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Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Hailey drama: Instagram has gone toxic

Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Hailey drama: Instagram has gone toxic

The internet is full of hate comments about Selena Gomez, Justin and Hailey Bieber. Fans have turned what they perceive to be a feud into a full-blown online war, fighting for the celebrity they feel is most right on social media and in the comments sections of the stars’ own accounts.

In a toxic situation like this, there are no winners.

Aside from how widespread public drama can negatively impact the actual celebrities that fans are talking about, experts say it can also impact the mental health of the commentators who meddle. Here’s what you need to know:

What happened to Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber?

Before Justin Bieber married Hailey Baldwin in 2018, he and Selena Gomez were on and off for almost a decade. Most of the drama fans that are discussed are based around a handful of small moments and comments involving Gomez, the Biebers, and their respective friends.

The women have said they have no ill will towards one another, but that hasn’t stopped fans from taking sides – Team Selena or Team Hailey – and the opposing star’s comments with hateful remarks about their looks, personalities and relationships to flood.

Bieber performed at the Rolling Loud music festival last week, where the singer appeared to walk off the stage while the crowd chanted profanities at his wife. His Instagram posts are also full of #freejustin and Team Selena comments.

From a psychological point of view, feeling that one celebrity is strongly supported over another can occur due to a phenomenon called “self-concept” – seeing a part of oneself in another person and therefore aligning with them.

“When their idol is being trolled, they personally feel trolled, which leads to this increase in resistance,” says Smriti Joshi, a licensed clinical psychologist and chief psychologist at the mental health app Wysa. “This can be especially difficult for the younger fans who are still in the process of discovering their own identity.”

When feeling personally invested in a celebrity becomes detrimental to mental health

Internet culture has forever changed the way celebrity interactions work. Fans now have direct access to the people they adore – or hate – and they have the power to bring attention to an issue that may become an inevitable amount of attention.

“Not only do people share their views, but those views are supported and reinforced by the masses,” says Joshi. “Because of this, whether positive or negative, users feel justified in their voice when people continually like, share, and engage in these thoughts, which almost becomes a campaign of sorts. That’s when it’s really about winning.”

But winning is not possible in a game where victory comes from tearing down another person.

“Remember that celebrities aren’t as perfect as they seem based on the different characters they play, and they’re just as human with their imperfect sides,” says Joshi. They are just as vulnerable and may have relationship issues as anyone or other life issues.”

When you get excited about a hot topic

Do you see drama unfolding online that evokes negative emotions? Joshi admits that it’s “only natural to feel triggered when you see your favorite person not doing as well as if someone had attacked one of your friends in the real world”.

But just like friends in the real world, showing them kindness is far more productive than tearing down your opponent.

Before you get involved with online hate, consider these steps:

  • Don’t react in the heat of battle: “A heated argument between followers won’t change celebs’ lives, but it will definitely create more stress for fans,” says Joshi.
  • You don’t have to react online: When you’re feeling complicated feelings about a public issue, your first instinct might be to post about it online. Instead, consider reaching out to a friend or psychologist to vent in a way that doesn’t contribute to more toxic public discourse.
  • Build a daily routine that you enjoy: Finding a sense of personal joy and accomplishment helps “manage any stress and ignore the things that are out of your control,” adds Joshi.

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