Here’s What You Need to Know About Cyberbullying In Fan Culture
If your child is a fan of a band, singer, sports team, movies, comic books, or anything that’s a part of popular culture, it’s likely that they’re extremely active on social media and participating in fan culture to support their favorites. While being part of a large fandom can be lots of fun, it also has its downsides as it opens up a lot of opportunities for cyberbullying.
Some toxic fans tend to bully other fans, but celebrities aren’t spared either as people who fandoms are built around also get a lot of hate online. Recently, actor Zachary Levi who stars in “Shazam! Fury of Gods” called out toxic DC fans in an interview on The Happy Sad Confused podcast. Levi revealed that there are fans who openly dislike him and that they are “just negative to be negative.”
This negative stan culture isn’t contained within the DC fandom either as it has made its way into music and animated show fandoms too. Here’s what you need to know about cyberbullying in fan culture, and what you can do to protect your child while they’re online.
Fanwars can Escalate to Cyberbullying
Anyone who’s ever been into pop culture know that fanwars have been around for a long time. But compared to the ongoing fanwars in online spaces nowadays, it’s safe to say that the Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC fanwars of the 90s were relatively tame since there were hardly any platforms where fans could engage in open conversations about their favorites. Now, you could venture into Twitter and be hit by several ongoing fanwars, ranging from Selena Gomez vs. Hailey Bieber to BTS vs. Blackpink. Also, some individuals can harbor a lot of hate towards certain celebrities that they won’t hesitate to bully anyone who supports them.
Last year, a viral TikTok showed a student walking while wearing a BTS backpack, and the content creator could be heard cursing and saying negative things about the student. By the text and audio, the creator clearly intended to mock the fan wearing the BTS merchandise. Meanwhile, on Twitter, another person uploaded a picture of a girl carrying a different BTS backpack, saying that doing so was “disgusting.” What’s worse, other netizens encouraged the poster to physically harm the fan, telling them to push or kick her. BTS fans were dumbfounded about the amount of hostility that these fans got that some of them warned other people about it, telling them not to wear their celebrity merch while they’re out and about.
The Effects of Cyberbullying on Celebrities and Their Fans
Being passionate about your interests shouldn’t give other people an excuse to bully or mock you about it, and yet, it happens all the time on the Internet. As a result, a lot of fans and celebrities have started taking social media breaks, while others chose to close their accounts, such as “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown. Being cyberbullied may also lead to anxiety and stress, which may manifest in behaviors such as teeth grinding while they’re asleep.
Teeth grinding can be alleviated by letting your child use a night guard, but apart from that, be on the lookout for other behaviors that indicate that they’re being bullied. If they suddenly lash out when their favorite sports team or artist is being talked about, or if they try to hide their merch from certain relatives or friends, it’s possible that they’re being cyberbullied or even being bullied in real life.
What to Do if Your Child’s Fan Activity Has Resulted in Cyberbulling
If you suspect that your child’s fondness for Marvel characters, K-pop music, sports, or anime is getting them cyberbullied, there are several things that you can do to help them cope with it. First, don’t tell them to stop being a fan since their passion could be one of the few things that is giving them happiness or comfort on a bad day. Instead, encourage them to spend less time online and find other people within their friend groups who share their interests so they have someone to talk to about all of it.
You can also create a safe space for them to talk about their favorites. For instance, instead of teasing them for being a fan, find out why they like a certain artist, show, or team so much, and be open when they tell you the reason why. Support them by offering to go with them to fan meetings, concerts, or conventions– you might be surprised at how much fun it could be to discover what makes your child so engaged in a certain fandom. Finally, remind your child to respect the opinions of others since everyone has different tastes and preferences. Doing so may prevent your little one from starting cyberbullying attacks on other netizens.
Fan culture can get toxic online, so it’s important to protect your child from cyberbullying. Consider these tips to enable your child to have a healthy fan experience, online and in real life.
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