Death threats, harassment, intimidation: stars are tired of hate on social networks
and Sarah-Émilie Nault MISE À DAY
The advent of social media has brought audiences closer to their stars than ever before. For better and also, unfortunately, for worse. Death threats, harassment, intimidation and insults uttered online have become the daily life of many artists who wonder what they have done to deserve such a fate.
Jeremy Gabriel. 2020. Photo courtesy Marie-Josée Boivert
For four years, in the wake of his high-profile trial against comedian Mike Ward, Jérémy Gabriel lived through a virtual hell.
“I was asked why I wasn't dead yet. and when I was about to die, when I was too milky to live, when I didn't sing well. I was also insulted about my disability, my physical appearance, my ears, my facial malformations. »
The case of Jérémy Gabriel is extreme, but it is not isolated.
In our report, personalities from the artistic and media world testify to the virtual violence they have suffered and the impact that its spiteful comments, emitted by people who turn into hyenas when they are hidden behind a keyboard and a screen , have had on them and their entourage.
Sign that the subject remains delicate, several public figures contacted by Le Journal preferred not to return to the harassment of which they were victims .
Nevertheless, many of them are tired of being the target of the worst insults online and are taking measures to curb this scourge.
“My mental health was going to suffer”
“At first, says Marie-Mai's agent, Shannie Ladouceur, I was responsible for monitoring her social networks. It was dreadful. I felt like I was being bullied by proxy. At one point, I said: “it’s over”, because my mental health was going to suffer. So imagine how Marie-Mai can feel, and it's not getting better. »
“Behind a keyboard, some people become someone else and reveal their animal side thinking that it has no impact on us. You have the right to disagree with me, write to me, we will discuss it. But threats are unacceptable. Last summer, I spent weeks walking around Montreal in fear,” says Journal columnist Sophie Durocher.
“People don't realize how much of a direct connection it is. Flat comments in public, on social media walls, that's one thing, but right in my personal inbox, I see it as someone coming to my house, knocking on my door, shouting insults at me,” adds host Patricia Paquin.
Withdraw from social networks
The list of artists targeted by online stalkers is long.
Sébastien Delorme, Mariana Mazza, Dany Turcotte, P-A Méthot, Guylaine Tremblay, Safia Nolin, Ève-Marie Lortie, Bianca Gervais, Véronique Cloutier, Ariane Moffatt, Pénélope McQuade, Mélanie Maynard, Léa-Clermont Dion and many others were victims varying degrees, to the point where some have quit social media altogether.
“I have received death threats in the form of public messages and personal messages. I was even sent handwritten letters of threats and intimidation to my office. This meant that I completely dropped out of social networks”, reveals nutrition columnist Isabelle Huot.
“I deleted Twitter, I no longer put anything on my Facebook page because I have no no more energy to do moderation or manage comments. I also changed my name on my personal account. I tried to be as discreet as possible”, says Jérémy Gabriel.
Everything is too easy
Doctoral student in communication and specialist in social networks, Laurence Grondin-Robillard affirms that the extent of this sad phenomenon, which we began to observe fifteen years ago, is not surprising.
“We are no longer in the days when we sent our dissatisfaction and our complaints by post, which required a stamp and an envelope. There was a little effort. Now everything is easier. Social media features make it easy to get in touch with artists. They are more accessible as soon as they are online. »
Photo courtesy Laurence Grondin Robillard, doctoral student in communications
Ms. Grondin Robillard believes that the pandemic could have aggravated the problem. “You would have to get out of school, but like it or not, it hasn't helped people's mental health. Those who already had small problems, the pandemic has exacerbated them. »
She also blames the platforms, whose model encourages to reveal pieces of her intimacy. The celebrities have not escaped this.
“They have become the target of cyberbullying because digital social media pushes them to reveal a lot of personal information. It is the very operation of these platforms that requires users to reveal themselves not only to collect their data and send them targeted advertising in order to generate income, but also for the purpose of creating content, whether ci is put forward by the algorithms of recommendation and that they can be seen. »
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