Do Internet Stars Have Too Much Power Over Their Fans?
8 June 2016, 22:10 | Updated: 8 May 2017, 17:09
God, this is just the worst.
The Internet has a problem. A big one. You could say that it has more than one problem, really, but when it comes down to things that are immediately damaging and have long lasting consequences, this problem seems almost insurmountable.
The problem is internet stars abusing their power, because, well, they’re stars, so they can, right? Wrong. Because when they abuse their power, this is what happens…
If you've been paying any sort of attention to the Vine/YouTube community's latest drama, you'll know that 13 year old Jacob Sartorius is at the center of a sexting scandal so uncomfortable, it will definitely make you squirm in your seat. Sartorius, born 2002, (yes you may scream into your closed fist now) is an internet personality who has been accused of trying to coerce a young woman into sending him nude photos of herself.
According to reporting from Refinery29, Sartorius allegedly DMd a young woman and carried on a conversation with her, calling her "baby" and assuring her that nude photos would keep him interested.
The young woman in question then proceeded to confirm the authenticity of her claims by filming herself opening the Facebook messaging app on her phone and going through the messages.
Is it troubling? Yes. Is it surprising. Not even a little.
From Vine's conception, the platform has seen numerous issues with its most popular stars. Sexual misconduct from so many angles, and now the solicitation of photographs from fans. There seems to be a certain territory that comes along with teenage male internet fame.
YouTube, similarly, has grappled with its own stars using their influence for personal gain. Once loved YouTubers have found themselves disgraced following very publicized fall outs from shocking behaviour with fans.
Internet fame, though shiny and well funded, is a world away from traditional fame. Where once we had to worry about 30 year old stars battling alcohol and drug addiction, our 2016 concerns sound more like, "will an underage musical.ly star try and make me send them nudes". Which, I mean, yikes.
I can't exactly sit here and go in IN on a 13 year old, but this is all a symptom of two things. The first being "boys will be boys" culture, which is truly a pox on our society. And the second being the unchecked power of a teenager with an internet connection.
Girls get reported for posting nude pictures on here but you people still let Jacob Sartorius have access to the Internet— dog_meme.avi (@Trishtitz) June 7, 2016
the fact that Jacob Sartorius is in some nude scandal is really terrifying because I thought his parents managed his twitter account lmao— sad mom (@itsonlyaubrey) June 7, 2016
Studies show that access to porn and sexualized imagery is reaching kids at a younger age, which may explain what's at play here. But there is no getting away from the fact that fame = power and someone has to know right from wrong.
Whether you're a YouTube star tweeting that you don't like a certain product (and inadvertently causing a PR nightmare), or a vine star trying to get a girl to send you naked photographs of herself, there is a responsibility that comes along with having internet influence.
There are enough boys and men who put pressure on teenage girls. The last thing we need is for the boys they idolize to do the same.
Whether you're 13 or 30, soliciting images from an underage person is...................not a good idea, fam. We give these stars power so let's call them out when they abuse it.