Because I work with thousands of teenage girls every year and follow many online, over the past month I have been privy to some revealing outpourings of devotion for One Direction, the squeaky clean British-Irish boy band which has captured the hearts of so many in girl world. First came the proclamations of devotion and tears of joy over the announcement the lads were coming to Australia: “Don’t ask me to stop loving One Direction as that would be like stopping breathing,” said one. “I. AM. CRYING.” wrote another. Then came the tears of despair as so many missed out on tickets; their concerts were sold out in minutes leaving many with shattered dreams. “We must be strong and support each other. Heart broken. L” So many virtual, and real, sad faces in cyber world.
The One Direction obsession touched me in a very personal way too. My usually sensible 12-year-old daughter tried to explain to me at one point that I should have stayed home to repeatedly to call a radio station ticket competition for her. I say “tried to explain” because she actually burst into tears and could only whimper, “I just love them.” (Her usually unsympathetic little brother was so shocked, he declared he’d miss school to try to win tickets.)
Fortunately for all of us, she was one of the lucky few who did secure her “golden ticket”. A friend’s mother approached the purchasing of tickets with admirable determination. She had a crack force of friends enlisted to try to get through to ticket sales on various phone lines, whilst simultaneously hitting sales up on-line. Between them all, four tickets were secured and four happy little girls joined the ranks of the chosen ones. Insert VERY excited faces.
Whilst the on-line chronicling of love and devotion to boy bands may be new phenomena, teen crushes certainly are not. I fell prey to the allure of the Construction Worker from the Village People, Ace Frehley from Kiss and David Bowie (it seems I unwittingly lusted after sexually ambiguous men in costumes).
And as tempting as it is to dismiss these outpourings of emotion, we do so at our own peril. Just ask Channel Seven, which almost had a riot on its hands when it underestimated the appeal of Justin Bieber and had to cancel his free concert. Grant Denyer said at the time, ”We just couldn’t have foreseen this scale and Sunrise hired the best security you could imagine, we hired the professionals who look after U2, Coldplay, Pink, the big acts, and even they weren’t equipped and just couldn’t handle the Bieber fever.”
The fever actually has its origins in a physical reality. The frontal lobes of teenagers are not yet fully developed. In other words, teenager’s brains are all tuned up for emotions, fighting, running away and romance.