Operation: Styles

I have heard of One Direction. They write catchy pop songs that are mainly enjoyed by girls in the 12-14 age range. My personal experience with their track ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ is a limited one, but still it gets stuck in my head a baffling number of times per week. In fact, the only occasions I can think of actually taking the time to put it on have been whenever I ask, “What should we listen to?” and my boyfriend replies “Slayer”. I’ll start playing ‘Raining Blood’ on Spotify, then secretly line up ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ on Youtube to fade it up at inappropriate points during the RIFFS, whilst shouting “IT’S A BLOODY MASH-UP!”.
Anyway, I have nothing against One Direction, but it does amaze me that boy-bands are still a thing. It’s bewildering, but I have accepted it.

I saw them on TV a while ago and out of curiosity I wondered how old they were. I am not a sex-criminal, I swear it was just curiosity and the belief that none of them could be older than me. I was correct. This is a regular thing that happens now and it’s depressing. Nothing I will ever do can be impressive now, I am in my early-20s and am over-the-hill.
At present, the oldest member of One Direction is 21 and the youngest just turned 19. The newly 19 year old is Harry Styles, a name I had heard thrown about for a while, but didn’t actually know it meant until last October or thereabouts. It felt good to learn. I love learning things. I’ve got a yearnin’ for learnin’. Please don’t ask me the names of the others because I don’t know. Again: not a sex-criminal.

I put this new-found Styles knowledge out of my head and didn’t think of him again until the end of last year when I was alerted to the Twitter feed Harry, My Cat Died, which I have since come to love more than I will ever will any of my children. The noble, brave and mysterious figure behind the account makes it their duty to retweet inane things that fangirls post to Styles. Well, that’s the way it started at least. For reasons unknown, many One Direction fans like to inform Harry of the tragic death of their pets to try and get him to follow them or retweet them or just reply. Like that age-old tradition of writing a letter to Santa and hoping that he follows or tweets you back.
As time wore on, though, our hero started uncovering some darker messages directed at Styles. Many were presumably retweeted on the premise that they had to be total bullshit, for example, people claiming their parents had died that day and that a follow from Harry would cheer them up, despite a look at their timeline showing no mention of dead parents. Then one day at the start of December, it became clear that things had gone batshit mental when HMCD retweeted a message for Harry Styles about the grandmother of the sender who had apparently died a few days previous… followed by a picture of the dead grandmother being kissed on the forehead by a grieving relative. Since then, the account has gone above and beyond in terms of finding really bizarre tweets and I am now holding HMCD wholly responsible for this strange new fascination I have with not only with Styles, but mainly with his fans. This is how they get you.

Inspired by the crazy Twitter feed, I wondered just how possible it would be to actually get Harry Styles to follow you on that website and decided that it could be a REALLY FUN CHALLENGE that I could DEFINITELY DO. I boldly announced my mission on Twitter and asked if anyone else wanted to try so we could maybe have a little competition. The first One Direction ambivalent person to get Harry Styles to follow them would win. How hard could it be? I strapped myself in and began to think of tactics, then checked his profile, saw that he had 8 million followers and immediately realised that I had made a foolish, foolish error. At present, this figure has risen to over 11 million. Oh.
The few people interested in participating asked what the rules should be and I decided that there should be none. I did think that one might be “No blatantly asking him to follow you”, but judging how few times that seems to have worked, I say if you want to try that, go for it… idiot.

So, step one was to decide on how to make first contact with Styles. A lot was riding on this first comment I was going to send to him and I decided that I’d have to make my debut special. I vowed to never ask him directly to follow me and would only use my wonderful charm. Imagine if I managed to snare him with just one tweet? Could this be A NEW CHALLENGE?! No. I was around eight minutes into this one and had already lost the will to continue, upon noticing that anybody Styles followed was immediately pounced upon and followed by thousands of One Direction fans. Nobody needs that. BUT I continued and had a look through the list of people he was following. On the whole, they seemed to have very unique, personal and original usernames, normally things like “1Dfan” or “styles4evz” or “directioner456”. This whole bland username thing has always confused me on internet forums, but it has reached Twitter too. Many One Direction fans appear to change their display names to ‘Harry Styles’ and their profile pictures to shots of Harry Styles and never talk about anything except Harry Styles, but still desperately want Harry Styles to follow them. Wouldn’t it be better if they had a bit of their own personality on their page somewhere? If you really want someone (not even necessarily someone famous, but maybe even just a fellow fan) to follow you and become your friend so much, would you not want them to actually follow YOU and become YOUR friend, rather than that of a generic username and picture combination? Sorry for this brief interlude, but this is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night. It is genuinely so bizarre.

I started to consider the possibility that Styles’ following pattern was perhaps totally random and just based on the few begging tweets he actually happened to see on the rare occasion where he’d check his replies, but that couldn’t be right. I mean, each and every one of the, at time of writing, 1428 accounts he follows seems totally worthwhile and I am 100% certain that he keeps track of every single person on that list. I imagine he is so aware of the fascinating posts by each of them that in a pub quiz or on Mastermind, he would totally nail the question “On what date did Twitter user ‘LiamsAntiSpoons’ post the words ‘Do you ever feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes because you see faggots on your timeline but you can’t unfollow bc rude’?”

I’ll be honest with you, blog, the fact that Twitter is totally pointless for people like Styles, who have millions of followers, kind of took the fun out of the challenge. I thought that his replies must move so fast that if he does read them, anything me or my competitors said would be drowned out almost instantly.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 17.12.37

Look at that! In under a minute, so many people had favourited or retweeted a picture of a banana just because Harry Styles posted it. That screengrab is from November, but it’s usually into a couple of thousand doing each thing nowadays.
This put me off the challenge even more than my initial scepticism, and I had the perfect excuse to give up on it for a while over December when I was working six days a week. I told myself I’d reconvene in the new year.

New year came and went and I planned on finishing this entry (I started it in November and just returned to it yesterday, 27th February), but again put it off by writing another post that was actually important, followed by three that were not so much. Fortunately, at the end of January, due to being unemployed, easily amused and still fascinated by Styles’ fans on Twitter, I managed to sort of get a rumour about him off the ground. It was a social experiment, really, but did remind me that Twitter can be hilarious fun. The whole story is here, please read it for an example of how crazy and emotional some One Direction fans can be. I know fangirls have always been this crazy and that it’s only because sites like Twitter exist that those previously blissfully unaware are now enlightened, but it doesn’t make it any less terrifying. The majority of them don’t even proof-read. Crying shame.

I have decided that now is the time for Operation: Styles to commence. Mainly because, forgetting that the plan was to perfectly and carefully craft my first contact with him, I absent-mindedly sent him a message. Admittedly, though, it was a good one.
Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 17.20.31
See? Gold! And true too. If I was the entire readership of the NME I think I probably would have nominated for Ian Watkins, formerly of Lostprophets, as Villain Of The Year, rather than lazily putting forward an inoffensive 19 year old who actually seems like he might be a nice person.
You heard it here first: NME readers are alleged-paedophile apologists.

If you plan on joining in, let me know and we’ll make this ridiculous and FUN.
Let the games begin!

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