The internet is a wonderful place full of cute dogs and cats, but as we all know, it can also be a pretty awful place, especially if you’re a woman. You never know what creep out there will get ahold of your personal information or a photo of you and proceed to do everything from trolling to actual stalking. Last week, Justin Bieber became one such creep.
For those who don’t know, Bieber recently put up a picture of a young then-unidentified woman on his Instagram with the caption “Omg who is this!!” Considering that he’s got 48+ million Instagram followers, and because the internet is, well, the internet, it won’t surprise anyone that Bieber quickly received a barrage of responses revealing that she was a seventeen-year-old girl called Cindy Kimberly. While it’s uncomfortable enough that millions of people found out who this girl was just by a single selfie, it’s even more disturbing that she’s now made headlines on international news sites and tabloids, because after all, this was Justin Bieber who posed the question.
The Daily Mail has been at the forefront of invading Kimberly’s personal history, publicly publishing everything from her babysitting salary to the fact that she was charged in December 2013 for public drinking to exact quotes from her CV. However, the Mail apparently thinks they’re protecting her privacy by not revealing her two surnames, and instead only revealing the fact that they “are typically Spanish with one being an ancient Valencian surname in keeping with the area she comes from.” I mean, thank god you didn’t publish her full name, but only did extensive research into her cultural and geographical histories. That totally makes it not creepy at all.
Other sites have twisted this situation into either a romantic quest that Bieber has set out on to find the identity of his “mystery girl” with whom he’s become so smitten, or one where he’s “flirting” with her via social media. Note that Kimberly has yet to imply that she reciprocates Bieber’s feelings, maybe even because she (gasp) doesn’t. Let’s get this straight — this isn’t “flirting.”
Kimberly has already been compared to Bieber’s most recent and famous ex, Selena Gomez, and her single misdemeanor with the law has even been put side-by-side with Justin’s history of illegal acts. To reiterate: a random girl is now having everything from her looks to her private history compared to those of two of the biggest celebrities in the world whom she has never met. Yes, it’s exactly as alarming as it sounds.
The biggest question I’ve had from the beginning, and one which no news site seems to care about finding out, is how Bieber even discovered Kimberly’s photo in the first place. I don’t understand why major tabloids are so interested in this random teenage girl’s personal history, but haven’t bothered to look into how Bieber got her picture. Surely that’s the more pressing concern here. Did he find it directly on her Twitter or Instagram? If so, he could (and should) have just messaged her and said hi. I can’t think of where else he would’ve found a personal selfie of hers, and if he did find it somewhere other than her social media channels, I’m worried as to what else is available there (whatever “there” is). I love Ed Sheeran, but if he put up my selfie on his Instagram without us ever having communicated (online or in person), that would be extremely disturbing. I wouldn’t feel #blessed or #thankful. I’d find it #creepy.
Kimberly responded to this sudden and total invasion of privacy with an Instagram post of a blank pink square and the caption “I so do not know how to deal with this but I only have instagram (I did use to have a twitter account but I deactivated) Edit: I just deleted my tumblr and someone took my old url.” It’s obvious that she’s not flattered by Bieber’s attention and that she’s actually quite uncomfortable. The fact that she’s even deleted her Twitter and Tumblr is even more proof that this is all just unbelievably overwhelming and intrusive for her. If I had 48 million people going years back into my Twitter and Tumblr feeds, I’d deactivate my accounts too.
Unfortunately, there are tons of stories out there about women getting stalked and harassed online (with some extreme cases even spilling out into real life), and what Bieber did should be seen as another such example. This isn’t some romantic modern-day Cinderella-esque scenario. This is a grown man getting his hands on a picture of an underage girl with whom he’d had no prior contact whatsoever, and telling 48 million people to find out who she is. While you can argue that he didn’t mean for news sites to dig into her personal history, Bieber had to know what this would turn into. He’s spoken in the past about what a horrible thing his fame can be, and considering he can’t even go grocery shopping without it making front-page news, there’s no way he didn’t think this would turn into what it has.
By placing an international virtual spotlight on Kimberly, Bieber is forcing her into acknowledging him and his interest in her. Imagine walking down the street and suddenly having thousands of people appear out of nowhere and intrude your personal space, all because some guy decided he fancied you. It’s unsettling, it’s intrusive, and it smacks of extreme entitlement on Bieber’s part.
It’s not right to have a man publicly expose you in the way Bieber has, and it’s not right to have strangers debating whether or not you’re hot enough for said man. It seems to be the general implication that Kimberly should feel thankful that someone no other than Justin Bieber is attracted to her and paying her attention — a gross mindset that a lot of catcallers spout. At the end of the day, what Bieber did is a major invasion of privacy at the very best and borderline stalking at worst, and the fact that he’s famous doesn’t excuse him whatsoever.
Main Image © iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz