How Eurovision became an online haven for LGBT fans across the world

Jamie Halliwell of Manchester Metropolitan University looks at the global online community that has built up around the Eurovision Song Contest.

Digital Eurovision Song Contest fandom, which takes place across social media platforms, is increasingly becoming a space to discuss LGBT issues.

It’s popular because it enables fans to gain access to wider LGBT culture without having to attend more mainstream venues and events. As the contest is not explicitly labelled as a “gay event”, Eurovision digital fandom is providing a more ambiguous platform through which non-heterosexuals can express their sexual identities.

In the build up to the 2018 event in Lisbon, fans have already started conversing over their favourite entries and what they expect from the competition. Transformations in accessing mobile social media now allow fans to interact all year round. In fact, they are increasingly dependent on these mediums to keep in contact with this unique international television phenomenon.

Social media is now used as an entry point for Eurovision-lovers who want a part of the fandom, without having to attend the contest itself. Supporters engage in practices such as “watch alongs” to national finals.

These are shows which are used to select a country’s song for the upcoming contest between December and March. Fans watch television channels around Europe and turn to Twitter to share their thoughts with other fans.

Interacting in this way provides feelings of belonging for fans and helps develop digital Eurovision fan culture. One of the most popular television events fans interact with is Sweden’s big production and “mini-Eurovision”, Melodifestivalen – more commonly known as “Melfest”. This competition helped pave the way to ABBA’s victory in 1974 with Waterloo.

ABBA performing “Waterloo” at Sweden’s Melodifestivalen in 1974.

Virtual Eurovision culture intersects with wider social media culture. Fans connect with others by developing and sharing creative content using GIFs, memes, video clips and messages. They seek belonging through these methods which bypass the traditionally passive televisual nature of the event.

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