Why #AlexfromTarget matters

U-News Staff

If you have checked social media in the past week, you are probably well aware of who Alex from Target is. For those of you who haven’t heard, allow me to explain.

Alex is a cashier who works at Target. Last week, a photo of him went viral. The photo captured Alex sacking groceries in a Target store.

From Sunday to Thursday, Alex gained more than 675,000 Twitter followers and his picture has been shared thousands of times. He, quite literally, became a celebrity overnight..

The entire phenomenon has raised eyebrows over the growing power of fangirls, who are seeminglythe most active group of Internet users.

For years we’ve seen the effects of Internet fangirls (with artists such as Taylor Swift, One Direction, Justin Bieber, etc.). Even before social media and Web 2.0 we saw the impact that teenage girls have had on popular culture. They propelled Justin Timberlake to legendary status and played a huge role in The Beatles’ rise to fame.

In an article by the Washington Post, Caitlin Dewey writes “The mainstream Internet tends not to take them seriously. That is, quite obviously, a mistake: The fangirl faction isn’t just young, connected, and highly motivated to tweet about its causes; it’s also enormously savvy about the way Internet communities work and what mechanisms control visibility within them.”

With this one instance of insane fangirling though, the world is paying more attention to the deep dark corners of the fangirl universe.

“If millennials were pioneers hacking through the wilderness of this teen landscape, today’s teens were born there. They were the first generation inherently attuned to this,” said Rob Callender of The Futures Company, in an interview with Inc. “They didn’t have to adapt their lifestyle to it, so they’re more fluent in new technology.”

It is a little ironic that our culture is tuning in to what teenagers are creating, since one of the big complaints against today’s youth is laziness. Yes, there is a life outside of Twitter and Tumblr, but there is an entire generation that is overwhelmingly successful in making their thoughts and opinions known to society (even if we don’t like what they are shouting).

While it is easier to understand why fangirls have pushed somewhat-talented musicians to the forefront of pop culture, picking a cashier out of a random store in Texas and landing him on the talk show “Ellen” just shows the power of the fangirl movement and the power that a new generation of Internet users are wielding.

Though I’m not particularly a fan of the byproducts of the fangirl movement, here’s to hoping they can do something more important than discovering the next boy band. Though they may not make any earth-shattering discoveries, their impact will be studied and shared for years to come.