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It’s really funny how fast things can change in the span of a year.  Last July, I had never even heard of So Nyuh Shi Dae(소녀시대) and laughed at the idea of KPOP. The whole concept of boy and girl bands felt like a distant past for me, a reminder of my adolescent years when Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls were always on the radio. Fast-forward to the present and my thoughts have changed dramatically. Just last week I purchased my first big SNSD product, their latest Photobook and DVD release, “Paradise in Phuket”.

After clicking the “Pay Now” button, I actually reflected on how I got to this point as a fan. How did a non-korean Canadian get into this craze?  Why did my opinions change so rapidly?  True, the girls are universally gorgeous, pretty and cute.  Yes, their music is catchy, and they’re talented for pop musicians.  Their dance moves are addictive to watch and their performances are full of energy.  In terms of personality, the girls are the best variety idols out there with a knack for entertaining viewers. Separate, the girls are each unique, but together, they form a one-of-a-kind formula that appeals to millions of people worldwide.

But how did I get to this point as a fan?

Upon further contemplation I had an epiphany about the cause – I had discovered the Catalyst behind SNSD’s international popularity and how they managed to appeal to many foreign SONEs like myself.  Ironically it has little to do with the girls at all.

While some of you might be wondering what the heck it is, it’s actually who. No it isn’t the hardworking managers, instructors, coaches, choreographers and trainers that whip the girls into shape, nor is it Lee Soo Man or the producers, that create the tracks and MVs for our favourite group. Actually the secret behind their success is actually you. That’s right; you’re the reason why SNSD has become popular across the globe.

While some of you might disagree, from my perspective it’s an unrelenting truth. Without the great and established fan base for Girls’ Generation, I wouldn’t have been able to call myself a SONE at all. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have been able to become a SONE so easily and quickly in such a short amount of time.  After all, it was this great community that managed to break down the barriers of distance, and language that allowed me (and many others) to become the fan that I am today.

For me  it started with ‘Gee’, the YouTube video that has captured nearly 47 million views since it was uploaded approximately 2 years to this day. Without SONEs repeatedly hitting that replay button and spamming it all over the web, I certainly never would have stumbled upon it. From there I was captivated by SNSD, and their poppy tunes and catchiness.  Soon after, I was redirected to the ‘Run Devil Run’ MV and was impressed by their charisma and talent to portray different personas. I started searching for “SNSD” while I was bored at my computer and took my first steps on my journey to becoming a SONE.

While browsing online, it didn’t take long for me to discover user created videos provided by a wide range of SNSD fans across the globe. These clips varied from fan made tributes to factual videos that usually showcased how smart/funny/gorgeous ‘X’ member is. In fact you could probably type in any adjective you want with an SNSD member, and a fanmade video would most likely pop-up. Many of these clips on YouTube were also filled with hilarious comments which provided me with a good laugh. Immediately I appreciated the SONE humour and spazzing. This open enthusiasm for the girls amazed me at the time.  Never before had I seen so many fans go absolutely crazy over things like smiles, dorkiness and winking.  This outspokenness also made it easier for me to be a fan. I didn’t feel an urge to slow my interest in the girls.

More often than not, the comments also contained great information for new fans on what shows, videos or performances to watch. I remember specifically reading a comment that suggested watching “Hello Baby” and the fans guided me in the right direction. Soon I found myself watching Korean variety shows, with English subtitles. As a result I was exposed to a plethora of stories and experiences that the members shared with the Korean audience on these shows.  I learned about the members as people rather than singers, and was able to connect with them on a personal level.

While I watched these videos leisurely, in the back of my mind I also appreciated the contribution of the SNSD fans for making it all possible.  They allowed me to understand the girls, and acted as the personal translator and guide for any foreign fan.  After viewing a ridiculous amount of video content, I finally found various SNSD online communities thanks to user comments. Needless to say, I became a member of these sites instantly, made a bunch of posts, and dabbled in the fandom. Finally I had a place to chat and read about the girls, with fans around the world.  I didn’t feel as awkward being a Canadian SONE.  It was as if I now had supporters that propelled me forward on my path to Soshi fandom.

