Feuding fandoms and hostile hate-comments: the attack of internet culture

A+photo+illustration+depicting+the+constant+reminders+of+the+social+lives+on+our+phones.

Emily Early

A photo illustration depicting the constant reminders of the social lives on our phones.

Most of us know the stereotype about Twitter: it’s intense. People sharing their interests with a little too much passion and tearing other people apart just because of a difference of opinion. Over the summer, sophomore Anna Claywell decided to join the app and learned, first-hand, the ins and outs of it.  

After a while, the app’s algorithm grouped Claywell in with what’s known as “the Stan Twitter crowd,” a group of vehement people who run fan accounts, featuring some spam accounts, dedicated to their favorite actors, musical artists, franchises, etc. Although Claywell never posts, she’s loved observing what other people do. 

Fandoms, or collections of people who come together under the same shared interest, first started to become mainstream around 2010. However, the first modern fandom, as we currently define the word, can be traced back to Sherlock Holmes (first released in 1893), whose fans were called “The Sherlockians.” But, with social media today, the “modern fandom” has become even more widespread in pop culture.

Like me, sophomore Natalie Lashly has a Twitter account she uses to witness the chaos on the app. She follows accounts dedicated to Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and the band The 1975. 

An infographic containing the statistics of social media. (Emily Early and Anna Claywell)

“I can be on there for hours. Their personalities draw you in. There are people that are aggressive, then people who just make jokes, then the people who the celebrities retweet. You find people with the same interests as you and make connections. But there are also people who will attack you just because of certain opinions you have,” Lashly said.

Fandoms clashing and people attacking others has always been one of Twitter’s biggest faults. Fans have a reputation for attacking people who critique their idols. While some criticisms are extreme, how would someone think the correct response to this is to send hate messages, dox, or even send death threats to someone? Especially with so many young people on the app, we must think about what they take out of it. 

“I don’t think [Twitter] can be [good] for young kids. People get really passionate and attack other fandoms and people. I hope younger people don’t start bullying because of different opinions as people do on Twitter,” Lashly said. 

But it’s not limited to Twitter. According to the Mayo Clinic, 97% of teens aged 13-17 consistently use a social media platform. Social media isn’t inherently a bad thing, it allows people to connect with family and friends, can help with self-expression, and can give people a voice. The problem occurs when people with influence abuse their freedom of speech on social media for everyone, including kids, to see. Kids and young teens tend to repeat the words and actions they’ve heard and seen, so when they’ve been so exposed to people casually harassing others on the internet, some will inevitably think it’s an okay thing to do. While many will grow out of this phase and realize teasing others over shallow opinions isn’t good, even just one hateful comment can affect a person forever.

Before taking sides on a Twitter feud, to the point where you are blindly loyal to one side and won’t stop and think before hitting “post,” remember that criticism is often warranted, and that by putting something out on social media, you are allowing for public opinion to weigh into the situation. Conversely, there is a line between posting criticism, or taking sides in a friendly debate, versus leaking personal information to get back at someone, or even sending a death threat. The more that technology and social media are integrated into our lives, the blurrier those lines become between reality and online culture. The more acceptable it will become to act poorly off of the screen. 

Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, TikTok, Facebook and dozens of other platforms find a certain environment, one that is much different than the world outside of a screen. It’s as if the rules don’t apply whenever people are online. People act differently with every single comment, share, and repost. It’s not just teenagers, either. It’s pretty common to find two grown adults in a 40 comment long feud over something ridiculously minuscule. And when a celebrity or public figure is involved? There seem to be no limits.

We get to form internet culture as it develops. We have control here, and we should be using it wisely.”

— Anna Claywell and Emily Early

There are countless scenarios of celebrities being, both rightfully and falsely, called out. Whether the reason turns out to be true or not, any topic takes minutes to spread across the internet. But why does anyone post? It all comes back to the behavior from the internet in general. To gain attention. To allow our opinions to gain traction and influence others. But our platforms can be, and often are, abused. When the main goal is to see your “activity page” filled with notifications and your followers build up, it doesn’t matter what kind of traffic your platform receives. Attention should not always have such a negative connotation to it, but the truth is, when people intentionally create an unnecessary subject to talk about in order to gain said attention, it can be and most likely is detrimental, but is a fundamental flaw in today’s online standards.

However, social media attention seekers wouldn’t trend without people liking their comments on the newest drama. They would not have as big of a voice without everyone in their audience listening. People are innately curious, and controversy online fuels their curiosity and creates interest. Take the Parkway West Parent’s Facebook page for example. A group that could be used to connect, plan and create student-related activities is filled with complaints and passive-aggressive comments targeting faculty, teachers and even students and their families. 

Social media is like this generation’s People magazine, but instead of only gossiping with a small group of friends about it, now people can like, comment, and share quicker than ever, with more people than ever. 

Despite all of the harmful sides to these apps and websites, social media has the potential to be and is often used for amazing things. Without it, our world would be entirely disconnected from the way it is today. It allows for instantaneous communication with almost anyone in the world. However, we need to hit the brakes when platforms are being used abusively or to hurt someone. If we go too far, there might not be a way to come back from it. Our society, especially with the intensity of cancel culture, is incredibly talented at immediately shutting something or someone down. “Canceling” someone is not always the solution though. We’ve seen people welcomed back after accomplishing something deleterious in the public eye. And what’s stopping them from creating a new anonymous account, just to target the same people, the same topics, under a different username? Despite attempts to cancel people, we still allow rumors to spread and hateful comments to proliferate. This is something that, as a human race, we’ve accepted. Oftentimes the effects of canceling someone are not necessarily what we want them to be. It’s become so normalized that it doesn’t actually educate the wrongdoer in their actions. Instead of attacking a person, we can approach by explaining or offering resources. 

As the Internet is becoming more and more ingrained and necessary in our lives, we need it to be safe and usable for everyone. So let’s think before we furiously head to the comment section or become bystanders of mistreatment on the internet. Let’s talk to each other face-to-face when there’s an important issue, because a public argument is not going to solve the problem. Be careful of how transparent the word “anonymous” is. We get to form internet culture as it develops. We have control here, and we should be using it wisely.