Online fandom begins and mostly endures as a communal love that grows and grows. Occasionally, fans stan so hard they flip to the Dark Side at the slightest loss of ownership or control. But, for our latest research project, we found that the kindest fanbases are twice as positive as the downbeat and/or toxic fanbases are negative. (Word nerds note: When toxic was Oxford Word of the Year in 2018, ‘fandom’ didn’t even feature among its most-searched ‘collocates.’ Those included -chemicals, -masculinity, and -algae.)
WordTips, one of the most popular word unscrambler tools, conducted a sentiment analysis study to identify the negative and positive words used by 186 of Twitter’s most passionate fanbases, from Animal Crossing to Zayn Malik. We found the 50 most positive and negative fanbases and visualized the five most up- and down-beat in categories such as movie franchises, music, and video games.
One last note. Please remember, these stats testify to the fact that no fanbase is 100% good or evil. (Apart from Elon Musk’s.) Only a minority shout it in public – whether negative or otherwise. And a fanbase is definitely no reflection on the artist or Sith Lord that they stan.
What do Rihanna and Call of Duty have in common? Their fanbases are the only ones that use more than 180 negative words in every 1,000. A minority of Rihanna’s fans embody pop culture’s particular brand of “sense of entitlement” – the idea that an artist owes them something.
“The Internet is what made One Direction what they are today,” says one ‘Directioner’/journalist about pop culture’s most positive fanbase. Indeed, one of the most pervasive obsessions among Directioners (as the fanbase is called) is that two of the band members are secretly in love and that this is the symbolic meaning of Harry Styles’ twin bird tattoo. A tattoo that at least one pair of fans have got for themselves (one bird each). In other words, so positive it hurts.
The seven most positive fandoms are for music acts (including that of former One Direction idol Zayn Malik). Cryptocurrencies occupy the next three spots despite the reputation of crypto bros being, well, like avaricious gamer bros. However, as hype beasts who might actually make a profit from their preferred coin’s popularity, crypto fandom’s positivity is understandable - even when their enthusiasm is demonstrably wrong.
One-Punch Man is a webcomic-turned-digital-manga-turned-anime about a superhero who can defeat any enemy with a single hit – and it’s picked up some negative fans along the way. In fact, only Rihanna and Call of Duty have worse fanbases.
Naruto is a long-running martial arts fantasy anime with a very broad appeal and an enormous fanbase. Thankfully, this means the negative minority is easily outshouted by the lovely ones. Sample lovely tweet: “I'm a big naruto fan and I just don't get the fear of another anime being better like I've watched plenty of anime I think are better then naruto but it's still my favorite and there's nothing wrong with that In my opinion.”
If it seems odd to be a fan of a currency (“I stan the Romanian leu,” said nobody ever), remember that cryptocurrency culture isn’t about money so much as it is about teams. Like any team, cheering them on can improve performance, which in turn improves fan morale. So, it makes sense that three of the biggest bitcoins have their own army of grinning Ted Lassos behind them.
But every sports fandom has its louts, and the same can be said of crypto. In fact, Bitcoin appears in both the most positive and the most negative top five – although Bitcoin bros use 2.65 times as many positive words as negative ones.
The Fast and the Furious is the movie franchise with the most positive fandom. In fact, fans tweet 279 positive words per thousand, putting the action film ennealogy on a par with Beyoncé and one kind-word-per-thousand ahead of Harry Potter.
We’re very disappointed in you, Transformers. Or at least, your fanbase. The Transformers franchise spans decades and mediums, which means generations of fans can chant “you ruined my childhood” with every reboot or sequel – and then chant it again a decade later. Next time, they should bring the robot cars back as girls, a laGhostbusters.
R&B’s The Weeknd favors dark lyrics, so it is apposite that his fanbase should be highly ranked for negativity (second only to Rihanna). “Die for you by the weeknd is like a punch to the heart,” tweets one, giving positive strength 1 and negative strength -3 on Sentistrength.
One Direction occupies a place in both the positive and negative charts, but fans use precisely twice the frequency of positive words to negative words. Reggaetón king Daddy Yankee has the second most positive fans in music. The so-called #dyarmy has even petitioned to have their hero immortalized in wax at one (really, any) of the leading waxwork museums.
Memphis fans have the Grizzly Bear blues, and they’re not afraid to tweet about it. But the team’s characteristic sass also has a part to play in giving the Grizzlies the most negative fandom: “some people are starting to get REALLY pressed that the grizzlies are winning games and talking sh*t,” tweets one podcaster-fan, “therefore i think it’s only right that the grizzlies continue winning games and talking sh*t.”
Having been served a record-breaking 0.785 win percentage over five years in the past decade, the Golden State Warriors have reason to shine. Even in defeat, there’s something nice to think about: “It's not all bad news for the Warriors,” tweeted one fan after a 2016 slip-up. “Golden State is now officially the winningest team to ever lose the #NBAFinals !”
Social media brought the football rafters much closer to the players – so that spats could continue long after the game had finished. The Detroit Lions lead the way with the most negative fanbase, but the top five most negative NFL fandoms are separated by only six negative words per 1,000.
It’s thought to be the medium with the worst fandom, its “own cult of toxic fans.” To the point that games companies have hired Actual Real Scientists to come in and hypothesize how to fix the fandom. But on Twitter, at least, a minority of toxic gamers are watered down by a majority who just want to, you know, play games and have fun (or even “tend and befriend”). Call of Duty is the only game with a top ten negative fandom – category for category, music and anime stir harsher language.
In fact, gaming’s most positive fanbase uses more nice words than fans of Justin Timberlake or Toy Story – despite (or because?) the game is a quest into hell to defeat the devil. Fans love the game and feel virtuous when they prevail. A double-win for positive tweeting.
But our research delivers an important reminder that most fans gravitate towards a fandom from a love for the art and community and the pleasure of sharing both the love and the art.
Not sure whether to dip your toes into the Twitter community of your favorite thing? Check our full data below to see which Twitter fandoms offer a happy place.
Using Twitter API, we found 1,000 tweets from at least 100 unique followers of each of these accounts and analyzed tweets using the NRC lexicon to find out the percentage of positive and negative words. We then ranked the fanbases by the number of positive or negative words per 1,000 words used.
The data was collected in December 2021.