As an adult I never believed that I’d join a fandom, let alone become so involved in one that I would begin writing articles regarding being a member of the fandom. I never dreamed in a million years that the young boys I once voted for on The X Factor were likely being abused, manipulated and had possibly signed contracts that basically took away their free will and their right to choose their own path in their lives. I also never for one moment believed that myself, my new friends or even accounts that I admired would come under fire in such brutal ways because of a difference in beliefs and opinions about the boys.
For this article I wanted to explore fandom bullying so I designed a short questionnaire and received responses from a number of members of each of the boys fandoms. Fans from all over answered my questions and I discovered that not only have fans been subjected to harassment online, they’ve been age shamed, been told they are bad parents, that they need to get job/ touch grass, are delusional, had their mental health ridiculed and made fun off, have been mass attacked and age shamed. These fans have on occasion been told to kill themselves as well by solo’s/ anti’s and others.
Some fans have even been bullied by other Larry accounts and have been subjected to such harassment online that they no longer participate in the fandom, have to leave Twitter for days or weeks or even months because of the harassment they have suffered. Some have had to make their accounts private or been hated on for simply being a fan of one of the boys. This was especially the case last year when Liam was undergoing such intense bullying online at the hands of fans of both Zayn and Harry. He was belittled, had other celebrities such as Lizzo jump on the bandwagon to hate on him and had no public support, in fact he was hung out to dry in the media which was both exceptionally cruel and extremely worrying. Fans of Liam stood up for him online and were harassed relentlessly. Some fans took it in their stride, but for others it was too much and caused them intense stress, periods of feeling unsafe online and extreme anxiety.
Fans discussed how being bullied online has caused them trauma, especially when their online family is sometimes the only family or positive connection they have. Bullying online can isolate people, can cause intense feelings of self-hatred and self-doubt, but can also cause people to harm themselves.
Our fandom should be a safe space for all to enjoy and when you have an idol who preaches ‘treat people with kindness’, then this shouldn’t be as common as it is. Of 80 responses to my online questionnaire, only one person has stated that they haven’t ever been the victim of online fandom related bullying. One person explained how their experience at the Louis concert was ruined by solo fans who made her cry and she eventually just wanted the concert to end so she could go home.
Part of me wonders if these bullies think this is something to be proud of? Do they think Louis would be proud of them? Would he appreciate them turning his concert into an unsafe environment for a fan? I doubt it. Louis loves all his fans equally and while we may have a difference in our beliefs, we also adore Louis and should be kind to those we meet in person as well as online.
As my gran used to say, if you don’t have anything kind to say then don’t say anything but i think that we should do better than this. We don’t have to like each other, we don’t have to be friends with each other but we, as a fandom, should never, ever make people feel unwanted or unwelcome in a safe space. Concerts for many of these fandoms are a safe space and belittling, age shaming and harassing others means that fans are not safe. It costs us all nothing to be kind and to be courteous. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be friends with them but we should be better than ruining others’ experiences due to petty, childish behaviour.
Bullying on any forum isn’t okay and if the fandoms would work together then we’d be a force to be reckoned with. Instead of hating on each other, trying to prove people wrong, we should be uniting and fighting for these amazing boys. If all our fandoms united, we’d be unstoppable and we could campaign for change in massive numbers and ensure that change happens.
We hold the power and the day fans realise the power they have over the music industry is the day we’ll start to see real, meaningful changes.
Whether you’re a Harrie, a Louie, a Larry, a Lover, a Ziam, a Zarry, a Zsquad or a Liam stan, an OT4, OT5 or however you identify, one thing is for certain and that’s if we join forces then there would be so much strength in numbers and we really could make the music industry a better place. The best business move that the boys label made was pitting fans against each other because instead of seeing the abuse the boys suffered, we were too busy fighting amongst ourselves. Isn’t it time we stopped fighting against each other and started fighting for a better industry for all? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we spent more time exposing industry abuse than fighting about what such and such said, or sharing obvious PR bs?
As one of the largest fandoms in the world, why can’t we just put our differences aside for once, stop harassing each other and actually stand up for our faves. We are their voices when they have none, their warriors when they are weak and their strength when they are struggling, so let’s start acting like it, instead of fighting petty fights over queues, or beliefs or relationships. We have the potential to do so much more if we could just move past the bullshit and stop getting distracted by things the industry does to ensure our focus is elsewhere.
Let’s stand up and be counted. Let’s finally change the future because we sure as hell can’t change the past and stop the abuse from happening in the first place, but we can stop it from happening in the future if we can just stop abusing, bullying and harassing each other.
This is my plea to all of you. Let’s help our boys, other musicians in this toxic industry and those who’ve been abused in the past. We are strong and we can do it, if we have faith in the future and work together.
What do you say? Are you ready to stand and be counted or are you going to keep your head buried in the sand and continue to hate on people you’ve never met?
Let me know what you decide. I know where I stand. Do you?
Thanks for reading
PS additional note. Thank you to all who took part in my questionnaire. You all know who you are and I initially was going to thank you all individually, but there are so many of you, so all I can say is thank you, thank you and thank you again.