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Diagnosed with Wattpad Syndrome and It’s Terminal

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

“She wasn’t like most girls with her icy blue eyes and long dark hair. There was something about her that Noah couldn’t quite figure out. On that day, as she walked into the party with hair across her face like a curtain, he stood there, motionless, as if in a coma. The minute she peered at him from under her lashes, he knew that she was his.”

To start with the basics, in a Wattpad universe, happiness isn’t happiness without Harry Styles coming to trade you for familial debt. Posing as the go-to place for saturated teen pop culture, the platform promised to appease shifting reading preferences, therefore catapulting teenage girls into the world of publishing and literature. It gave a sense of community to the writers and the readers, facilitating collaborative relations. In the current generation, it is hard to find even one girl who wasn’t a part of the craze that started around 2013 when young adult literature was a global sensation. I was one of them.

Practically growing up on Wattpad, I abandoned all the ‘real’ literature and focused on relishing the heaps of cliches and fan fiction that mostly made up all the stories available online. To me, it served as a middle ground between textbook and Tolstoy with hidden gems as deep in the cave as they were. Staying up on a school night with an important test on the horizon seemed to be the least of my worries in comparison to the fictional high school drama I’d associated myself with. Noah and Hailey were top priorities and the world started and ended right there.

‘Good’ literature aspires for immortality through style and thought therefore demanding our attention in a way ‘light’ literature never will. The thought behind it is always too haunting, too arresting and the style occasionally demands you to re-read or slow down. Wattpad isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of quality writing. It is known for its cheap fiction and extremely trope-y fanfiction. Sometimes, borderline offensive chapters with Stockholm Syndrome, toxic masculinity and misogyny are romanticized till a nexus is created between delusion and reality. Wattpad contributed to make the ‘not like other girls’ trope a perpetual obsession and alas, an aspiration. 

What was originally meant to be a mobile reading app for independent writers and publishers soon transformed into a fanfiction black hole where 13-year-olds unleashed their weirdest fantasies while simultaneously downplaying the term – literature. On the other hand, despite poor plotting and mediocre writing, the stories manage to create a moving picture in our minds, further endorsed by the platform being very visual based wherein the authors keep up with the graphic trends in order to get more support. Although not properly constructed, the sentences provided creative expressions that readers began to use in daily life. These missing links didn’t seem to matter when one was on the receiving end of this oh-so-spicy drama with excellent reading comprehension and thus, reading development. If it weren’t for the fantasies and over-the-top fanfiction, one wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the more layered works of celebrated authors. And as I see it, Wattpad is an entryway to the literature of all sorts. 

A frail millennial in the winter of her life thinks of Wattpad as a safe haven owing to its gripping content with the ability to step out of the traditional barriers for writing. And boy did it give a lot of room for fake scenarios! Along with every book being checked into your digital library, came a different set of hashtags and a hoard of supernatural romance fantasies where Dylan O’ Brien assassinates a whole pack of wolves for you. These stories that we read, the visuals that we imagine transpire into a new outlook for life. Our lives start to revolve around them, shaping relationships, academics, imagination, and other aspects key to our existence. The propaganda of ‘being cool’ starts to interfere with our individuality and further westernizes our approach. 

Being kidnapped by the mafia starts to sound like an adventure, toxic affairs become the new normal, friends are now the people who give you pep talks and a bad relationship with your parents seems cool. Right after crossing that line of imaginative perception, these delusional readers roll in with their teenage angst living vicariously through morally questionable characters. To date, the platform remains one of the major influences in a teenagers’ life. The obsession ran so deep that weekly Wednesday chapters were treated like Sunday morning church service. So much so that authors were trolled if they missed uploading a chapter on time. It was indeed a compromising yet passionate situation for them. 

Since the pandemic, with the deep penetration of smartphones and mobile reading apps, digital storytelling and reading have accelerated. Wattpad now serves as a supportive community for beginner writers which fosters in them, a love for writing. Even after lowballing the influx of poorly written work, the platform serves as a good starting point for writers making them feel relaxed and focused. After all, they’re putting in their time and effort to provide free entertainment to their fellow users. Although, the purpose of this platform was to be a safe space for everyone, it has turned out to be a place where barely beginning writers are shamed for taking chances and putting themselves out there. 

Entertainment, excitement and joy are reasons why the engagement was so high and it continues to deliver it despite the few hidden alleyways where things go south. Publishers are now extremely aware of this site, movies are being made out of ‘mass’ genres (The Kissing Booth, After, Chasing Red, etc), Gen Z and the millennials still have unrealistic standards, and yet, here I am with these 1000 words trying not to be a hypocrite.  

Priyal Nanda

Delhi South '23

19| Economics Major "I don't know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I've made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I'm as rich as I ever need to be." - Robin Williams, 'Mork and Mindy' 1978
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