When Fiery Fans And Fools Attack: How Bandwagonism And Fear Buried The Value Of A Personal Opinion

July 30, 2013  |  

You know what, I actually like Keri Hilson, and it sucks that I have to feel bad or think twice when saying that. I remember when I first got a glimpse of her at Howard University’s Homecoming in 2008. At the time, she was Ol’ Girl Who Sings “Energy” to me, not quite yet Keri Hilson, the girl on Beyoncé’s inadvertent s**t list. She was blonde-haired, bubbly, and bursting with potential and the notoriously tough Howard crowd was rocking with her despite her virtual anonymity.

Fast forward a few years and she’s got a revved-up career, some killer arm candy (hey Serge Ibaka! *waves*) and a slew of anti-fans that probably aren’t sure why they hate her. What most know is that she threw probable shade at Beyoncé with a cryptic lyric back in ’08, then refused to hold a Juicy magazine endorsing Mrs. Carter at the 2011 Soul Train Awards. I’m not exactly what you’d call a Beyoncé fan, so I didn’t think twice about Keri’s non-support for her. Ms. Hilson recently had a digital breakdown, reacting to Bey Stans continually tearing her down. “You have no idea what your hateful words could do to someone’s spirit,” she vented. “Years of verbal abuse from strangers all day long. Enough is enough!” Talk about not letting it go. To this day, if I mention anything Keri Hilson to my Bey-supportive friends, they’ll snap rudely, “Who? Don’t even bring up her name.” Just because the Beyhive and their stinging influence gave her the shutout, I’m supposed to also?

Keyshia Cole suffered the same fate after voicing her unfiltered discontent with Bey’s “Bow Down/I Been On.” “First ‘Women need to Stick together’ now b***hes better Bow. Smh,” she tweeted, which is honestly what I’d been thinking as well. We couldn’t have been the only ones with those thoughts. Yet with a few swift clicks of the keyboard, she’d inherited Keri’s hate club because she made comments outside of the mindset of a cult following. The-Dream even went so far as to distance himself from her professionally because he was afraid it’d mess up a (totally unrelated) work relationship with Beyonce. And for what, a difference in opinion?

Social media shoulders most of the blame for this rejection of the “other” viewpoint. Heavily influential sites like Twitter and Facebook can cause a sense of effective camaraderie if used properly. Like-minded individuals can connect thanks to handles that tweet, reblog, pin, retweet and hashtag similar thoughts. The rush of “popular opinions” floods your timeline, leaving you the choice to either ride the wave or drown in it. Most people choose the former because of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. If you’re not in the know and not down with the team, then you’re the odd one on the outside of the fishbowl, not knowing how to belong. Actively seeking inclusion, approval, and agreement via retweets and followers. Joining, as I like to call it, the bandwagon.

When folks aren’t sick with FOMO, it’s the fear of consequence or outcome that takes over and makes people afraid to speak their minds. Back in May, Katy Perry told her 39 million plus Twitter followers that she wasn’t fond of a Chief Keef song based on its message. “Just heard a new song on the radio called ‘I hate being sober’ I now have serious doubt for the world,” she tweeted. It was a lukewarm critique. What she got in return was a digi-slap in the face from him that made her walk away with her virtual tail between her legs. “Dat b***h Katy Perry Can Suck Skin Off my D**k,” he typed. “I’ll smack The s**t out her.” His slew of roughhousing fans more than likely spewed their share of venom into her mentions as well. She apologized to “Mr. Keef” instantly and even told him she loved his other music. I’m sorry Ms. Perry, but that was a wimp move. Why did you feel the need to apologize for your G-rated critique? Reviewers said that the Chicago native’s debut album Finally Rich was “plagued by repetitive beats and lyrics, gurgled auto-tune and generally uninspired, even lazy execution,” but there were no take-backs or apologies. They said what was on their mind regardless of who agreed or disagreed. It’s as simple as that. No need to withhold your opinion out of fear. Yes, I understand that you probably wouldn’t want to be caught alone in a dark alley with Mr. Keef, but stand up for yourself. The thumb thug behind the screen name @ThugMissesforKeef_96 isn’t going to come pummel you with her fists for getting something off your chest. You won’t actually be stoned, crucified, or burned at the stake. People are so scared that the bandwagon is going to swing their way and run them over.

While I’d consider myself shy and reserved, I’ve never been one to alter or shy away from giving my opinion. Because it’s just that — mine. Stop dreading what people think about the things going on in your mind and heart. While Keri Hilson is said to be working on an apology song with Timbaland, Keyshia Cole isn’t sorry about her words and she shouldn’t have to be. No one should. Chances are, you aren’t the only one thinking them. Be thoughtful, bold, and unapologetic when voicing your opinions, because you’re entitled to them and I dare anyone to say otherwise.

Stacy-Ann Ellis is a New York-based writer and photographer whose work has been featured in VIBE Magazine, VIBE Vixen, Hearts Converse, The Root and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @stassi_x.

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