Social media has always been a great tool for everyone — celebrities and regular folks alike — to communicate and share information. It might be a stretch to say this, but social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter allows us to share by posting as much information about ourselves as we want to the world that is the Internet, and provides a gateway for just about anyone to communicate and interact with us, whether we want to or not.
Creating Twitter accounts have slowly become a trend among Korean idols, allowing international fans a space to check the day to day lives of their idol of choice by following them on Twitter. Although these accounts are personal (as in it’s the actual idols tweeting, and not an intern writing on behalf of them) their accounts are not private, so it leaves their accounts open to follow by everyone, including their fans. For idols, this can be a way for them to update their fans on their day to day lives at their own discretion, and at the same time, the fans can get a chance to see a more relaxed side to their idols, to see how they are doing and perhaps hints to future projects. I personally follow a lot of idols on Twitter and I always like seeing selcas of an idol I’m worried about telling me that they’re doing fine and hilarious pictures of them with their bandmates, cats or turtles. It’s a way for idols to communicate with their fans and their fans to catch a glimpse of how their idols are and what they do, sounds harmless enough, right?
But seeing as these accounts are public, and taking how some fans act around their idols when they see their idols in real life, imagine how quickly these fans would follow their idols on Twitter and how it leaves the idols vulnerable to spam that could be considered the virtual equivalent to real-life fangirling. It also leaves them vulnerable to online harrassment from both self-proclaimed fans and anti-fans. I think we can all agree that continously posting or messaging idols on Twitter can be considered harrassment, regardless if it’s laden with “love” for the idol or “hate” for the idol. I don’t necessarily like both kinds of messages, but I feel like the intention does matter.
It’s one thing to spam an idol love message, and another to verbally abuse them on the Internet. But surprisingly, from what I’ve seen, is that idols seem to having more of a problem with fans being a little too overzealous, over verbal abuse from anti-fans. On another level, are the sasaeng fans, who take fangirl/boying to a whole new level, causing Twitter to be another place for idols to harrassed and stalked.
But shouldn’t this be expected? Seeing how fans act towards idols in real life, I’m not surprised this behaviour is continued online. Shouldn’t idols expect this from fans? I think the consensus stands that idols don’t deserve this level of harrassment, regardless of where it comes from. Even if the accounts are technically public, it’s still a personal account in terms of content.
You can’t blame idols for trying to reach out to their fans through Twitter. But this doesn’t give fans free reign to harrass idols online, just because they do the same thing offline. I find all forms of harrassment to be deplorable, especially in an online context, seeing that the level of anonymity that the Internet provides people. Anyone can make a Twitter account and create their own username, some even taking the names of idols. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen idols create nonsensical usernames because their real names have been taken by fans. Therefore, they use this mask to become more vocal and blunt about their opinions, regardless of how devestating their words can be, some even take pleasure with saying harmful words because they won’t face any real life reprecussions.
However, there are times when they do face real-life repercussions. Take Sohee, for instance. Her twitter was sent malicious tweets to the point where JYP had to step up and threaten the user with defamation and a lawsuit. The sadder thing is that this person claimed to be a fan of Sohee and was only declaring his love for Sohee in the form of sexually perverse tweets and mentions as if he and Sohee had a relationship together. This is clearly the work of a very delusional fan, and the kind of fan that scares as much as, if not more, than a staunch anti-fan. This may be the result of how personable Twitter is and makes it seem like an idol is tweeting to you, rather than at you, which may result in some fans with already warped perceptions of their idols to take them further through Twitter.
Harrassment is harrassment, and I really feel for the idols that have to go with this, especially when they have to deal with it on a regular basis of harrassment. Sometimes, it gets too much to handle that idols have to leave Twitter, which is really sad. Keep in mind again that these Twitter accounts are their own personal accounts, which is they use to interact with people they know, at the same time as their fans. So once they close their accounts, they lose a way to chat with their friends and family because of fans, who wouldn’t normally connect with due to their hectic schedules.
It was sad to see Heechul have to close his Twitter comment, undoubtably because of the off-line and online harrassment he recieves, and see Yoochun debating whether or not to close his Twitter account. I take pleasure in seeing my biases posting and updating us fans on what’s going with them, and it feels a lot better to see news and information coming from them rather than sasaeng fans.
I really wish that some of them–in the venerable words of Jaejoong–could stay strong against the online harrassment but sometimes, it’s just too much. You can try to block these followers, but once it’s becomes a recurring thing, with many followers, and some of them mighr become offended by the idols and try to ruin their image by defaming them online, I think the best and PR-safe thing for an idol to do is close their Twitter accounts.
It’s isn’t a surprise that this behaviour is happening on the Twitter accounts for idols, and I’m sure that idols are well aware of that fact too. They have to face this treatment on a regular basis, and as much I want to raise a magic wand and end this harrassment, it comes with being an idol. But this does not by any means validate this behaviour. Idols and their companies have to address to fans that online harrassment of all kinds if not okay and should stop. I wish there were a clearer set of laws in South Korea on both offline and online harrassment in general; idols and their companies should give fair warning to fans that this behaviour isn’t tolerated by them and if it persists, they can just close their accounts altogether.