Expert Compares Bieber Fever to Terrorism
By Jett Wells Posted Jan 10th 2011 12:18PM
Over the decades, we've watched teen heartthrobs come and go, and every time, they woo their swooning fans 'til they faint on top of each other. The Beatles running from a maniacal mob of teen girls is an image frozen in time, and the relationship between fan and entertainer has been more or less similar ever since. That is, until Bieber Fever. In contrast to years past, pop stars like Justin Bieber are far more in touch with their fans thanks to Facebook and Twitter. In social media, obsessive followers can cultivate a false, and often dangerous, sense of intimacy that has led to incidents of erratic behavior, like this week's cyber death threats aimed at Bieber's girlfriend.
One child psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Ravitz, senior director of forensic psychiatry at the Child Mind Institute, tells PopEater that this Bieber Fever going around is a hazardous issue, and one to take more seriously.
"Where are the parents? Who is trying to guide these kids?" Dr. Ravitz asks. "Who is telling them to be polite and civil to each other? In a way, it's analogous to terrorism, where the only thing important is your own personal agenda, and if anyone gets in the way of that, you're allowed to do whatever you want to them."
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"If you're a 10-year-old and you get a tweet from Justin, you don't have the capacity for abstract thought. You can't think, 'Well, he probably has a PR person who generates these tweets for him.' You as a 10-year-old think, 'Oh, he's sending this to me, he is telling me about his life,'" Ravitz explains. "So on the one hand, he has this PR team creating this sense of false intimacy, and on the other hand he creates a problem for himself because he encourages intrusion into his private life. I don't think he can have it both ways."
But it's not just Bieber or his management that's mainly to blame -- it's the parents of these adoring fans that need to take notice.
"I think it's the responsibility of the fan base to get realistic about their perceptions," Ravitz says. "It's less Justin Bieber's responsibility, and more the responsibility of the parents of those kids who reacted so uncouthly. [Bieber's management is] just focused on revenue generation, which is a reasonable thing to be focused on, which is running a business."
Ravitz isn't talking about a psychotic cult of suicidal tweens, and he knows that not all of Bieber's fans are at risk, just the ones who aren't mentally healthy.
"If someone ever does something to themselves, it's probably because of an underlying psychopathology that pre-existed that has either to do with genetics or the family situation than it has to do with Justin Bieber," he says. "There will always be something like Justin Bieber."
Celebrity obsession has been treated in children before; in fact, Dr. Ravitz had a patient who was obsessed with Bam Margera, famous skateboarder and 'Jackass' personality. After addressing the issue, it was clear the reason for the obsession was rooted in self-esteem issues and family relations.
"She had low self-esteem and felt socially incompetent and excluded, and once we addressed those issues, then the issue of Bam receded," Ravitz says. "As we attempt to individualize ourselves from our parents, we attempt to obtain psychological and emotional autonomy; we always need somebody to look to for value and aesthetics."
Overall though, there aren't many scientific studies on obsessive relationships with celebrities, and Ravitz calls this issue "a new frontier," since social media has only begun to dictate the way people communicate with each other. Although the issue is something to take notice of, the ugly language and death threats online shouldn't be confused with the norm. There is precedent of kids shedding blood in the name of musicians, such as Marilyn Manson, but Ravitz insists it likely won't get that bad.
"I don't think anyone's going to kill themselves if Justin Bieber has his hand on Selena Gomez's butt," Ravitz says.
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