The advent of social media has allowed celebrities the opportunity to connect intimately with their fans. But while social media has brought communication between celebrities and their fans to a peak, the interactions have not always been pleasant. Spice, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, and most recently, Etana, are among the many entertainers who have had ‘spats’ on social media with their followers. Their responses to unflattering comments are known in the cyberworld as ‘clapbacks’, and they have become increasingly popular in recent times.
The Sunday Gleaner found that despite some of the responses by entertainers creating shock and disappointment at first, many have grown to accept artistes defending themselves on social media. Publicist Keona Williams says that in an era where online bullies have increased, an artiste has every right to clapback as they see fit. Pointing out that social media has made it easier for people to spread lies about a public figure, defending oneself and, by extension, one’s reputation, becomes a necessity. “Online bullies are getting more and more prevalent, and they can spread wrong information, which can damage your reputation. Things have changed with social media. Instantaneously, information is sent to millions of people about you, and to protect your image, I believe that in some scenarios, responding to online trolls is the best option. You get the opportunity to refute a claim,” she said.
Pointing to Etana’s recent clapback on Twitter, Williams explains that while some clapbacks may not be in line with an artiste’s image, entertainers are human, and sometimes respond as such, and not as a public figure. While Williams is not sure if it was Etana herself who responded to the message, she said: “It is ultimately her decision if she wants to elaborate on that incident, but the game has changed from what was accepted in the past. Back in the day, it would be considered unethical [to clapback], but not today. Today, some of the biggest entertainers are clapping back and it is not hurting them. People get to see that they have actual feelings, and sometimes it even raises awareness to their fan base because their fans tend to be even more reactive and protective of the artistes, in most cases.”
Dr Donna Hope agreed. She explained that clapbacks have become a ‘thing’ because social media has brought fans, non-fans and artistes together on a more personal level. Hope explained that with the artistes’ lives now open to all kinds of criticism, they sometimes feel the need to respond to a rude comment made about them.
“Clapbacks have now become par for the course. In the context of Jamaican popular music, many times the response is a clapback to someone who made an unkind comment. Artistes choose to respond to what they see as negative comments about their music, pictures, lives, relationships, etc. I have seen clapbacks from people like Popcaan, Bounty Killer, Queen Ifrica, Spice, Etana, among others. Artistes and other celebrities now insist that they are real persons with feelings and so they (or their social media managers) use the opportunity to respond directly to their fans,” she said, pointing out that social media has allowed for confrontation that would not play out in actuality.
“The majority (of users who make negative comments) would never ever step to the artiste or celebrity and ‘diss’ them publicly. Social media removes barriers to access, so fans and haters can step right up and say what they want to say.”
Publicist Ronnie Tomlinson of Destine Media says that while artistes are not pushovers, and should never operate as if they are, they must be mindful of how they clapback on social media. She explained that there are many fake profiles on social media, and the persons behind them live to stir up trouble. She urged artistes to be mindful of the latter in their responses, as not everything and everyone is worth a response. “But today with social media, what has happened is that artistes have become more humanised than ever via social media. They share almost everything. They are so accessible, and you have persons who are not fans who also have access to the artistes as well, and they just want to see the artiste break, and these persons looking a hype, a repost, attention, and will do anything to push the artiste button. Sometimes it’s even a fake page they have created to push a button. So as an artiste, who are you really responding to?,” she questioned. “As a publicist, I would say don’t respond. An artiste’s image is to remain clean and as pure as possible based on their persona.”
While she maintains that an artiste should not be provoked into responding, Tomlinson notes that for the ones who respond, no permanent damage will be done to their careers, as clapbacks have become somewhat the norm. She explained that depending on an artiste’s image, a certain response may generate shock and even disappointment, but their genuine fans will rally around them and support them. Hope concurs. “Nine-day talk, lots of discussion on and off social media, and then people move on to the next bit of hype and excitement,” she said.