What’s going on at concerts?
you are on stage You sing at the top of your lungs. Your fans are screaming your name. You are-
Artists have been attacked by fans at concerts in recent days – a man has been charged with assault after hitting Bebe Rexha with a phone earlier this month, and last week a viewer punched Ava Max and scratched the inside of her eye. Elsewhere, someone recently threw a bracelet at Kelsea Ballerini and a bag of ashes at Pink.
So what’s going on here? Experts can’t say for sure, but it’s likely due to the blurring of the lines between online and real life and fans craving viral moments with their favorite artists. Add drugs and alcohol to this mix and you have a concussion worthy mix.
“It’s important to ask questions about why these attacks occur and what underlying causes or motivations might prompt people to behave in these ways,” says Nathan Brandon, board-certified psychologist. “It can also underscore the importance of creating safe spaces for artistic expression and how such spaces can become places of healing, connection and understanding.”
“Celebrities aren’t seen as real people”
Hurling something at a celebrity or storming a stage is not uncommon and has historical precedent. Think how many pairs of underwear the Beatles got on stage, or all the rotten tomatoes the actors once faced. And who could forget the infamous Will Smith/Chris Rock Oscars slap in the face?
But this is different. “At least since the Oscar incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock, there seems to be something new here,” says Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. “The idea that this is a thing you can do, an option – even a trend – is now pervasive in the culture. It’s like swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon… it seems sadly maybe attacking people on stage has become a challenge.”
For fans, parasocial relationships with celebrities are responsible for perceived familiarity. “The only explanation that makes sense is the influence of social media,” says Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at St. Mary’s University in Canada. “However, what amplifies this effect is that celebrities are often posting their personal lives and details on social media – more than ever – making fans feel like they actually know them.”
The person whose Instagram your eyes are glued to isn’t really your friend, nor is they in any way larger than life.
“A major breakdown of empathy and understanding”
Some attribute such social dysfunction to the aftermath of the COVID lockdowns, “but I think it’s more related to the blurring of social media and ‘IRL’ interactions and the constant recording of one’s behavior to garner attention, no matter what.” it’s positive or negative,” says Erica Chito Childs, professor of sociology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.
However, the boundaries in common spaces like concerts are unlimited. “The disregard for personal space and willingness to do harm indicate a significant breakdown in empathy and understanding,” says Brandon.
What’s more, “When we’re so socially uninhibited, it becomes a concern for all of us because people are no longer conforming to previously accepted and expected societal norms,” says Lauren Cook, clinical psychologist.
Carla Manly, clinical psychologist, adds, “When we lower the bar for appropriate behavior, we open the door to increased physical and psychological assault.”
Many of these incidents could also be due to trends. Like supposedly throwing a phone at a celebrity to get them to take a selfie with you.
Some may just want attention and virality. “The growing number of people misbehaving at concerts shows that despite efforts to control crowds and individual behavior, some people enjoy being disruptive,” said Amy Morin, psychotherapist and presenter the Mentally Stronger podcast.
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How to actually behave at concerts
If your friends think you’re inappropriate at concerts, consider these tips:
- Consider whether a concert environment is right for you. “Being part of a large crowd might encourage someone to behave in a way they normally wouldn’t,” says Amanda Garcia Torres, licensed mental health counselor at Chairwork Therapy NYC.
- Remember that celebrities are real people. And they are at work! “Yes, they may make more than you do, and yes, they may be better known, but it’s still their job,” says Raquel Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist. “They are still human and still deserve respect.”
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Are you still feeling kinda kinda Chill out. Take substance use out of the equation for unbridled, awkward fan behavior. “The first thing you have to do is figure out if you really feel that way, or if it’s more about capturing and amplifying the mood of the crowd,” says Fisher. “My best advice would be to de-escalate yourself, whether that be by withdrawing from the situation, coaxing yourself to calm down, or trying to engage in rational thought.”
- If you notice someone in your group acting up, get out. “It may be effective to talk to the angry person or something, but if their goal is to escalate and wreak havoc, talking may not do much and may even cause harm,” says Fisher.
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