go girl.”] Via giphy
Because you can. That aunty that tells you that you can’t be loud and ladylike at the same time? You can. That boss that tells you your ideas are not valid? They are, they always are. So don’t allow yourself to be swayed by all the rejection in your life. There is so much acceptance coming your way.

Say no to hiding behind social media

[Image Description: A gif of a girl trying to take a selfie with another girl and being rejected, with the tags Facebook and Tumblr.] Via giphy
We all do it. Tweeted passive aggressively about someone we don’t like. Put up a picture to piss someone off. It’s innate. But we need to stop. We need to say no. We should never post things on social media that we cannot say out loud because that makes us weak.

Say no to taking too much

[Image Description: A gif of a man saying “just say no.”] Via giphy
We spend so much of our times just doing. Constantly moving around and about and never really stopping to take in what’s happening around us. Sometimes life does get overwhelming, it does get unbearable. It’s okay to say no. If you have too much on your plate, you can refuse. It makes life so much easier.

Fuck the resolutions, everyone knows that stuff never works. It’s been three months into 2018, and for me, things still feel the same. It’s as if January, February and March were a long post-December hangover. Maybe April is when everything will begin. So here’s to a fierce April, to all the girls that have been told to be submissive, all the girls that have been told to always say yes, just don’t. Don’t do it, not unless you really want to.


Social media isn’t all bad, and the memories I have from it of me and my spouse are proof

As I sit down to write this piece, there are nearly 7,000 photos in the camera roll on my iPhone. Those are the photos, screenshots, and memes I’ve taken or saved in the three years since I learned how cheap iCloud storage really is and invested in a regular backup for my data. Many of the photos I took before that are gone — but not all of them. Several are stored on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, and even Twitter. Social media has been a godsend for not only making memories, but preserving them, and thus my relationship with it is complex.

I’m not in the camp that believes social media is “destroying how society works” — but perhaps that’s because I grew up online, navigating social relationships on Neopets, Livejournal, Xanga, Fanlistings, and eventually MySpace. When my friends began to leave those sites, it was natural for me to follow them and move onto Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I have always been a few steps behind in migrating from one social platform to the next; in that way, I follow the crowds. Who wants to talk to themselves on social media all day?  One thing has remained consistent across every platform where I’ve made an account (or six): some of my longest-lasting, healthiest relationships were born in these spaces. These spaces allow me to not only form and maintain these relationships, but remember the individual moments of them.

Sometimes, social media is a landmine. People spout vitriol onto the web every day, sometimes hiding behind anonymity and sometimes feeling bold enough to attach their real names and faces to their words. I won’t downplay the nastiness of that; nor will I deny that sometimes, seeing reminders of toxic people I’ve since cut out of my life can be incredibly triggering. Navigating these spaces can sometimes be hellacious—but to maintain a healthy relationship with social media, I try to focus on the glass being half-full.

Say what you will about how society is changing because of social media, but I think it can be pretty damn special.

Friends I made in fandom spaces on Livejournal in 2004 are now friends whose work I read in online publications and even published novels. We stay in touch through Twitter likes and Instagram comments, through Tumblr reblogs and Facebook shares. Occasionally, Timehop shows me an interaction with these friends from a decade ago that I forgot about, but am glad to see immortalized.

It’s not just friends. Much of my relationship with my spouse—especially in the early days, when we became friends and then started dating long-distance—took place online. Several social media platforms were integral in how we met, connected, and stayed in touch.

Our years together are marked in Tumblr tags, Facebook albums, and private Pinterest boards. They’re remembered in chat logs I saved in my Tumblr drafts during the early days of our friendship, when I desperately wanted to cling to the warm feelings they gave me. They’re collected in Instagram posts with and without captions, filtered beyond recognition or left untouched, then shared with our followers.

My relationship with my spouse is immortalized in those absurdly silly Facebook videos that the website makes when you hit “friendship milestones”. They’re remembered in old mixtapes stored on the mostly-defunct 8tracks, where we used to hide what we wanted to say behind emo songs and heavily-edited stock photo album covers.

In many ways, social media is a preservation tool, an archivist’s dream: just like a photo album, or a time capsule, but in the palm of your hand. Easily accessible wherever you have an internet-enabled device and a connection. I think it’s true that social media is changing the way we interact with each other—but that’s not entirely bad, the way some headlines make it out to be.

