Fifth Harmony singer Normani Kordei has quit social media after being subjected to a torrent of online racist abuse. According to USA Today 20-year-old Normani announced her decision to log off social media after a deluge of “tweets and pictures so horrific and racially charged that I can’t subject myself any longer to the hate.” Normani and her Fifth Harmony bandmates owe much of their success to being a product of the social media age.
Fifth Harmony were formed on the 2012 season of the U.S. version of Simon Cowell’s X-Factor. Buoyed by the success of One Direction, Cowell tried to repeat a winning formula and brought Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui together to form a girl group. Like One Direction, Fifth Harmony placed third on the show but were signed by Cowell’s SyCo. They have since gone on to become a huge success, gathering a worldwide fanbase and becoming something of a social media sensation.
To my fans: pic.twitter.com/7yICp10G5Z
— Normani Kordei (@NormaniKordei) August 7, 2016
It is small wonder that bands like Fifth Harmony and One Direction gather huge social media followings, the bands are targeted firmly at a young, primarily female, audience, the very demographic most likely to use a wide range of social media platforms. Kordei will be well aware that a key part of Fifth Harmony’s media strategy is the building of a “fandom” across a variety of social media platforms. We live in an age of instant information, and Normani and her bandmates understand that social media gives Fifth Harmony a media profile that no promotional budget could come close to. What is more the promotion comes virtually free in cash terms.
Sadly Kordei is coming to realise that there is always a cost and in the case of Fifth Harmony that cost is a deeply personal one. Normani certainly recognizes the power of social media. It was reported in The Inquisitr recently that Kordei had used Twitter to air her views on killer cops and the Black Lives Matter movement. Now Normani is seeing the dark side of social media, and as everyone is well aware, it is not pretty.
— Capital (@CapitalOfficial) August 9, 2016
According to the Daily Mail, abuse aimed at Kordei has mostly come from so-called Fifth Harmony fans who accuse her of being disrespectful to bandmate Camila Cabello by not being quick enough to praise her in a recent Facebook live-stream interview. Billboard report that Normani had been asked to describe her bandmates and took too long to come up with an answer before describing Camila Cabello as “very quirky… yeah.”
The sad truth is that media outlets added fuel to the drama by claiming a feud between Normani and Camila could lead to Fifth Harmony splitting. Of course, it is on social media rather than in the press that the drama plays out. As Kordei is discovering, the problem with a 24-hour information society is that rumors and speculation spread like wildfire, and the hotbed is within band fandoms.
Of course, for the most part the Fifth Harmony fandom, like any other, is full of genuine, pleasant and respectful people who happen to share a love of a band. Information about Normani and Fifth Harmony is largely curated and carefully managed to be promotional in nature, personal information is at a premium, and stars are largely careful to avoid anything that could damage their image or be seen as controversial.
— ESSENCE (@essencemag) August 8, 2016
Sadly there is a dark side to it all. The illusion of close and personal access to stars like Kordei breeds an implied personal relationship and fans feel a strong affinity with one band member. It has ever been thus, right back to the Beatles, fans have an attachment to a single band member. In the world Normani lives in, fans dissect every snippet of information and put their own meaning to it. Fans theories abound on platforms like Tumblr, and fans construct a raft of convincing truths to support their view. If fans decide that Kordei has a personal problem with Cabello, a mass of evidence is gathered to support that view.
What Normani is discovering is that if enough people believe in a theory, then it becomes “truth,” whether or not there is any basis of fact. The reality is that we have no real idea whether Normani and Camila love or despise each other, but social media creates a sense of a personal involvement with stars like Kordei. It breeds a sense of entitlement, and if Camila’s fans believe Normani has slighted their favorite, they feel entitled to lash out.
Of course, Kordei is far from the first celebrity to be subjected to online bullying. Rolling Stone recently reported that famous women like Normani are all too often victims of cyberbullying and that society seems content to allow the abuse to continue. Sadly, Kordei will not be the last to suffer a social media backlash for some imagined slight. As Normani is discovering it is a dreadful and insidious form of bullying that can have devastating consequences.
Are you a fan of Fifth Harmony? What do you think of Normani Kordei’s decision to quit social media? Let us know in the comments below.
[Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP]