In this week's edition of Pop Is Not A Dirty Word, columnist Douglas Greenwood tries to get the bottom of the most dangerous form of self sabotage for an artist: searching their name to find the opinions of trolls online.
A pop star logging to Twitter and searching for their own name is a brutal act of self sabotage. Whether they’re looking for praise or for the opinions of their most violent haters, by tapping a few characters into that search bar, they’re welcoming themselves into a world that detests them for no discernible reason.
You see, when folk online have genuine beef with an artist they feel needs properly addressing, they usually have the courtesy to @ them, inviting the other party to offer up their two cents.
But the slanderous world of the indirects is a place most pop stars fear to tread, and for good reason, too. It’s where things get petty and vitriolic, where people, shying away from responsibility, and say the ugliest things about people they don’t even know. With that in mind, I reckon it’s time we should offer serious props to the artists who say ‘fuck it’ and search their name anyway.
Just this week, former NME cover star Halsey quoted a tweet on her account by someone who indirectly labeled her a tag-a-long emo. A user named @samdispute said: “Halsey is the girl from high school that made fun of u for listening to “screamo” and then 3 yrs later calls herself emo cuz she listens to the story so far.”
if this is about my bmth tweet I saw them live for the first time in 2009. ur obviously new around here if u dont know that I was an emo since the dawn of time. https://t.co/RMRpyX57so
— h (@halsey) January 16, 2019
“if this is about my bmth [Bring Me The Horizon] tweet I saw them live for the first time in 2009,” she wrote in retaliation to the tweet that mentioned her name but not her account directly. “ur obviously new around here if u dont know that I was an emo since the dawn of time.”
It spurred a flurry of conversation through quote tweets and messages and even more indirects: “Does she search indirects 24/7” a user named @crvstalclear replied. “No,” Halsey rebutted, “Just for a few minutes every few days.”
To admit to that is brave within itself. When an artist already receives so much praise, the idea of seeking validation online – even if that is, as Halsey said, through kind messages and fan art from her followers – is often considered egotistical. The public assume that the facade fame has afforded you already feels like the ultimate affirmation of your talents, so why would anybody want more?
But for artists, the idea of an echo chamber and being surrounded by ‘yes’ people probably forces them to step outside of their comfort zone for a second, examining how those who don’t fawn over them respond to their work. Sometimes it’s beneficial, but Twitter is hardly the kind of platform that exists for constructive criticism.
It’s easy for us to bitch about people we dislike online, especially when we think the person it’s aimed at can’t see it. But when you’re a lowly person on social media and you’re talking about someone with millions of followers, you’d hardly expect the person you’re slagging off to slide into your mentions. By entering that space and responding, pop stars can show that they’re not there to be fucked with.
Because these pop stars become public property as soon as people start to know their name, regaining that level of control is a task harder than one might expect. So in order to ensure that the opinions of trolls don’t override their own narratives, maybe it’s bold of these stars to venture into the treacherous world of the indirects.
It might be a painful experience at first, but if their skin is thick enough – as Halsey’s clearly is – it can prove to a world of seemingly anonymous haters that their words are reaching those they never intended to. Pop stars might be divisive, but they’re seldom deserving of petty online shit talk. Putting the culprits on blast might make petty Tweeters think twice about what they’re saying.