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What’s behind Hailey Bieber’s stalking? Toxic Fandom and Dividing Algorithms | Arwa Mahdawi

So It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I was a preteen, I was obsessed with Bush. THE GROUP! THE GROUP! I adored the lead singer, Gavin Rossdale, and I thought that one day the stars would align and I would marry him. (The stars made me gay instead.) I spent hours on the internet inhaling Bush-related content and harbored a grudge against Gwen Stefani, because she was with Gavin, living my dream . What I didn’t do, however, was send Stefani online threats. Mainly because 1) it would be unbalanced; and 2) the internet was very slow and it was not easy to instantly harass people online.

Fast forward a million years and the internet is now one big nagging machine. Fans, tweens and older, can very easily become unhealthy fanatics. See, for example, the drama between the fanbases of model Hailey Bieber and singer Selena Gomez. This saga is too dumb to explain properly, but, in short, the two women were pitted against each other by their fans because they each dated Justin Bieber (who the model is now married to). . This fake feud was amplified when Gomez joined TikTok, as social media algorithms love to deliver divisive content that drives engagement.

Gomez fans attacked Bieber so fiercely that the poor woman repeatedly begged people to leave her alone. Gomez also asked his fans to stop, to no avail. Earlier this month, crowds at a Justin Bieber concert chanted “Fuck Hailey Bieber” when he took the stage. It doesn’t matter how rich and famous you are: the constant harassment is unbearable.

It’s not just Bieber who has found herself stalked by toxic fandom. Being a spokesperson today should come with a risk premium; say the wrong thing about someone’s favorite and you can quickly find yourself the victim of a vicious stack. In December, for example, the co-director of Everything Everywhere All at Once had to implore fans to stop bashing New York Times film critics for dropping the film from their Top 10.

The rabid fandom isn’t all bad: in some cases, it’s been channeled constructively. See, for example, Taylor Swift fans file a lawsuit alleging anti-competitive practices in Ticketmaster’s ticket sales process. Or Britney Spears fans working to end her conservatorship. Yet there is a very dark side to modern fandom. More than ever, fame has a price.


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