It almost goes without saying that ARMYs think in ways that separate our fandom from practically every other fandom around, both past and present. One such separation puts ARMYs in the position of being mental time travelers.

For ARMYs, the concepts of “past,” “present” and “future” exist together as part of one current reality, guiding how we work together to achieve goals.

ARMYs achieve goals using “past-as-present” thinking and “future-as-present” thinking.

Past-as-present: the fandom operates as if it were still influenced by the past. Rather than limiting the fandom, the mindset keeps the fandom hungry and pushing forward.

Future-as-present: the fandom visualizes a future goal as achievable to the point where it’s treated as inevitable or already part of the present reality. (Some might refer to “future as present” thinking as manifesting, the law of attraction, or “The Secret”)

Today, I’m going to talk about “past-as-present” thinking and the startling way in which its helped this fandom continue to stay hungry to achieve goals and also helped BTS delay peaking in popularity and reach.

“PAST-AS-PRESENT” THINKING

“Past-as-present” thinking for ARMYs could be a consequence of how BTS and Big Hit constantly influence us to reflect on past events and experiences. It might be due to frequently receiving content (music, comics, books, etc.) where time travel is a strong ongoing theme. Many of our fandom theories involve a member, Jin, constantly going back to the past to fix things in order to make everyone happy together in the present.

Aside from fan theories, there are also new fans joining the fandom almost daily, who then go back and get to know “Baby Bangtan” through their early music releases, reality TV episodes, and so forth.

There are downsides to “past-as-present” thinking.

  • There’s the tendency to continue to bring up past hurts and to interact with toxic fandoms.
  • Irrational confidence issues arise due to seeing ARMYs as a much smaller and less powerful fandom than what we currently are.
  • Sometimes it leads to the fandom viewing BTS members as teens when they’re all very much adults.

Despite these downsides, “past-as-present” thinking has largely helped the fandom to remain linked to its humble and sincere roots.

ARMYs don’t experience nostalgia the way others do; we instead treat past situations and events as things with which we can interact and influence in the present.

For instance, think about tweets that BTS members made YEARS ago where they share their hopes and dreams, and how happy they are with little successes, not imagining that far FAR greater things were in store.

ARMYs tend to interact with such posts whenever a new milestone is achieved.

Of course, these people don’t REALLY think their loving messages and celebrations of present-day triumph will reach Baby Bangtan or Baby ARMYs. But this present-can-reach-the-past type of communication shows that ARMYs have not mentally separated ourselves from our early dreams and the small milestones of yesteryear.

Such an emotional and ongoing link to the early days (and early struggles) keep ARMYs from feeling they’ve “done enough.” Instead, frequently reflecting on humble goals inspires us to reach for bigger and better goals…and to achieve them!

PAST-AS-PRESENT = DELAYED PEAK

By keeping the goals, emotions, and experiences of the past as part of our present fandom reality, it triggered in a delay of our ability (both ARMY and BTS’) to peak and then subsequently decline.

When fandoms mentally separate themselves from their past and early goals, they progress towards two very common though processes found among fans of a senior idol group.

1.) Resting on laurels: Feeling so proud of past successes and achievements that there’s a loss of urgency. Fans don’t promote as hard or feel moved to support fandom goals (if any new goals get created at all…). As time passes, they can’t see a way of topping past glories.

They begin to exaggerate past achievements because they do not have the ability or drive to go much further as a fandom. They may even arrogantly make assumptions of what newer, younger fandoms are capable of based on what THEY achieved and what was ONCE possible.

2.) Disengagement: As time passes, a number of fandom members begin to mentally and emotionally separate themselves from the idol group impression and the fandom itself.

  • Often it happens when people “outgrow” the group and fandom activities. They will still view these things with affection, but they largely view it as part of their past, and NOT their present OR future. This is why older senior groups rarely (or practically never) achieve the success they once did, or an equal level success to the popping top groups of the moment.
  • Another form of disengagement is separation from a fandom/idol due to feelings of disillusionment. A common complaint is that the idol group “changed too much” or “there are too many new fans.” Whatever the reason, the person cannot bring themselves to remain a supporter.
  • An additional and quite a notorious method of disengagement is when fans suddenly abandon a top/senior group for a younger, very popular boy group. This causes a great deal of resentment in remaining fans towards that new group and its fandom (even if it’s filled with people who were NEVER fans of the abandoned fandom/idols).

These reactions are so normal, especially as a K-idol group “ages,” that no one —not the company, fandom, or group itself — usually does anything to actively combat it. The stronger these type of feelings are felt throughout a fandom, the more likely the idol/group they support will soon peak and then decline.

I’ve talked about the typical life cycle of a K-idol boy group before.

