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Hating as a Hobby: Discord’s Destruction of Influencers

Modern media gives the illusion of a face-to-face relationship, but it is far from the sort. Online communities like Discord fuel a culture of critique, dissecting every move. Are there boundaries to influencer privacy?

Credit: Shutterstock/Diego Thomazini

On April 1st of this year, news broke that YouTuber Aspyn Ovard filed for divorce from her husband Parker Ferris. And no, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. 

This wasn’t announced in typical YouTube fashion, with a 26-minute storytime video titled “Divorce.” Instead, supporters and slooths found court documents on Salt Lake County’s Third District Court website.

A quick Google search brings you to the Reddit thread “r/UtahInfluencerDrama” where users ask, “I just saw on the LAinfluencersnark page that aspyn filed for divorce! Anyone have info on this?” 

Thankfully, another user responded “It’s real. In the Aspyn ovard snark page, a couple people paid the $5 to confirm.”

While at face value this is dystopian, this phenomenon is nothing new. Time and time again, influencers are marketed as “open books” but does the reader have to turn the page?

Your place to talk…and hate

With the click of a button, anyone can become famous. Anyone can be tossed in the public eye. Anyone can be scrutinized. 

In the blink of an eye, your life is one big “storytime” video and hundreds of Instagram accounts are tagging you in fan edits. “You have it so easy” until you don’t. If the comments get too negative, you can disable them, but you can’t evict them entirely—they merely move across the street. 

Introducing Discord: an ironically named conversation app with the slogan “Your Place To Talk” where the hate is anything but casual and the comments continue.

Discord channels such as “Gossip Gate” have threads for practically every influencer and encourage commentary on all things from bad hair days to tax evasion. Users don’t observe, they investigate.

According to their website’s “about” page, “Discord was started to solve a big problem: how to communicate with friends around the world while playing games online,” but has since grown to be, “where the world talks, hangs out, and builds relationships.” 

Users create channels and servers to chat with each other either one-on-one or as a group. Today, millions of users log online to run smear campaigns on popular celebrities and everyday influencers. 

According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, Discord had 250 million registered users and the platform announced that its users sent more than 963 million messages a day in December 2020.

In a world motivated by thumbs up and thumbs down, Discord promotes the latter. Hating has become a hobby and a dangerous one at that. 

“You signed up for this”

Influencers grow by actively engaging with their fan base- telling anecdotes of their personal lives to sustain some sense of friendship and camaraderie. Fans and anti-fans alike claim social identity from these parasocial relationships, finding themselves entitled to know all.

Such undivided engagement can also be called hate-watching. Following someone for the sole purpose of mocking them has become a normalized practice of media consumption, and with outlets like Vulture and Vox releasing articles on “The Year in Hate-Watching” and “Why Being a Hater Feels So Good,” it’s no wonder why people crave critique.


girl thats literally a side effect

♬ original sound – alli_bellairs

Through rants, reporting, and ridicule, these “anti-fans” find gratification in hate-watching and decoding content as beneath them. Of course, they still subscribe. How else would they find “glitches” and contradictions? “Her accent used to be a lot thicker, check out this video I found from her third cousin’s 2011 wedding!”

They’re doing us a huge service really, and should probably feature such skills on their resume. 

One “Get Ready With Me” video supposedly grants viewers ownership over these influencers. They “deserve to know” why Aspyn and Parker’s nearly 9-year marriage ended because they “put their relationship online.” One TikTok user claims, “There are costs to making a crap load of money being an influencer and sharing your life online, this is one of them.”

Anti-fans religiously and compulsively consume the content of their most deeply despised, knowing things that the average person would not. It’s easy to claim something as “out of character” when you have post notifications on.

These users crave connecting with another anti-fan on a similar critique, and one scroll in Gossip Gate will bring them just that. In these echo chambers, users receive validation and reinforcement. Even on TikTok, videos met with backlash are stacked with users claiming they “ran to the comments.”


Accent GONE🤣🤣 lol Her make up is still cute tho💁🏽‍♀️ (🎥/ @whointheworldisthisgirl) #itsonsite #mikaylanogueira #makeupartist #makeuptutorial #influencer #fyp

♬ no – kenzie !! 🤍

At what point does this parasocial relationship turn into something much bigger and begin to defy objective reality? Will these now seemingly passive gossip groups stay passive for long? When does the “place to talk” become the “place to act?”

“I’m glad someone finally said it”

Discord’s Gossip Gate channel masquerades as an open and honest space, where members can vent freely about their shared interests. Users “just have to get this off [their] chest” and find themselves shouting into an echo chamber. 

Ever looked up an opinion and tacked “Reddit” to the end? Sure, people share your opinion when you filter out the opposition.

One user, @annieannieannie, writes, “super random question but does bryant have a section on this discord? he’s always rubbed me the wrong way and i know i’m not the only one.” The search is endless, and users are desperately seeking like-minded individuals, or individuals to validate their opinions. 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in one opinion when the entire surrounding community pins your comment, or replies “bump” to boost your point. This only promotes conspiratorial thinking. 

In a channel of “​​they’re a fake, they’re a fraud, they’re a phony,” negativity is normalized, and users are encouraged to push the envelope further and further— in order to “prove” their disdain.


like just say u don’t wanna do a story time but like u don’t get to be MAD at ppl asking for one. like i don’t rlly post a lot of personal stuff bc i don’t wanna tell a “story time” with it lmao common sense here

♬ original sound – overlays ★

Discord users view online creators as characters in which they can “stan” or “cancel.” Previous celebrities existed behind the one-way screen, but today, audiences can chime in on everything, with questions, requests, and opinions. 

This hate also disproportionately affects women, usually commenting on their “disheveled” appearances and “rowdy” personalities. These comments are often sexist and sexually aggressive, which encourages other users to comment the same.

This is not sustainable for the creators either. Upset celebrities and influences are met with “you signed up for this” but is the only way out to become numb to the pain? Without the knowledge of “why,” such pain will continue, and this “culture of hate” will cement itself as the new normal. 

Can creators exist without haters? Is Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” in the influencer handbook?

Written By

Sydney Havlick, a recent Smith College graduate with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Sociology, is an aspiring and modern-day Carrie Bradshaw. Don't be too surprised if you catch the “Sex and the City" influence sprinkled throughout her work. Join her as she discusses the most pressing (and most fun) topics in popular culture and beyond!

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