Back to Welcome to the non-stop Justin Bieber news cycle
Welcome to the non-stop Justin Bieber news cycle
September 25, 2010
Getting carried away: Justin Bieber at the MTV Video Music Awards this month.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Justin Bieber is usually a tough name to avoid in the news, but last week he seemed everywhere. He was on CSI, yes, but more sensationally, pictures of the teen idol apparently kissing a girl in the back of a car scandalized fans when they spread online. Just as the story was dying down, the blogosphere was abuzz again: Justin had been quoted likening himself, somewhat morbidly, to Kurt Cobain.
It was the kind of week where 17-year-old Alexis McKenzie, a freshman television-radio major in upstate New York, works overtime. Known as @BieberHeiress on Twitter, she quickly updated her Bieber blog with her take on the unfolding backseat story, which was quickly becoming a crisis for lovestruck Justin fans. McKenzie started her blog, also called Bieber Heiress, on June 15, and it has gotten 425,000 hits and counting.
Welcome to the 24-hour, non-stop Justin Bieber news cycle: the viral, growing subculture of online Bieber micro-gossip. While most of us are only dimly aware of it, true Justin fans — or “Beliebers” — can recite each tidbit of “news” by heart. A full three per cent of Twitter’s infrastructure is used by Bieber.
Although fan obsession is as old as pop culture itself, the instantaneous nature of social networking — ably exploited by Bieber’s team — has kicked it into a higher froth than ever before, say experts.
The Beatles had obsessive fans, too, but there wasn’t an instantaneous forum for reaching out to them, says Prof. Nick Baxter-Moore, who teaches communication, popular culture and film at Brock University.
“There wasn’t this constant updating, every day, several tweets per day, telling the fans everything (Bieber’s) done, what he’s doing, what he’s eating,” he says. “It’s that instantaneous and constant, almost a barrage of stuff coming out of his camp, that has fuelled this.”
Much of this Bieber-data is inherently dramatic. Know the uproar over Sydney Dalton, a girl who drew death threats from Justin fans after posting a video where she tore down his posters? How about the iChat scandal of 2009, where a girl supposedly flashed Justin online?
Most might not, but 16-year-old Leah Cruiz does. The Vancouver teen has been a Belieber for three years, and has followed all the rumours. While in class, she secretly reads Bieber’s tweets on her phone.
True Bieber fans don’t just love him, either; they love his family and friends. His parents are each on Twitter, as are Bieber’s old friends from Stratford, Ont. Dubbed “the Stratty Boys,” the teens are now internet celebs in their own right. Cruiz follows them all.
Her fervour gets surprising results. personal. In the “About Me” section of her @BieberColumn Twitter profile, the following is prominent: “@studiomama dmed me july 20th 2010(: (sic)”— in other words, Justin’s mom, Pattie Mallette, sent her a private tweet on July 20. Mallette did so because, Cruiz says, “I tweeted her about my dad passing away and she said she prays for his comfort.”
Technology makes fans feel like they are connecting with stars on a personal level, says Baxter-Moore, who has published studies of the online fan subculture around rocker Bruce Springsteen. “There’s a strong tendency for habitual users of these social networks to believe that the person they’re talking to is the real person,” he says.
The youth of many Bieber fans may make them more willing to naively suspend their disbelief.
Webcam videos of Justin talking to fans on YouTube also help “give the illusion of authenticity and spontaneity, which I really don’t think is there . . . The extent to which this is an autonomous subcultural element and the extent to which it’s being manufactured is very much a question.”
Manufactured or not, this is a mainstream artist who seems to demand subculture-like devotion. There are no casual Beliebers, but the internet moves fast, and trends die just as quickly as they appear.
“That’s the question, can you keep this sustained?” wonders Baxter-Moore. “Or is this going to die just as quickly?”
Welcome to the non-stop Justin Bieber news cycleIn Canada on September 26, 2010 at 07:35