It’s Been One Year Since I Was Almost Destroyed By A Swarm Of Billie Eilish Stans Online

Contributor: Lisa Hamilton

Looking back, I should have paid more attention to the warning signs that were trying to alert me to the fact that 2020 was going to be a dumpster fire of a year. I laughed off the pure nightmare that was Cats the movie; I thought nothing of it when I found out The Veronicas aren’t actually vegan; and when I was absolutely obliterated by Billie Eilish fans, well, I pushed it away in the hopes that this would all just be a fever dream.

But as my therapist (and Cheer coach Monica) will continually remind me: ya gotta deal with your shit or it will keep on clogging the toilet. Or something more profound than that.

Weeks ago, throngs of Billie Eilish stan accounts started tagging me in a resurfaced interview I had conducted with the 18-year-old wunderkind exactly one year ago. The timely reminder immediately triggered cold sweats and flashbacks to the trauma I had suffered at their very own hands back in 2019. A moment I was sure I had all but moved on from but am now ready to share. Because if you don’t take the time to heal in 2020 then this Shit-nado is going to swallow you up.

As a plucky young journalist, when presented with the opportunity to film an interview with the biggest artist in the world at the time, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I was at the top of my game, I had recently landed a dream gig as a presenter on MTV’s TRL revival and nothing was going to get me down.

On the day of filming, nerves and excited energy swirled in me bones. I had interviewed Billie years earlier when she was barely 15, but since then she had gone boom and was the talk of the town. As she arrived with her crew in tow I did my best to disarm the situation in what can be oftentimes an awkward preamble as producers, soundies and staff ready the set.

I recalled how years earlier her mum was really sweet to me and made sure she handed over buckets of merch before they left. Billie laughed, her mum laughed and I felt an ease in the air. I’d just made Billie Eilish laugh. Things were off to a great start. I felt cooooool, like maybe the young kids might let me be in a TikTok or something (????).

The producer hit record and the chat was underway. It went well. Really well. Billie and I had a great rapport and before I knew it we had wrapped and she was out the door with her 20-strong detail trailing on her Midas footsteps.

As in the norm, the footage was then taken, edited and packaged up ready to go to air the following Friday. This was a huge coup for me and I wanted to help promote the episode of TRL by teasing a snippet of the interview in a post to my Instagram account.

In the interview I asked Billie what she was going to do for her (then) upcoming 18th birthday. I joked that a lot of Aussies take a gap year and head off to Bali to “discover themselves”. I felt like this was a pretty funny hook so used that in my caption alongside an image of me and Billie. I hit post, popped on my lavender oil and went to sleep dreaming about the Walkley Award that was sure to come my way any minute now.

As I awoke from my slumber the next morning, I pulled out my phone to be greeted by some 600+ DMs, thousands of new followers and an unimaginable amount of tags, comments and shares. Had I…had I gone viral with my Billie post? Amazing! My mum would be so proud! As I cleared the sleep from my eyes and started to investigate the extremely above average engagement, my smile began to fade.

The messages ranged from devastation to pure catastrophic, unbridled, nuclear-grade meltdowns from members of Billie’s devoted fan club. They had surmised from my brief caption that Billie was taking a year off from her music. In the eight hours since I’d posted, I’d sparked mass hysteria.

It didn’t take long for this rumour to spread, and before I knew it international media were picking it up. I was, appropriately, pooping my pants. Things really went from bad to worse from there on out.

Billie herself took to her Insta stories to address the furore and eloquently stated (in all caps) “BITCH IM NOT TAKING A YEAR OFF TF IM IN THIS SHIT”.

Source: Billie Eilish’s Insta story.

Needless to say, this was bad news for me. Billie had effectively brandished any notion of taking a break (fair), and her stans decided to take aim at me for what they believed to be a big ol’ nasty lie.

I had inadvertently unleashed hell on myself, and the abusive messages, tags and DMs were coming in thick and fast. I was called a liar, I was told to quit my job, I was made to feel like the complete scum of the earth.

I tried to brush it off. The logical side of my brain was trying to reconcile with the emotional; deep down I knew that this was just a misunderstanding and I needn’t be bothered by her passionate fans. But when you have thousands of people telling you you’re worthless (over a seemingly innocent misstep) it’s hard not to take it to heart.

(The OG nasty comments are gone, but this should give some indication of how bad they were.)

Then my management team received a call from her record label requesting that I announce an official apology. I truly could not believe it. As a journalist I felt like this was completely undermining myself and tbqh I was a little bit offended that the unfounded war cries from an army of stans had won over. I had been an entertainment journalist for years and without tooting my own horn, I reckon I’m pretty good at it. I felt embarrassed that I was being scolded like this. Reduced to schoolyard antics where I was being made to apologise to the other kid.

Against my better judgement (and my wishes) with my tail between my legs I begrudgingly posted an apology to my Instagram.

In hindsight, I wish I had stood my ground and refused, but when you work for a major media company, any kink in public perception can be damaging for any future talent opportunities. So I took it on the chin.

Within a few days the messages, and DMs slowed down and this drama was all but yesterday’s news. The stans had moved on to another target and I could breathe again. Comparatively, I fared quite well. I’ve heard of plenty of journos who have suffered more greatly at the hands of stans. Universities should teach a new subject to prospective journos: ‘Intro To Dealing With Trolls & Stans’. This shit is brutal.

Lately, there’s been plenty of conjecture around fans behaving badly. Media publications are taking a major stand against harassment, with some now opting to omit journalists bylines to protect staff from the wrath of stans. When a journo releases a piece of written or filmed work they carry a huge amount of responsibility and vulnerability when their name or image is attached to the content.

Don’t get me wrong, we undoubtedly need to be held accountable, but at what point (and how) do you broach the subject of holding these faceless stans accountable? The internet is a wild place and unfortunately my encounter with Billie Eilish fans has left me a little bit scarred.

As much as I feel catharsis after telling my story to the public, I wish I had some sort of resolution. My hope is that other young journos getting their start in the industry don’t ever have to go through something like this. But I wear it as a little badge of honour. I don’t ever want it to happen again, but I feel a bit wiser moving forward and perhaps that’s the lesson I’ve learned throughout this bizarro incident.

I certainly will not let these trolls stop me from doing what I love. Should I be fortunate enough to get the chance to interview Billie Eilish again, would I say yes? Fuck yeah I would. But maybe I’ll just turn my comments off.