Becoming a part of the SoShi community was actually easy, fun, and rewarding. Instead of watching videos, I could now read a whole bunch of the fan submitted content that was readily available on sites around the web. I was also able to become more actively engaged by entering responses to threads and posts. Admittedly I was shy when it came to posting, but eventually I got into it after I forced myself to hit the ‘Post Comment’ button. It didn’t take long to discover that many others shared the same views that I had of the girls, and at the same time, I was able to hear different perspectives that altered my opinions.  Initially I underappreciated specific members of the group. However reading up on the thoughts of other outspoken SONEs, I soon began to appreciate those members on a greater level.  Right now I can say that I’m a fan of all 9 of them, and wish them all the best (although I might be still a little more biased towards some of them).  Likewise, the community did a great job of filling-in-the-gaps of knowledge for a newbie fan like me.  So even though I came to the SNSD party late, it actually felt like I was there the whole time.

It took me a while to get into the whole “Soshi Pairings” idea, but I realized that a lot of it was amusing and entertaining. People found ways to put together members, and then found proof that they were “real”.  It sparked debate, and made some fans create whole entire YouTube channels and websites dedicated to certain pairings. Most of which were actually cute and fun (a few naughty). Not only do we have videos, but there are also countless fan fictions posted online by SONEs for the fans. Unfortunately most of them creep me out, but this is further proof of the community’s dedication (and obsession) to share their ideas and thoughts on the girls with the world.

Even today, the SoShi Fan base continues to impress and surprise me with their initiatives for every SONE fan.  The most obvious example would be our very own SNSDKorean podcast!  I suggest everyone check it out if you haven’t already.  As a Soshi fan it’s another neat way to stay connected and  up-to-date with the SNSD news, in a commuter friendly format.  I actually discovered the site by searching for “SNSD Podcast” on google.  Not only do you hear news, but you also get some of that fun and entertaining conversation that always comes up whenever a bunch of fans get together to talk about their interests.

While surfing YouTube for SNSD over the past few months I also found many individuals who now make video blogs (vlogs) talking about the girls, a growing trend. Generally, these vlogs contain opinions, news and reviews about their activities or promotions.  A perfect example would be “TheChannelofDylan” a 16 year old Soshi fanboy from Missouri, USA, who actually has a SONE journey that is glaringly similiar to my own.  What makes him special, is his ability to put out content consistently, and his overall bubbly personality.  Combine that with an outspoken attitude and a real love for the girls, and you get an entertaining vlog, that fans can appreciate.

Even more impressive are the countless members of the SNSD community that engage in the now popular Flash Mobs, to encourage SM Entertainment to bring the girls around the world. The Europeans fans were able to convince them to have a second concert date, an impressive feat. Fans in South America also organized a similar rally to show their love and support, while also displaying their hopes for a future concert date.  Just recently in my lovely city of Toronto, hundreds of KPOP enthusiasts performed in front of our city hall, unafraid to express their fan spirit and desire to see the girls and other SM entertainment acts live.

As always SNSD fans across the globe continue to share high quality fan cams and photos from events that the girls attend. Nowadays this type of activity is growing, and concerts are now filled with fans holding electronic devices, hoping to keep their own memory of the girls, while sharing it with the community afterwards.  How great is it that SNSD can have a concert halfway around the world, and most of us can see them perform, almost as if we were there (but still very far away).  I know for me I’ve watched my fair share of fancams, and while I wish the girls could come to Toronto, at least I didn’t feel totally left out of the loop.

Therefore, while the girls are all attractive and interesting, it was the fans and their ability to share and create content that allowed me to truly become a fan of all 9 of them. Without this extraordinary community, I never would have been able to get to know the girls on a personal level, since they eliminated the big barrier of language.  Furthermore, this fanbase was able to close the distance between me and the girls by sharing every tidbit they collected of the girls online.  This allowed me to enjoy their music, performances, and various other activities despite being half a world away. By taking away these hurdles, the community paved my path to becoming a SONE.

In a way my journey has come full circle.  After being on the receiving end of most of the community’s hard work, I finally decided to take on a bigger role and be a part of this catalyst for other fans.  I sent in my application to the SK team, and now I find myself as a writer on the site.  At this point I hope to be able to support other fans positively,  just like the other SONEs before me. Of course I do not have the same practical talents, that previously dedicated SONEs have, but I have enthusiasm.  I can only hope that the continued efforts of the community can continue to provide a smooth journey for all new SNSD fans as they transition from fan to SONE.  This type of communal growth and support for such fans will be essential for SNSD if they wish to extend their fan base to the largely untapped foreign audience abroad.

– Steve

Feel free to share your journey as a SONE with SK in the Comments Below! 

P.S. For those interested, SK is always looking for enthusiastic and talented new members feel free to apply to the SNSDKorean team.  

image credits; namstars@daum, soshified, tumblr #yulti

video credits; SoShiSubs team, TheChannelofDylan, SMTown Toronto Flash Mob July