Image – unrealitytv.co.uk
The youth of today and their emphatic and obsessive love for celebrities seems to gain momentum at a steady pace. The internet, and in particular micro blogging site Twitter, has made it extremely easy for young people to feel connected to their favourite popstars at all times and share their extreme passion with many other fans.
Following a celebrity or a band equates to being impassioned thus having something that happiness can be derived from and should be a great thing for our young people. But it seems to have reached levels of which could never have been imagined and it could actually be turning into something more dangerous than anyone may have thought possible.
Last night Twitter blew up due to a documentary about One Direction. #THISISNOTUS and other such things were trending on the site due to ‘directioners’ being unhappy with Channel 4’s documentary “Crazy About One Direction” and the way in which it portrayed them. Whilst fandoms normally see themselves as a united entity this idea was contradicted when some fans were viewed highly infavourably on the show and scores of one direction followers took to Twitter to express their anger at the programme.
Those that starred in the documentary were certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to hardcore fans with some concerning and even scary tales of dedication to the band, including one 17 year old girl getting braces just to be like band member Niall Horan and a 14 year old girl openly admitting she sent singer Taylor Swift death threats on Twitter after allegedly dating Harry Styles and claiming if she met her she would “rip her eyes out and stamp on them”.
The trends continued through the night and were still present this morning along with #RIPLarryShippers. “Shipping” was explored in the Channel 4 documentary last night and is a phenomenon whereby fans enjoy seeing a particular pairing together. Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson appear to be a fan favourite for many, with some just appreciating them as friends or as a bromance and others going so far as fantasising that they are in a sexual relationship. The pair are nicknamed “Larry Stylinson”. After clicking on this trend, reading through the tweets was horrifying.
It is being stated that “Larry” fans have committed suicide due to a combination of being hurt by the documentary and non “Larry” shippers lashing out at those fans seemingly because of the negative representation they’ve invited of the fandom. Tweets included: “Today, we shall remember the 28+ Larry Shippers that committed suicide”, “14 Larry Shippers Died. This is sad.” and “42 larry shippers have died what this has to stop.” Other fans told “Larry” shippers: “I will throw you off your “ship” and you will drown and die” and “To all Larry shippers…DIE.”
There has been no evidence to confirm such allegations and some tweets suggest that the whole thing has been falsified to get back at channel 4 for airing the documentary. However, what is most saddening is that after having read these young peoples tweets and coming across a ‘Larry’ shippers Twitter page with goodbye messages, it is actually a possibility that one or more fans may have genuinely turned to suicide. Whilst I can only speak from a plateau of uncertainty I am horrified that extreme love for a band combined with bullying online because of it may have caused this. It is absolutely unthinkable and yet it could be happening in front of our very eyes.
We can only hope that no young fans have felt the need to take their own life. But even if they haven’t, we must question why it is that a plethora of young people are even entertaining the thought of suicide. Half of the fanbase appears to be mourning losses whilst the other half are telling people to die… it is completely unacceptable, what the hell happened to the younger generation?! Whilst I will not patronise them by suggesting they should be wrapped in cotton wool throughout their lives and I do not naïvely believe some young people aren’t stricken by terrible things everyday, the issue here is that hundreds if not thousands of young people have been party to such a sensitive topic.
Many fans have wrote on Twitter that they are in tears, some genuinely believing more than 40 people have committed suicide and it is heart-breaking to think that young people are dealing with these kind of emotions. This is again without even knowing whether anyone actually has committed suicide, which of course would make it all the more tragic. I do not mean to look upon young people as inferiors, because we were all young once and I certainly remember having my boy-band obsession phase. But that phase reaped positive benefits with many happy memories. I myself have waited hours just to catch of glimpse, but that’s been going on for years. Not once did I find myself enveloped in such a serious and scary situation such as this.
It seems to me that this situation must be addressed. Parents need to do more to monitor their childrens activity online – where on earth are they whilst their daughter has free reign to tell another person to go die or is crying because she thinks 40 or more people who she considers part of a family have died? Or when they are using Twitter all day attempting to hear a response from 5 boys that amass over 60 million followers between them?
Our education system needs to seriously consider introducing awareness of social media, its dangers and the importance of not bullying online into their syllabus. Online bullying needs to be looked upon just as seriously as any other form of bullying as recent examples provide all the evidence we need that this is the case. It seems that modern media has intensified what can already be a frenzied obsession. Twitter provides the fans with an instantaneous albeit false connection with their beloved boy-band. Girls simply beg for acknowledgement in the form of a reply, retweet or a follow, some threatening to kill themselves if they don’t get noticed by their idols.
Some responsibility falls onto One Direction and their management to make sure they act as the role models these teenagers so desperately seem to need. If they were not aware before of their twisted hold on thousands of young girls, then they sure are now. Many comments in the twitter trend stated how the band were not there for them during and after the documentary was aired, as none of them tweeted support for the fans leading them to feel worse.
I also believe Channel 4 hold some responsibility. Their documentary was a poignant insight into a modern obsession with a boy-band and the very nature of what that showed should have been enough to make them aware of the fact it would likely upset thousands of fans. Whilst it may not be the done thing this was a sensitive case and a warning before the programme or when it was advertised that it could upset fans of the band may have been a course of action to consider.
Looking forwards, I can only hope that no fans did actually take their lives in the course of these events. There is no telling the pain that would be felt among their families and friends and what the confirmation would do to the thousands of fans and the rippling effect it could have on their mentality.