Context Collapse Fueling Hate On Social Media
If you have been using social media over the last month, you have most definitely heard about the celebrity “drama” between model Hailey Bieber and popstar Selena Gomez. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about or have never heard the phrases “Beliebers” or “Selenators,” this drama involves singer Justin Bieber, his wife Hailey Bieber, his ex-Selena Gomez and somehow Kylie Jenner.
This story dates all the way back to 2009, when Selena and Justin first met. They quickly became teen heart throbs to their combined fan bases before solidifying themselves as pop culture icons when they became official in 2011. The couple soon earned the nickname “Jelena” and were on and off romantically for almost ten years before finally calling it quits in 2018. Six months later, Justin proposed to his now wife Hailey Bieber instantly creating a media and fan frenzy. Rumors quickly circulated that Hailey had “stole” Justin from Selena.
The 26-year-old model was even accused of being obsessed with Jelena, with fans uploading old videos which they believed proved this narrative. It didn’t take long for backlash to grow, and attempts were made to try and stop the hate-filled social media rampages. The pair posed together at an event in October 2022, but speculation over the love triangle would always remain.
It all kicked off again last month, when Selena Gomez overtook Kylie Jenner as the most followed woman on Instagram. A Tik-Tok user then posted a theory claiming that a recent post by Hailey and Kylie, consisting of the duo showing off their eyebrows to the camera, was making a mockery of a brow lamination Selana recently had done. This went viral with thousands of users starting to find any information they could to prove Hailey was to blame. Kylie Jenner and Selena both chimed in to shut down the claims, but Selena didn’t refrain from adding fuel to the fire by showing support for her friend Taylor Swift when she replied to a Tik-Tok clip which showed Hailey making a gagging motion after Swift was mentioned during a televised rap battle show.
Selena quit Tik-Tok in March, but the online space continues to be a back-and-forth hate filled conversation. Especially towards Hailey whose Instagram comment sections are extremely negative. The comment sections of all involved have become battle grounds between fans and even celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga started unfollowing Hailey and Kylie.
So, with all that information out of the way it is time to ask, who do you think is to blame? The answer is… context collapse. Context collapse is an effect of social media which involves the flattening of multiple audiences into one space. Looking at Tik-Tok, the hate aimed towards the women is heightened by the fact their individual fan bases have been combined, due to the For You Page, which allows the different audiences to occupy the same space. This creates a battle ground for fans and produces a sense of heightened hate towards the individuals involved.
The sexist nature of the feud cannot be ignored either. This story is a stark reminder that sexism is still alive, and society isn’t learning. I am not saying Hailey is an angel, but I don’t believe it is right for anybody to throw digs at how she looks/compare her to Selena. Selena has also faced terrible body shaming comments over weight gain due to medication she is taking to help her Lupus (an auto immune disease). From watching a few Tik-Toks, it is clear Justin is not getting the same treatment. Is it not right to question why he hasn’t received half as much criticism as his wife? After all, he is the one constant in the story. It’s time to stop pitting women and girls against each other.