Recently I was reading a popular artist’s tweet responding to an abuse controversy he was involved in, and while I expected some of his followers to still vocally support him, I was surprised at the very personal messages coming from these people who had never even spoken to him: “I love you. It’ll be okay,” they said.
It struck a really sour note with me, and it made me think about the ways that fans of Internet figures sometimes fail to emotionally separate someone’s public persona and private life. It’s a problem that I think often comes from how much more accessible our private life is with social media. To the strangers who follow others and get satisfaction from seeing both their creations and their fun, human moments, it could feel like love.
I see this casual treatment of love even more magnified in other online spaces like YouTube. Vloggers have become so enormously popular, especially with children and teenagers. Most of the people making these videos often tell their young audience about how they love them, along with the other stock phrases that go at the end of videos.
Some might say that this is innocent, but to me it toes the line of being emotionally manipulative, especially when you consider that a lot of these young viewers spend money on their idols’ merchandise, or to go see them in person. Creators who are famous on the Internet need to take more responsibility in delineating these kinds of emotional boundaries.