“Access to an idol creates relationships of control”

One more? The French YouTube pioneer who became famous for his funny videos, Norman Thavaud, was placed in police custody on Monday for acts of corruption of minors and rape, following a complaint by six young woman. Among them, a fan in Quebec publicly accused him of manipulating her at the age of 16 to get intimate photos and videos. After Léo Grasset or ExperimentBoy, cases related to sexual assault, rape or corruption of minors are increasing among videographers on YouTube. Clément Guillet, psychiatrist, author of Sociology of the fan (published by the European University Press) and The Werther Effect: Stars, Media and Suicide (published by Presses Universitaire de Dijon), explains the Marianne the details of the relationship developed between an influencer and his subscribers.

Marianne: What mechanisms are put in place in the relationship that a teenager can have with his favorite influencer?

Clement Guillet: First of all, we must understand that we see the same mechanisms at work in people who are “fans” in the traditional sense; in other words double identification, the vertical dynamic – the admiration we feel for our idol – and the horizontal dynamic – the fact that we are close to him because he is like us. For example, Johnny’s fans, mostly people from the working classes, admired the great artist he was, but characterized him for his difficult childhood.

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Among young people who watch their content on YouTube and other social networks, this double identity is especially strong. They see their influencer in his room, in front of his skateboard, speaking in a young language, but he is praised, has 12 million subscribers. Even if the content created is humor, popularity, etc., it is the same double recognition that will intervene in the process that will make subscribers fans of this influencer. And if you are a teenager, this double identity is especially strong because you are in a moment of self-building, you have not yet identified yourself through your work or your family life. Because these influencers are the so-called “parasocial” relationships, which are different from social relationships such as friends or family. These are the relationships that are created only through the media. And for the youngest, they are sometimes more important than the social relations of their birth.

“The star is valued because he finds himself at the crossroads of the consumer society and the society of the spectacle. »

But isn’t the relationship that these teenagers have with their idol different than what groups in the seventies, eighties, and nineties could have built?

In the sixties or seventies, Johnny’s fans had to wait for a new title from their idol, an interview in a publication, they had to subscribe to magazines like Podium or join a fan club. Their approach was more active than today. These young people are a click away from their idol, most of them maintain this closeness, which is actually very thoughtful. You can interact with him, leave his comments, join discussion groups where the influencer participates. These young people can be constantly, day and night, informed about what their star is doing, which strengthens the feeling of closeness to the person we admire. This phenomenon of proximity is completely new compared to the phenomenon of ” fans which has been known for a long time.

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Can events arise in the control of social networks?

Some sociologists compare the phenomenon of stars to extreme sects. Because, during the time when the star is at its height, there may be control events that may occur. The fan club can also strengthen itself and try to protect itself, a whole dynamic can be organized around the idol until some overflows. The star is given a high grade in our societies: he is valued because he is at the crossroads of consumer society and spectacle society. But it’s not a person’s talent or publicity that creates a fan’s admiration, it’s the intrinsic need we have for them.

“The follower is isolated, he can do things against his consent or his critical spirit. »

How to explain that, under the influence, these teenagers find themselves doing some acts that they regret later, how to send pictures of themselves naked?

There is the first thing, this is the phenomenon of sexting – the fact of sending erotic pictures. In the younger generation, this is something very common: according to a recent study, 70% of 18-25 year olds do it. This is part of the new relationships millennials are building. Among them, according to this same study, 20% regret doing it. It is that there is still, at this time of life, a great immaturity.

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But above all this phenomenon of control: the fan or the follower is isolated, he can do things against his consent or his critical spirit. In my work, fans of Mylène Farmer told me that they were able to pimp themselves to get pirated recordings of their idol. And then, when others fall victim to their idol, they realize as they get closer to them that they also have a dark side.

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