We’ve all had our digital moments. Times when a tweet or Instagram pic made us so mad, sad or confused that we lashed out and posted something that we instantly regretted.
But none of us are Justin Bieber. Life under the media microscope has become increasingly harder for the 19-year-old global pop superstar, and on Thursday he appeared to reach a breaking point when he posted a 300-word Instagram rant venting his frustrations.
That came after a week in which Bieber got into it with an English paparazzo and a number of his friends and inner circle defended his actions amid the hounding of the notoriously aggressive British tabloid press. But was the digital outburst by Bieber — the latest in a series of defensive posts from the singer — the right move?
“The best advice I give to celebrities is that they need to develop a thick skin,” said veteran media strategist Howard Bragman, vice chairman of digital privacy experts Reputation.com. “And this is clearly a young man who hasn’t done that.”
Bragman said what Bieber needs to do is ignore “all the crap and let it roll off his back,” try not to dwell on the negative remarks and refrain from responding. “He’s making it a bigger story instead of just letting it go away,” he said. “He’s a 19-year-old kid, so he shares some of the responsibility, but the bigger responsibility is to the people around him — his manager, publicist and agent — the grown ups who are supposed to give this kid counsel.”
At worst, Bragman said they should cut Bieber off from certain social media platforms, though that might be hard to do with a person Justin’s age.
Teddy Wayne, author of the new novel “The Love Song of Jonny Valentine,” which chronicles the career ups-and-downs of an 11-year-old bubblegum pop Internet-sensation-turned-superstar, told MTV he thinks Bieber’s rant is probably a healthy thing.
“In Jonny’s world, his mother is his manager and she keeps tight reins on him,” he said of his fictional character, whose tribulations sometimes have an eerie resemblance to some of Bieber’s recent problems. “He doesn’t do what Bieber does, and I give him [Bieber] credit for saying things in his own words. He’s communicating without a filter. He’s expressing things and getting things off his chest instead of letting them get bottled up for years. That’s better than stifling it.”
When writing his book, Wayne said he did research on child movie and music stars dating back to the 1920s and investigated the predictable cycle that so many go through in their careers.
“We position child stars as these beacons of innocence and we hold them up to angelic standards and then they rebel by corrupting that innocence and sexualizing themselves,” he said. “Bieber is likely doing that now at 19, which is a few years after someone would normally do it, but he’s been cocooned a bit longer. It’s not bad or disastrous, it’s what 19 year olds do, but their actions don’t typically get played out on an international stage.”
One of the whispers Bieber lashed out at were tabloid claims that he might be headed to rehab and Bragman said, from what he can tell, that’s not the issue. “He just needs some perspective,” said Bragman, who has not worked directly with Bieber. “He needs some rest. He’s running like a hamster on a wheel.” Yes, Bieber is a major earner, but Bragman said if Justin’s team want him to continue to be successful on this level they need to give the star some time off.
“Being on tour is very demanding … he’s traveling all the time, so he’s tired, he’s doing fittings, learning choreography, doing sound checks, performing concerts, doing tons of radio interviews early in the morning and, justifiably, he’s partying, which is fine,” said Bragman. “But he needs downtime to recover from those things.”
It’s hard to step off the hamster wheel when the money is rolling in, but Bragman said, if you want to avoid a rapid rise and burn, you have to play the long game.