The new celebrity & power imbalance &
The rise of social media has certainly blurred the lines between fans and their idols. For decades, people have adored their chosen niche or celebrities by tacking posters on their walls. Arguably, it is a perfectly healthy invitation into adolescence and beyond. Fans and followers of celebrities have always put their adorned on pedestals.
However, it gets slightly blurry when these celebrities are not exactly who they advertise online, and with such easy access to young fans, they can end up taking advantage. This, of course, works both ways. People can easily obsess and track their idols and harass them as a result. How, then, can we improve this, and what should we avoid?
Beginning with the latter question, it is largely agreed that influencers, celebrities, and, essentially, people with power should not be privately messaging younger fans inappropriately. Ever.
The power imbalance between a youth and an adult is already prevalent and needs to be taken care of in the context of schools, work, and many fields of life that have been carefully curated and thought out for the benefit of the child in many ways, such as DBS checks or certifications. But none of this exists on the internet. Add this to the idolization young teens have of their chosen celebrities, and you have a potentially dangerous way for someone to take advantage of a young person.
An unfortunate example of this is YouTuber Colleen Ballinger’s alleged inappropriate relationship with her fans. Ballinger, 36, was accused of many things, from messaging her then-underage fans in private group chats about her sex life and allegedly sending sexually explicit content to ‘hiring’ a thirteen-year-old for unpaid video content and allegedly getting annoyed when the child was not aware of social conventions. In the video linked below, Adam details these allegations and addresses everything.
All these allegations are, of course, troubling. However, they are made worse when one considers her response to such allegations. ‘Toxic gossip train’, she sings with a deadpan expression. ‘Riding down the tracks of misinformation … you got a one-way ticket to manipulation station’. Ballinger’s blatant denial caused a stir in audiences to comprehend what it means to take accountability, as well as the appropriate way to address scenarios like these.
McIntyre has made several videos similar to the one above detailing his experience and providing messages, videos, and more to help make his point. Before making most of these videos, McIntyre tweeted that he would stop publicly talking about Ballinger if she sent him a private apology. According to McIntyre, no apology was made.
@theadammcintyre on Twitter
McIntyre himself has come under criticism over his videos and discussions about his experience with Ballinger, some even arguing that he should stop posting. What is the limit, then, of how long you can speak of things that allegedly traumatize you? Surely, there should not be a limit to how much we let important discourse regarding the importance of being an appropriate influencer to children. Or is it only relevant while being a hot, trending topic on the internet?
How do we improve this?
Moving forward, it is important to take note of situations like these to stop them from happening again. Accountability, of course, is the first thought. Have those responsible attempt to right their wrongs by admitting publically and expressing genuine sorrow towards those affected by their mistakes.
While some argue Ballinger should retire from her online career, others feel she is justified to continue her existence online. Regardless of your personal thoughts on this, it can and should be agreed that situations of this alleged behavior should not happen again.
Anyone can become an influencer and put on a personality from their own home, and that is a scary thought. As aforementioned at the beginning of this article, the ease and accessibility the internet and social media bring between people is a great, revolutionary invention.
It can also be dangerous in situations like these. In the same way, ordinary people are rightfully checked to work or communicate with children in public, they should be checked online, too.