Our Opinion: “Stan” Culture and Online Shaming

Alannah Post, Editor-in-Chief

These days, any mistake that is caught on camera or social media is immortalized. The collective hivemind of the Internet allows for these mistakes, no matter how small, to live on regardless of whether or not the account deletes the content. This permanence has also led to a distinct culture of online shaming and “stanning” – obsessive following of a person (generally celebrities) that borders on stalking. The online shaming part of that culture comes into play when these mistakes are made.

Now, this is not to say that the actions of some of these people are not worthy of such shaming – many casualties of the #MeToo movement, designed to shed light on sexual assault offenders and provide support for their victims, have been ruthlessly criticized on social media, ruining their reputations and calling for justice, prominent examples being Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar. Some, like YouTuber Logan Paul, have not been accused of assault but have been criticized for statements and content that they have posted – a video of a suicide victim’s body in a Japanese forest or claiming that he wanted to “go gay” for a month. Both actions have greatly affected his following and even some of his business ties with YouTube have been severed.

This kind of online shaming is generally accepted, since it brings attention to unacceptable behavior. But when it comes to “stan” culture and obsessive fans, the slightest step out of line can bring down fire and fury. Most recently, the breakup of SNL actor Pete Davidson and popstar Ariana Grande, which should be a private issue between the pair, was taken by social media and blown out of proportion. Davidson received a multitude of death threats online, as well as blame for the end of their engagement. This culminated in him posting what was essentially a suicide note before deleting his account, under which there were more death threats and hate. Grande has also disabled comments on her posts, after her friend and former partner rapper Mac Miller committed suicide earlier in 2018, and many fans blamed her and their failed relationship for his death. This culture of fans forcibly involving themselves in the personal lives of celebrities and commenting on private issues has gone too far. These are real people, with real lives, and it is no one’s right to be sending that kind of hatred to them online.