Online campaigns run by k-pop fans have received a lot of media coverage lately, much of it positive, and with good reason. However anybody who has interacted with k-pop fan communities for any length of time knows that there is a not-very-hidden dark side to coordinated kpop fan activity, and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a fandom hate campaign you’ll know exactly how toxic, manipulative and gaslighting they can be – to the point where innocent people’s lives and careers have been destroyed. This post isn’t here to explain to you what these hate campaigns are or why they are bad, but how to survive if you are a target. What should you do? What shouldn’t you do? Read on as Kpopalypse shares from personal experience the most effective ways to survive the horrors of k-pop cyberbullying boot camp!
Have you ever gone to sleep thinking that everything is right with the world, and then woken up with more mentions on your social networking accounts than you can handle, and a whole bunch of people being really upset at you over something that you barely even gave a second thought to? It’s happened to me several times over the past few years, and if you’re reasonably active and online in the k-pop world, it’s probably going to happen to you one day too. Welcome to the
brave cowardly new world of online cyberbullying from k-pop fandoms, where your crime can be as minor as having an opinion about a BB-cream-slathered k-pop boy that someone else doesn’t like very much and the penalty administered by the hive-mind can range from simple bullying and silencing to death threats, losing your employment, mental breakdown, losing your entire career, losing your relationships and more. Fortunately Kpopalypse is untouchable because it’s known by everybody who knows me personally that I’m a complete cunt, and a reputation doesn’t go lower than rock bottom, so as someone with absolutely nothing to lose I’m uniquely positioned to give the rest of you with presumably better reputations and possibly some stakes at play some useful tips on how to handle the hive-mind. I’ve survived it all, and you can too – here’s how.
Don’t – apologise
Remember that time when an idol in your favourite k-pop group did something that certain k-pop fans didn’t like much, and a whole bunch of people got really really upset, and then that person apologised publicly and was immediately totally forgiven by everyone and now nobody ever mentions the incident at all? Yeah, I don’t ever remember that happening either. Remember this mantra – if you did nothing wrong, do not apologise. Sure, there’s degrees – did you murder a bunch of people? Arguably, one could make a reasonable case that you should apologise for that. Did you say a naughty word? People say naughty words all the time, it’s not that big a deal. Don’t let the cray-crays gaslight you into believing that the one time you jokingly called Jungkook a dirty unwashed homeless person because his pants sagged a bit is somehow the moral equivalent of a school shooting. You’re not going to be forgiven by these people anyway, and there’s no path to redemption – once you’re branded an “anti” they’ll never, ever say in the future “oh that person used to be an anti but they apologised and now they’ve changed, let’s all forgive and forget.” Even if some of them do forgive you a little, at any time the hive-mind could decide they still don’t like you for whatever reason, and they’ll be bringing up that same stuff you did five years ago that you already apologised for as if it happened yesterday, and then you’ll be scratching your head wondering why you bothered to say sorry the first time if nobody was listening. So just don’t bother.
Do – stay calm
There’s nothing that crazy k-pop fans hate more than someone who is unbothered by their stupidity. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be a cunt like me who actually enjoys receiving hate from idiotic strangers and you won’t have to worry about staying calm because it’ll come naturally to you. However, just in case you’re a normal person who actually gets upset when people hate you, it’s good to remember that a calm disposition is important. Yes, tell people on your social media about what’s going on, but don’t share stories about how upset it’s making you – that just proves to your haters (who ARE reading) that what they’re doing is working. You can always assume safely that no matter how private your social networking is, there’s at least one “spy” on there who is reporting everything to the hive-mind, but don’t witch-hunt your friends, just accept this as an ongoing reality. Also don’t lash out at any of the perpetrators (directly) or vent in public about it, or people will just treat you like they treated Goo Hara when she threw that water bottle.