I know very few people my age who hang photos of themselves and their families all over the house like my family does—which feels, to me, like a microscopic version of posting pictures on Instagram.

And while digitizing private information can certainly be dangerous, there’s a freedom in knowing that tidbits of conversations are saved for me to look at whenever I need to be reminded of them, much like they would be if my spouse and I wrote love letters and pasted snippets into journals or photo albums.

Social media hasn’t “destroyed society”. It’s just shifted it, a bit, by making it easier for us to access things from the present as well as from years past: good, bad, and ugly.

Movies BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Being a fangirl is more than a t-shirt and fanfic – it’s helped save my life

Imagine this: A 21-year-old woman walks into the room. She’s wearing a t-shirt with her favorite band on it. She’s humming a song you haven’t heard before (and maybe you don’t even like it) and she has the biggest smile on her face. If your first instinct is to judge her for being a fangirl at that age, then you’ve already failed this test.

I’m kidding. Ok, not really. This 21-year-old woman is me and she gets judged (very often) for being who she is – a fangirl. And I don’t really get the big deal, in all honesty.

I’m a fangirl and I fail to understand why this makes other people uncomfortable.

It literally has absolutely nothing to do with you or your existence in general. I’m not forcing you to like whoever I like, or agree with me at any point.

[bctt tweet=”When something gives me that much happiness – how can you judge me for it?” username=”wearethetempest”]

If I do share what I’m loving at the moment, with you, it only means I genuinely consider you a close friend/person in my life and I want to share that part of my life (which means a lot to me) with you.

It does not in any way mean I want you to obsess about it/them too.

I wore my Flash t-shirt to college one day in my second year and someone came up to me and legitimately said, “I don’t like that show”. Here’s what’s interesting about this – I never asked them what they thought of the show.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m all for opinions, and criticisms, about what I like too. What I’m not here for is unsolicited judgment and advice on how I should be living my life – I didn’t ask you to tell me if I should be a 21 year old obsessing over a band, book, or a tv show – so don’t tell me what I should do.

[bctt tweet=”I’m a fangirl and I fail to understand why this makes other people uncomfortable.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Being a fangirl is one of the best things in my life. It’s an experience uncomparable and something I wouldn’t go back on or give up – if given the choice.

The excitement, the thrill, the exhilarating emotions, the love, and the dedication, above all, that I have seen amongst fangirls is something magical. We’re all here for one purpose and one common thread unites us all – our passion for that particular artist/band/book/tv show/movie, etc.

That’s amazing stuff – and it’s the kind of stuff I live for. I couldn’t imagine not being absolutely smitten and preoccupied with something at a particular point of time just because the amount of happiness I draw from the experience is unfathomable.

I love every minute of being a fangirl.

More than just that, being a fangirl is so good for my mental health. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, only I know how brilliant fangirling has been for my mental health.

[bctt tweet=”Being a fangirl is so good for my mental health.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It gives me purpose when I feel worthless, it gives me hope when I feel like there’s nothing left to hold on to, it gives me light when everything is dark and I feel lost.

Fangirling has saved me from collapsing into the dark pits of my thoughts so many times. It has worked as a strong form of self-care, more than just a few times, and it continues to do the same for me – even today.

The happiest place on earth for me, every year, without fail, is Comic-Con. I’ve been going for Comic-Con in my city since 2015 and it’s honestly the best thing ever. It’s where I get to meet people like me – where we feel like we belong. It’s beautiful and emotional all at the same time.

Not just Comic Con too, being a fangirl has gotten me so many twitter friends (some of whom are also friends of mine in reality now) that I couldn’t possibly go back on my decision of making an account dedicated to Justin Bieber and One Direction back in 2012 when I did.

I may not be as obsessed with them as I was, back in 2012, but I can never owe them enough for the way they helped me through high school, the way Harry Potter and Hermione Granger taught me to be brave even when I didn’t want to be, the way One Tree Hill helped me understand myself as I turned 18 and stepped into the real world, the way Wonder Woman has helped me tap into my actual potential (and still does) or the way BTS help me, every single day, as I start my day with their music on full blast, getting ready for the gym and the rest of my routine with the biggest smile on my face.

When something gives me that much happiness – how can you judge me for it?

Let me be a fangirl and let me love what I love. I sincerely hope you find something like that to love and hold dear to if you haven’t yet. It’s quite an experience, I tell you.