Online fanbases contribute to toxic fan culture

April 1, 2023

If you’re on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, chances are you’ve already encountered a toxic fan. Fan culture has been around since the days of Sherlock Holmes, and today, they exist mainly in online spaces. As an enormous part of popular culture nowadays, fan culture almost controls the entertainment industry (but that’s a conversation for another day). Basically, if you have an organized fandom, you’ve made it.

Fandom spaces are positive in many ways. Not only do they provide safe and fun spaces for people to bond over their shared interests, they also serve as places for large fandoms to gather in support of important initiatives, such as when the BTS ARMY collectively raised $1 million to match the group’s $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter organization in 2020.

However, fanbases can be highly toxic and harmful. Arguments are frequent between fans of the same and different fandoms (called “fanwars”) and between fans and non-fans, and many of these exchanges go beyond arguing, entering the territory of cyber-bullying and death-threats. Furthermore, it’s easy for posts to get taken out of context and reach the wrong audience. In extreme cases, hard-core fans are capable of digging up old posts, personal information, and even IP addresses to expose others.

The concept of “canceling” in pop culture exists largely because of fan culture, which makes up a big part of why fame can be harmful. The possibility of being canceled—of having your career negatively impacted—because of what could be an unintentional mistake or something that happened years prior can cause fear of misstepping. Hate started by fans can quickly spread and even manifest in real life, much like how a single image posted by Hailey Bieber led to scrutiny from the entire internet and then to hate chants during concerts.

At the end of the day, whether you are reading as a social media user or celebrity, toxic fan culture is certainly something to be cognizant of. After all, the last thing anyone would want is for a tweet you made when you were 13 to resurface into your life 9 years later.

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