You would be amazed at how many of my current readers are actually former haters who saw the light and realised that they were being manipulated by toxic forces – so try not to take it too personally, if you remain unbothered and don’t lash out in anger, some of the more open-minded foot-soldiers will gradually come to realise that they’re being manipulated and may even take your side (this isn’t a quick process however).
Don’t – delete your social media presence
It may be tempting to take your bat and ball and go home – wipe all your accounts and shut everything down. This just means three things:
- The crazies will declare victory
- The crazies will take your shutting down as a 100% admission of guilt
- The crazies will be encouraged to try the same thing again with the next person
Actually on the first point, they’re right. If you shut down, it just means that there’s one less good account out there for people to follow and interact with, meanwhile the toxic hive-mind becomes stronger. They have indeed “won” if you do this – so don’t let them.
Do – manage your online presence carefully
While I don’t advocate deletion of everything, there are some things you can do to manage your social networks in a way that is hater-unfriendly. One of the best things you can do is delete anything old. You probably don’t remember the inane shit that you wrote five years ago on Twitter and neither does anyone else, but haters sure as hell will do their best to trawl through all of your history to dig up whatever silly stuff you said ages ago and then file reports on it to try and get your account shut down. You can use programs like TweetDelete to get rid of all your years-old stuff that you may have forgotten about, this will make you fairly immune to such attacks. Also remove any unnecessary private details from your social media that might interest the low-tier detectives, spies and hackers amongst the fandoms who are harassing you. Where you go to school or work, any location tracking or places you routinely visit, even something as simple as your birthdate can be used against you easily.
Another thing to be mindful of is how context can be twisted, even if you’re obeying the rules. Humans who moderate social networks are usually living in a foreign country and may have a limited grasp on language skills and commonly understood cultural touchpoints that you may take for granted. These underpaid linguistically-challenged employees might not realise that when you’re talking about how you “wish someone were dead” that you’re actually talking about a fictional character in a fantasy novel, so when the report comes through from the k-pop fans for “threatening violence or physical harm” the social network employees will possibly act on it and suspend your account. This sounds ludicrous but happens more often than you might think. Avoid any and all references to things like self-harm, bullying, death, racism, sexual violence in any context whatsoever, even the most benign, and be aware that one fragment of a longer statement or thread can be easily taken out of context.
Don’t – debate with the crazies
It’s no secret that rationality isn’t a strong suit among k-pop fans – look at how much hate that this blog gets simply because I dare to state my opinions on songs, and other controversial things like “gosh that person in that group there spent a few years working on their physique and now has a rather attractive body”. The content here really isn’t that extreme but it still ruffles thousands of feathers every day, and it’s a complete waste of anybody’s time trying to debate with anybody who I upset. The same goes for whatever situation you might find yourself being dogpiled for by a k-pop fandom at any given moment. If you write something short, it won’t be enough to carry all the correct context so you can be understood. If you write something long, they won’t read it. If you refer to a reference, they’ll find an excuse not to engage with it. If you destroy their argument, they’ll switch arguments. The people who are complaining about you are almost always “bad faith actors”, they are generally not complaining about you because they actually want a reasoned debate or to truly understand why you did or said a thing, they are only interested in feeling morally superior (especially in front of their friends) and obtaining reflected glory from the hive by shutting you down. While they may sometimes present themselves as “just wanting to know the facts” they will consistently actively avoid any reasonable arguments from you and continue to push their own barrow of out-of-context screen grabs and misunderstood statements. Even if you could prove 100% to them that you were right, they wouldn’t listen, and even if one of them listens, you still have to convince the other 50000, and you can be guaranteed that most of them won’t listen. Remember that there’s still idiots out there who believe chemtrails are real, that T-ara’s Soyeon faked a car accident for sympathy and that Tablo got his University degree from Officeworks, so it’s proven that humans don’t listen to things like facts and evidence. Homo Sapiens as a general rule are actually not very good at admitting that they are wrong or that their worldview needs changing, and when a human is in the grip of a mentally-degrading, individuality-denying cult such as a k-pop fandom, then this is even more so the case. The intelligent ones will possibly come around eventually, usually after they cast their peer group behind, but in the meantime direct engagement is a waste of your energy that you should be putting into self care.
