The Cult of Social Media Fringe Movements and Celebrity

Pay No Attention to that Person Behind the Curtain!

Social media fringe movements are nothing new, but they seem to have become significant during this pandemic. When one online movement fades, another one will crop up to take its place led by a brasher, more controversial, shinier, and much more maniacal persona. And since many people have a lot more time on their hands and continue to seek other, less infectious ways to connect, they turn to social media trends. Also, for folks who may be navigating around recently discovered anxieties or grappling with longstanding ones, social media's ever-growing landscape provides an escape from those issues. 

Parasocial interactions offer ways for people to feed their deepest thoughts and desires, whether they be rage, lust, envy, or bigotry. If the last four years taught us anything, it's that getting the populace to fall for the machinations of shady, influential social media machines is easy. Curiouser and curiouser, people seem desperate to be led down the rabbit hole even if it costs them thousands of dollars, their jobs, personal relationships, and sound judgment. 

But what happens when the curtain is ripped open, the grift is up, influential Decepticons are exposed, and people stop being polite and start getting real

Understandably, leaders of online fringe movements want to distance themselves from the monsters they create when the tension from the fallout becomes too much to bear. I imagine always being immersed in opposition eventually takes a toll but, when do these online influencers accept culpability in pioneering the toxicity and crudity of the communities they've cultivated and profited from?  

When it comes to fringe social media, many folks would be better served to invest in therapy. Watching social media theater has taught me that people aren't discerning with whom they invite into their lives. People also aren't self-aware about how they're showing up in the world, and it's why they get easily swept up in campaigns driven by pathological egotists who refuse to self-critique, be accountable and take a moral inventory of their own lives. 

Some of the meltdowns and takedowns I've seen on here by self-proclaimed "coaches" and lifestyle influencers have been epic and disturbing, to say the least. These people (many of whom have no credentials) grow followings because they've mastered the art of tapping into people's disappointments and insecurities. 

They know how to present the right look, curate desirable images, speak the vernacular to get into people's psyche, and manipulate folks' boundaries. 

The common threads that bind them are sanctimony, spectacle, social media, acting as divine authority, and faking it 'til they make it. And let's be honest, the way these influencers essentially "level-up" is to garner an audience that will come up off their money, no questions asked. Another thing that binds these folks is the way they ostracize others who challenge them and deflect when shit hits the fan about who and how they really are. 

Suddenly, it's their followers' fault that they could no longer carry on their fa├žades. They turn on the zombie horde they've built influence and their livelihoods off, accuse them of being disloyal, and abandon them. When these influencers want to regroup or rebrand as someone else, they go underground (or get censored by the platforms they acted out on), lean into self-pity and victimization, and start acting as if they weren't at the wheel of the train wreck they caused.

You hate to see it, really. But it's become a pattern on social media, especially on platforms that allow these people to live-stream the virulent rhetoric they put out into the world and interact in real-time with people who're amenable to being controlled. It's not unlike seeing the rise, fall, and eventual resurrection of cults.