Social media has dissolved the barriers between the artist and the consumer (that’s us), and it’s been this way for quite some time. What’s new, however, are the types of parasocial relationships we are now forming with our favourite musicians. No longer do “fans” of artists consider their favourite creators as people, but as machines that service their every need.
Parasocial relationships aren’t something new to the artist-fan dynamic. They’re something that has existed for quite some time, made even easier by how easy it is to message or @ our faves online.
For those who don’t know, a parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship between a media consumer and a media persona. It’s basically a “you saved my life” vs “I don’t even know who you are” dynamic.
Recently we’ve seen parasocial relationships take a new stranglehold on the music industry, with two prolific artists, Charli XCX and Mitski, ditching their socials in the last month after “fans” became rabid. It happened to Lizzo in 2020, it’s happening now, and it will most certainly happen again.
Yeah I can’t do this Twitter shit no more.. too many trolls… ✌🏾— LIZZOOOOO (@lizzo) January 6, 2020
I’ll be back when I feel like it.
Let’s look at Charli XCX and her fanbase first, which you would only be cognizant of if you’re either gay or have taste.
In mid-February, Charli announced that she would be leaving Twitter after receiving backlash for how her album rollout has been going. (Spoilers: It’s going just fine, but the loud minority of her fanbase constantly feel entitled to Mozart-level music at all times).
“I’ve noticed lately that a few people seem quite angry at me,” Charli wrote.
“For the choices of songs I’ve chosen to release, for the way I’ve decided to roll out my campaign, for the things I need to do to fund what will be the greatest tour I’ve ever done, for things I say, things I do.
“I just wanted to get on here and say, hey, I’m really out here trying my best and working my ass off to make things that are hot and exciting and there’s honestly so much more insane stuff to come.”
This all really started to heat up when Charlie released three new songs from her upcoming album “Crash”. You’d think fans would eat that shit up, right?”
Well, the thing is, these people who attribute god-like status to Charli found the songs underwhelming, and so have been criticising her and her work. Friends, this is a human being making art for us to enjoy. You have the right to critique it online, but that doesn’t mean you should be an entitled asshole.
Her departure announcement also came shortly after Charli’s foray into NFTs (which many people do not like) but mix the two together and you have a lot of disgruntled fans. And besides, Charli’s NFT was launched to raise money for LGBTQ+ non-government organisation GLAAD. Some people just love to attack their *checks notes* favourite person in the world without rhyme or reason.
Charli returned to Twitter (that hellhole) in March to snap back at a fan, however, after releasing the fourth single to her album. Again, her fans ripped into her for art they initially begged for
OH and finally if u wanna throw around midlife crisis fucking throw it at me – I’m getting older, I’m getting hotter, my tits are stunning, I’m in great shape, I’m dancing, I’m progressing and I’m living my best life – and that the tea ☕️— Charli (@charli_xcx) March 1, 2022
Now, it may not be obvious to some but this interaction here didn’t have to be so visceral. There was a miscommunication in how the fan was using the term “mother” (an affectionate term among the gays TM) which Charli saw as being called old. But honestly, something like this was bound to happen given the relentless criticism and shifting of goalposts she was receiving from her stans
You see, queer people often call icons they love “mothers”. There’s a whole psychological reason for why that may be, but it’s evolved beyond that and has been adopted into the cultural lexicon. But it’s kinda fkn weird to attack someone you love and call them mother at the same time, isn’t it?
Sounds like a strained relationship to me, which is also something queer people (including myself) have grown up to be all too familiar with.
imagine doing a two truths and a lie icebreaker and using "one of my fav artists, Charli XCX, called me a cunt once" pic.twitter.com/12eiZEZTHt— matt (@thecomputergay) March 1, 2022
So yeah, Charli snapped and called a fan a c*nt. But imagine a whole armada of people who shower you with compliments and call you “mother” suddenly turning on you for releasing a song they don’t like. It fucks with you as a person. It’s mentally draining.
they sort of deserved it tho!♬ original sound – Charli XCX
A similar story happened with Mitski a few weeks ago. In these situations all the artist is trying to do is release art and provide entertainment for their fans.
Mitski simply tweeted out that she would like fans to not use flash when recording at her shows, and to also consider recording less of the show to enjoy it in the moment. Not a total phone ban, and not entirely unreasonable either.
However, she was immediately gaslit by mostly white “fans” who weaponised “mental health issues” to argue that recording a concert is necessary. So why pay $100-$300 to see them live when you can watch a recording from someone standing in the crowd anyway?
Thing is, Mitski didn’t say they couldn’t record.
Comments like this continued until Mitski’s team deleted the entire post, and Mitski herself went back into a social media hiatus, which she just fkn came out of.
holy shit why are white people so disgusting, ive hear yall was calling mitski “mommy” at the concert be less insensitive mitski doesn’t make music for white people you fucking bitch #Mitski pic.twitter.com/GN8atVGsUl— shi qingxuan theme (˶‾᷄ ⁻̫ ‾᷅˵) (@fengqinglover69) February 26, 2022
The parasocial relationships we have with our favourite artists are causing extreme damage to them. Nobody can be the perfect idol for you, ever. They’re human, they make mistakes, they fuck up. They also can’t attend to your every single need at all times, or make the exact music you need for whatever it is you’re going through.
being condescending towards mitski for saying she doesnt want the audience to be recording the entire time during her concert and then yelling and calling her mommy while she's performing helps me understand that if mitski is done after all this i would accept it— fake industry plantita (@mitsukileaks) February 28, 2022
mitski said “please don’t use flash photography or record my whole set” and y’all made such a fuckin fuss abt it that her team DELETED the message??????— snam。・°°・(＞_＜)・°°・。 (@saltrocksamm) February 26, 2022
mitski & her management are stronger than me because if i saw a stranger condescendingly calling me "bestie" underneath my tweets i'd go ballistic— fake industry plantita (@mitsukileaks) February 26, 2022
mitski: hey you can do what you want but maybe don't record whole sets/pls try to engage with the show— quoth the raven (@batsignals) February 26, 2022
absolute weirdos on this website: pic.twitter.com/TYAtMArnof
It’s about time we get offline and go touch some grass.
We either consume art or don’t consume it. We can talk about our opinions, but when we’re directly talking to our faves about them, that’s when we’ve crossed a line.
These people aren’t your “besties”, hell, they wouldn’t even like you if they saw the shit you said about them online. And yet, we still call these people “mother” and “sis”. It’s demeaning. Let’s fkn stop.