Yet, none of this is particularly surprising. It’s the natural conclusion of stan culture, of intense parasocial relationships with celebrities. Constant social media users—many of whom are young and/or don’t have the digital literacy to discern real life from the algorithm, or real relationships from parasocial ones—will tell strangers to die because of some perceived beef between that stranger and some other stranger. This problem, of course, isn’t limited to Gomez and Bieber’s fans; more generally, fandom, delusion, and social media have rendered pretty much anyone who criticizes a beloved artist or public person a sitting duck for coordinated harassment campaigns.

Hating on public figures—especially women—isn’t new. (We all remember the misogynist tabloid headlines of the 2000s.) But social media has made everything 10 times weirder, 10 times faster. And it’s not a coincidence that it’s nearly always women who become the targets of the algorithm: Sometimes it’s for accusing a male public figure of abuse, but more often than not, it’s for something as relatively inconsequential as (potentially) poking fun at another celebrity. At least one report has shown how companies like YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, and other platforms profit off of viral hate targeting women.

Look, I get Selena Gomez’s appeal: An entire generation grew up watching her shows, streaming her music, and you can certainly have an emotional attachment to someone who’s been in your life for this long. Beiber, as a pretty run-of-the-mill influencer blessed with a famous family and close friendships with the KarJenners, doesn’t have the same mass appeal—but you shouldn’t have to hold mass appeal to not be harassed into oblivion on the internet.


Unlike a decent amount of her fans—or at least those chronically online Hailey Bieber haters—I like Selena but also understand that none of this is fucking real. I do not know Gomez, or Bieber, or any other celebrity on my phone screen. The snippets of what we see on social media aren’t real life; neither are our imagined relationships with stars. I am begging the stans to realize this.