The typical career arc of a “top” K-idol boy group

Well, if we were to plug the life of a typical boy group fandom into a similar graphic, it would look something like this:


I think you can use this same model for any popular artist and their fandom, tbh.

The “curiosity” and “investment” stages are CRUCIAL to maintaining fandom growth and vitality!

Curiosity: If you’re brand new it means wanting to know everything about a group and its fandom. If you’re not new, this sensation involves constant anticipation of new content and actively wondering “What comes next?”

Investment: Investing your money, time, emotions, etc. into the group and fandom. It does NOT involve or include time wasted on social media attacking rival groups and fandoms. Investment choices directly impacts fandom growth and idol group vitality.

What’s different about BTS/ARMY is that our fandom has not moved beyond the “curiosity” and “investment” stages. Had we been on schedule, this would have happened in 2015 or 2016, and BTS would be in the declining stages of popularity and fandom power right about now.

Instead, the ARMY fandom continued to grow, and at an accelerated rate, mind you! Because of this, BTS themselves continue to grow in terms of popularity, reach, and influence.

The longer that the majority of ARMYs remain in the “curiosity” and “investment” stages, the longer it will take for BTS to peak!

This isn’t to say that BTS won’t lose fans to disengagement; fans walk away from a group or artist at all stages of their career. Let’s say BTS lost 1 in 10 fans over the past few years due to disengagement. Well, during that same time period, they practically gained 1 to 5 fans for every 1 fan they lost. The level of growth prevented BTS from feeling fan loss in any detrimetnal way (decline in album sales, concert ticket sales, etc.).

It’s important to acknowledge that as BTS becomes globally mainstream, fewer people will be curious about them as time passes.

It will be far more common to come across people who’ve at least heard of BTS than to come across people who have no idea who they are. This is already happening with BTS, so I feel safe in saying they’re at/near global mainstream status. It will definitely be the case after the next album release.

However, even as the “curiosity” stage declines, ARMYs’ “past as present” thinking can help the “investment” stage remain activated for a long time, further delaying BTS’ (and the fandom’s) peak.

Standard Boy Group Peak vs. Delayed Boy Group Peak

Because of the so-called “5-Year” or “7-Year Curse,” we can already get an idea of when popular boy groups typically peak in the K-idol world. Usually, it’s within 3 to 7 years of existing together as a whole (no members lost or replaced) group.

Because BTS debuted in 2013, people were looking for them to peak with the WINGs album. If ARMYs were a fandom engaged in a similar vein to past K-idol fandoms, this assumption would have been accurate.

ARMYs would have likely viewed the two daesangs BTS won at the end of 2016 as the symbol of the group’s peak as and the best BTS could expect to achieve. Casual K-pop fans were already talking like this about BTS during the window between WINGS and the record-breaking Love Yourself era. Were ARMYs to have thought this way, they would fixate on this moment as the top of the mountain, and not expect to see anything greater for BTS.

ARMYs would have become disengaged from news of future album releases, spent less money on new music, not talk with other ARMYs as much or, if they did, would fixate on past achievements rather than present events or future goals.

BTS might even begin to echo such thinking themselves, as they could plainly see where their fans were mentally, leading them to do projects far less ambitious as what we’ve enjoyed…further hastening a decline.

Even with BTS breaking into the Western market, there were moments that fans COULD have looked at and said, “Well, it’s definitely not going to get any better than this!” and the disengagement would begin.

BTS are the first Korean group or artist to experience the phenomenon of a delayed peak. It’s directly tied to ARMYs’ own delay in moving on from the “curiousity” and “investment” stages towards a peak level of interest.

ARMYs gain strength and motivation from constantly re-engaging with the past and even directly offering encouragement to past selves (BTS and ARMY).

ARMYs aren’t passively nostalgic; we value the past as a motivator to work together to do even more amazing things. This is a departure from many fandoms who look to the past as a sign that they’ve done enough or, due to a lack of imagination, simply cannot imagine going any further than what was possible in the past.

“Past-As-Present” Thinking for ARMYs isn’t limiting, and I suspect this is partially true because it’s balanced by “Future-As-Present” thinking…something we’ll talk more about next time! 🙂

THAT’S ALL FOR PART ONE! IN PART TWO, I TALK ABOUT “FUTURE-AS-PRESENT” THINKING, AND WHY ARMYS SEEMINGLY HAVE A KNACK FOR SPEAKING EVENTS INTO EXISTENCE.

SO WHAT DID YOU THINK OF PART I OF THIS BLOG POST? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW!

IMAGE: BTS/BIGHIT YOUTUBE

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I'm just a nerdy BTS fan who spent a lot of time making threads with all my various thoughts and theories. Then one day I had the bright idea to start a blog. I hope to create all kinds of fun and interesting content on topics I care a lot about these days. And hopefully, people will like what I have to say. :)