I was once a teenager. I wrote down Ashlee Simpson lyrics in a journal, covered binders in inspirational quotes from Seventeen magazine, and practiced kissing on a poster of *NSYNC’s Lance Bass.
I remember being obsessed with every trivial detail of my favourite celebrities’ lives.
But what I witnessed at VidCon — a 3-day convention that unites teens and tweens with their favourite online personalities — was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced.
Fans, mostly girls, waited in line for more than an hour to snap a selfie with a star whose internet content they have memorized. They carried signs professing their love, and wore branded merchandise.
When 18-year-old Vine star Matt Espinosa, who closely resembles Justin Bieber, attempted to walk the showroom floor in disguise, teen girls mobbed him upon figuring out who he was. Their screams were eardrum-piercing as they chased him and two or three large, male security guards out of the building.
In order to survive the three-day scream-fest, I picked up a few pointers from veterans — everyone from parents to YouTubers who I interviewed for this site. Here’s what I learned.
Buy your food in bulk
A food truck outside the convention center was selling a $US14 brie grilled cheese sandwich. No thanks.
That night, I took a 5-minute Uber ride to Target where I stocked up on peanut butter and jelly supplies, fruit, and protein bars — all for $US25.
Get organised with the VidCon app
VidCon’s mobile app allows you to flag your favourite events or experiences on the schedule, view a map of the convention center, take photos, and receive helpful, proximity-based notifications using beacon technology.
Since it’s nearly impossible to get cell service inside the convention center, the app saved me from having to step outside to search VidCon’s website and check my itinerary.
Go to Downtown Disney in the evening, where other adults can be found
Despite the family-friendly name, Anaheim’s Downtown Disney District is a grownup’s paradise. There are restaurants, bars, clothing stores, jewellers, bars, live performances, and more bars. Did we mention bars?
After putting in a 10-hour day in a PG-13-rated zone, it’s nice to detox where you have to be 18 or older to enter.
Try the “Ready Aim Shoot” cocktail at Uva Bar.
Pack a portable phone charger
The Anaheim Convention Center is a barren wasteland when it comes to available outlets. And who wants to sit at a charging station when all the fun is on the showroom floor?
A portable charger for your phone, like a Mophie, can be a lifesaver.
The parents’ lounge is your safe haven
Welcome to the Parents’ Lounge, where I saw adults reading, napping, and getting work done while their kids were screaming their heads off somewhere.
Inside, there were bean bags, outlets galore, and a password-protected WiFi network for parents only.
In a sea of teens and tweens, at last, I found my people.
At VidCon, I saw parts of my childhood — the obsession and the joy — magnified by 100. The teenaged attendees’ intensity surprised me, even as someone who wrote “Mrs. Jonathan Taylor Thomas” over and over in her notebooks.
Because YouTubers treat their channels like reality TV-style confessionals, fans know their favourite stars more intimately than ever before.
And fandom has become worship.