Social media, like any other tool, can be good or bad depending on who’s using it and what they’re doing with it. I’ve deliberately chosen to insulate myself within the largely protective bubble of the online mental health community. While I’ve always felt that was the best decision for me, sometimes there are stark reminders of just how nice it is to be snug within that bubble. One of those reminders came a few days ago.
I often watch the Canadian talk show The Social while I’m eating my lunch. On this particular day, one of the topics they were discussing was a story about the supposed process by which potential friends of Beyoncé’s are vetted. Guest host Sonia Beeksma expressed her opinion that Beyoncé was narcissistic, overrated, didn’t write her own songs, etc. Beeksma is a local tv morning show personality, so she’s not someone who would be widely recognized.
On the next day’s episode of The Social, the hosts collectively spoke out against the slew of Facebook attacks from the Beyhive, Beyoncé’s diehard following. Somewhat curious to see the trainwreck, I decided to have a look at Twitter.
Some of the comments were overtly threatening:
“@[guesthost] bitch, lock your door!! Update your security and get off of social media!”
“You’re in danger girl.”
“Bitch run for your life!!!!”
Some of the comments brought her family into the melee:
“Sis you and your family are gonna be dragged for the rest of your life. So be prepared. Can’t just be saying lies about Bey.”
“Fuck you and ya ugly ass husband and ya ugly ass kids”
There were many Beyhivers who believed that Beeksma had only gotten what she deserved. The odd person commented that while the onslaught was deserved the threats went too far, but that was very much the exception to the rule.
“Now see… she was ASKING to get dragged. I don’t feel sorry for her at all, talkin bout Bey like she done stole her lunch money”
A few things stood out to me. One was that many people commented that they had never heard of Beeksma or The Social, and dismissed their validity and importance. Yet the strength of the Beyhive’s response demonstrated that she was in fact important enough to them to warrant considerable attention, time, and energy, albeit in a negative way.
Multiple comments described Beeksma as a white woman, which she’s not. Although she’s not especially dark-skinned, she is clearly South Asian. It seemed that in the Beyhive’s eagerness to play the race card, they failed to open their eyes. Perhaps that’s not surprising after all.
From what I’ve heard it seems like Beyoncé is a pretty classy individual who handles the intensity of the spotlight very well. I doubt she would condone this type of behaviour, and perhaps by behaving in such a manner the members of the Beyhive actually end up distancing themselves from the artist they adore.
Hate-filled vitriol like this happens most readily when the target has been dehumanized. The target is reduced from a living, breathing fellow human to a caricature that’s burned in effigy at the altar of social media. Empathy doesn’t even enter the picture as the target is shifted firmly into the realm of Other.
For all that it serves to connect us, social media provides a forum like no other for dehumanization. The relative anonymity also makes it easier to make threatening and other wildly inappropriate statements without having to take any responsibility for them. When the hive mind sets in, it’s easy for personal values and morals to slip by the wayside.
All this for someone’s negative opinions and perhaps a few misinformed beliefs about a musical artist. It’s truly a shame. I don’t think I’ll be venturing out again from my social media mental health bubble any time soon if this is what’s out there.