Hey, my fav. kpop blogger! So recently a certain senior from a popular boy band (SS501) tweeted (or rather subtweeted) about a junior of his because he felt disrespected that they didn’t bother bowing to him. I realize, since it’s Korea, how great of an insult that must have been to him, seeing as he has been in the industry longer and not to mention he’s an elder, and I don’t personally defend the second group’s actions. I don’t follow either groups, but I can’t help but cringe at it. However at the same time, the whole idols outing idols via twitter brings back bad memories (BBC here, and no I’m not letting that cloud my judgement…I promise!) Knowing the effect netizens have on an idols career, this won’t end well. Many idols have taken it twitter with similar situations about dongsaengs.
Q: Do you think it’s constructive or destructive? Is it fair? Does the idol’s intention justify it? Let me know what you think, B (: Thanks
AKF» Hiiiiiiii :) Thanks for your message!
I’ve always had a problem with this; or rather, I have a problem with people publicly disclosing matters that ought to stay private. It’s probably a pet peeve more than anything though, but I strongly believe it’s both destructive and unfair, regardless of the idol’s intention.
It of course depends on what the private matter is, but if it’s a personal problem - something that is a problem only in the context between certain individuals - it merely becomes aggravated when “irrelevant others” are pulled into the situation. This happens when it is disclosed to a mass audience via a Twitter update or Facebook status. (And if we continue working with the broad theme of “publicizing private matters,” we can even include tabloid stories and public statements.) You are inviting opinions (from netizens) that are based on not only decontextualized perspectives, but on a single side of the story, and this is problematic for at least two reasons…
Yes and… Although I agree from my own personal standards of professionalism, I think the asker was right on to suggest that there is some deeply embedded culture at work here. From my view, this looks like a social face issue: When your junior doesn’t (refuses to? forgets to?) bow to you, you lose face. Taking the incident to Twitter is a way to regain face by establishing not only seniority but also social competence (“I know this person was supposed to show respect to me - and they didn’t. The fault is theirs”). If the sense of a warning is there, as AKF has suggested, I would argue that it is of secondary priority to saving face.
Twitter is also a way to call someone out without directly confronting them. In many Western cultures, it would be far more effective to have a private, direct conversation with the offending party. But that wouldn’t allow you to save face with the other people who saw or heard about you being humiliated. Twitter presents a less direct method to make up for the loss of face and to bring the junior back down to his level. Indirectness is valued in many cultures - in some cases, it establishes an “upper level” of social functioning that requires high competence (I’m thinking here of African American culture and the practice of signifying), and it also insulates participants against more serious conflict. Furthermore, it cements the senior as being socially “above” the junior - in other words, he is above getting into a fight or a verbal argument with the offender.
(What would be really awesome, though, is if this sort of incident actually sparked creativity, as some would argue that “beef” does in hiphop. Jay-Z vs. Nas feud, anyone? Of course, it can be argued that beef has a deadly downside. But nobody can deny that some dope rhymes came out of that beef…)
The dangerous thing about doing social censuring on Twitter, as AKF has pointed out, is that it’s kind of like using a sledgehammer in place of a scalpel. The collective censuring force of netizens is far greater than that of any private conversation the SS501 member could have had with the junior - and in this case, such force was probably unnecessary. This excessive force is also what blew up T-tanic into the hot mess that it became.
On the other hand, I actually think that Nichkhun’s tweet in response to the Block B incident was not inappropriate. He called out Block B for their actions (without naming them) and offered a simple correction to their behavior. “Show some courtesy to this country and display a proper attitude.” This was a way for Nichkhun as a person of Thai heritage to save face on behalf of those with whom he feels a connection by way of nationality. Since being Thai is not exactly celebrated in Korea, I think it was important for Nichkhun to publicly state that Koreans should not follow Block B’s example and expect to be able to treat Thai people disrespectfully. The correction then, was not just for Block B, but for others who might “get it twisted” as a result of Block B’s actions. So I don’t think Nichkhun used Twitter as a sledgehammer when he could have used a scalpel - I think he needed to make his point to the broader public. (Whether they received it that way is another story.)
All this to say: Should idols air their personal conflicts in public forums? By our standards, probably not. But I would hesitate to say that idols are not thinking before they tweet. Rather, I think their calculus is probably quite different from ours - both from a cultural perspective, which we would do well to attend to and question, and from an insider/outsider perspective. Right or wrong, we have ringside seats as this kind of “drama” unfolds and the benefit of an outsider view. But when you’re in the middle of it, having paid your dues and working so hard to stay relevant, and somebody disses you, I think the set of options you probably see is quite different from what we as dispassionate (well, more or less) observers see.