One Direction: A Social Media Phenomena That Redefined Pop

Alan Ewart

Pop music sensations One Direction are not what you may think they are, in truth One Direction are probably about as far from what most people think they are as it is possible to be. One Direction fans are also portrayed in a certain light and that image too is a long way from the truth. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since One Direction appeared on Simon Cowell's X-Factor way back in 2010. Whilst One Direction and their fan base have changed immensely it is fair to say that the image often portrayed by the media has not.

For many people One Direction represent everything that is wrong with the Simon Cowell view of how music should be. Their formation as a band saw five teenagers who failed to make it through the "boot-campx stage of X-factor given a second chance if they agreed to come together to form a band. As a result One Direction was born.

In the beginning the music and mainstream press paid little attention to by One Direction other than to say they were X-factor contestants. The serious music press largely ignored them because they believed that One Direction would follow the pattern established by so many X-factor artists in the past. If they won the show One Direction would score a Christmas No 1 with someone else's song. They would then have a moderately successful debut album and then disappear back to from whence they came.

It is doubtful that Cowell or anyone else imagined that One Direction would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. Of course Cowell and Syco are past masters of media manipulation. The show is barely over before we saw the sexualization of Harry Styles. The then 17-year-old Harry was linked with Caroline Flack a woman almost twice his age in the first of what would become thousands of stories about who Harry and his One Direction band-mates were dating. As early as 2013 we were seeing stories such as Metro's Harry Styles top-10 girlfriends.

In many ways the media is still caught up in that melodrama and many dismissed One Direction as a manufactured band, playing manufactured songs to a manufactured audience.

Of course, few people would have been able to predict that One Direction would become a major player in a new phenomenon. As PopSugar reports, just as One Direction were beginning to take off so did social media. At a time when record companies were fretting about online piracy no-one foresaw that social media would spread the word about One Direction in a way that no amount of press publicity ever could.

The advent of YouTube, Twitter and streaming services saw One Direction and their music reach people that their management could never have imagined. Adult fans could check out "what is One Direction all about" from the comfort of their computer screen without having to spend a dime. One Direction's younger fans are the first generation of fans to have grown up in the computer age. Even twenty years ago who would have guessed that not owning a home computer would come to be seen as a measure of deprivation.

Record companies may not have understood the technical revolution that was going on but One Direction's fans certainly did and One Direction rode that technological wave all the way to superstardom.

Whilst social media has been a huge boon for One Direction and their fans it has been something of a curse for One Direction's management and PR team. Where social media spread word of where One Direction where and who they were with across the globe in minutes their team remained cloistered in the past. By being far less technology savvy that One Direction's fans their team relied and dated and archaic methods to generate publicity. PR stunts were seen through by One Direction fans in moments and even the carefully nurtured image of One Direction's members was exposed to public view as a result of the Sony e-mail hacking scandal.

Neither One Direction nor their fans are who you think they are.