Do – report
You can bet that they’re reporting you en masse, so be sure to return fire – when warranted and within the social network’s rules. If they mention anything at all about you that’s negative and to do with race or black/white/whatever, report it for racism – this is one of the most effective types of reports you can do, (most) social networks don’t like racism and will clamp down on it fast because they know how much this type of talk hurts their public image. It will be easy to find this type of content – despite their performative superficial weaponised anti-racism, most k-pop fandoms are actually incredibly racist. Also anything from haters that sounds like they are wishing you harm, report it for threatening violence. Any other gaslighting, report for targeted harassment. Also if you have time be sure to go to their accounts and find any spreading of your details and actions, report anything you can see that is clearly them coordinating to gang up on you. If the social network offers you a text box to elaborate on why you’re reporting – use it. If you’re filing several reports you may wish to have a prepared piece of text to copy-paste in there, but change the text up where it applies.
If you diligently report people who are violating the rules, the results will eventually come rolling in.
Do – block
To be clear – I don’t advocate blocking for simple things like difference of opinion. People who are “if you believe in X then I’m blocking you!” are just being performative and stupid, and those with different political opinions blocking each other on social networking is in my opinion the #1 reason why political discourse in so many countries now is so utterly polarised and broken in just the way Russia wants it to be. However the situation changes drastically if you are the victim of a targeted harassment campaign. Each person who is attacking you and who has access to your social networking, has a tool they can theoretically use against you, which is more access than they deserve. I strongly suggest blocking people “pre-emptively” because it’s a lot easier to block someone if they haven’t blocked you first. If a particular person puts something on social networking that attacks you, and it gathers a lot of likes and shares, move fast: block everyone who liked the comment, everyone who shared the comment, everyone who had something to say in agreement with that comment, everyone on that person’s friends list who is unknown to you, and THEN block that person (last of all). In the case of a targeted harassment campaign this may take a while, but there are automated tools that can help you with this. If you want to really go the extra mile you can then repeat the process with all the likers and sharers. It takes less time than you think overall, because most people on social networking tend to talk to each other a lot more than they talk outside of their “bubble”, so as you keep going through the process you run across more and more people that you’ve already blocked anyway. The pool is deep, but it’s not as infinitely deep as it seems like it should be.
Do – network with allies
Being the victim of targeted harassment can feel very alienating, and you’ll find that allies often don’t speak up, because the hive-mind will quickly turn their guns on them and not everyone can handle that kind of pressure. Most people are afraid of k-pop fandom harassment, and with good reason, so when the shit goes down, a lot of people will be silent because “well at least it’s not happening to me this time”. K-pop fandoms know that they have this effect, which is why they’re so effective at bullying, because the bullying actually increases the perceived isolation of the target. However you are not isolated – actually you have the same friends around you that you had before. Make sure that you at least tell people (that you trust) privately that you’re going through some tough times, and if you see your own friends go through it, be sure to reach out to them – in public if you dare, privately if not. You never know, one of them may run a popular and very cunty k-pop blog and be willing to not only go into bat for you in public against the dickheads but also write a post giving you some social media management tips.
Keep in mind though that an online “friend” is good, but real “friends” are better, so don’t be afraid to:
Do – log off
…go out and get some sun. Really, following k-pop social networking activity is not very important, and you would probably be just fine without all of it. Talking to friends in real life will help you maintain some perspective on it, which is easy to lose when embroiled in online drama at a k-pop fandom level. While you shouldn’t let people bully you off the network, as you have as much right (and in fact a lot more) to be there than they do, you also shouldn’t feel obligated to persist with something that isn’t giving you joy.
That’s all for this post and hopefully you won’t ever find it useful because you won’t ever have to deal with any bullshit like this – but if you do, here it is! Kpopalypse shall return!