Almost a year ago, Charli D'Amelio hit one million followers on TikTok. At the precipice of hitting 100 million, she was instead crying on Instagram Live, and she wasn't crying tears of joy.
D'Amelio and her family are inarguably famous at this point, as Charli has transcended from the realm of TikTok dances to guesting in a JLo music video. As TikTok has taken off this year, Charli's fame has risen exponentially, to the point that her older sister, Dixie, is also on TikTok and is also extremely popular. The D'Amelio parents, Marc and Heidi, have also become part of Charli's overall brand. Last Tuesday, they premiered a new YouTube show, Dinner with the D'Amelios, that ended up sparking enough controversy that it caused Charli to lose over a million followers in less than one day.
The actual content of the drama is less interesting than the fallout. During Dinner with the D'Amelios, Dixie and Charli got in trouble with their fans for not acting as role models, but as teenage girls at dinner with their family. They come off as slightly self centered and incredibly naive—watching Dixie D'Amelio dramatically spit out her food after eating a single piece of escargot definitely took me back to my white high school peers saying Indian food looks like diarrhea—but in the way that you grow out of. The comment that fans of Charli specifically took issue with was her saying that she wished she'd reached 100 million followers on the anniversary of her reaching her first million. When James Charles, a guest at their dinner table, jokingly asks Charli if 95 million followers wasn't enough for her, Charli replies that she likes even numbers. Some fans found Charli's blasé attitude about having so many followers dismissive of those who've been with her on this journey to incredible fame and fortune.
Charli would eventually get her wish of reaching one hundred million followers, but not before the internet decided that she must be punished for taking her fans for granted.
What followed was the normal arc of a social media drama—Charli began losing followers, and then went to Instagram Live to cry and apologize. According to social media statistics website Social Blade, by Friday, Charli had lost almost a million followers.
Charli's apology is sincere, but it's also clear that she is bewildered by the reaction to her social faux pas. It's tacky to complain about not having a million more followers on social media, but Charli almost starts crying as she describes receiving messages from people telling her to hang herself.
"I don't even know if I want to do this anymore, this is messed up stuff that people are saying," she said. "Like, people telling me to hang myself, people just blatantly disrespecting the fact that I am a human being is not okay at all. … If this is the community I'm in, that I've put myself in, I don't want to do this anymore."
I'm not sure that Charli has chosen this audience, though. If you have over a million followers, you don't have the luxury of curating it. But there's also been a peanut gallery of other content creators that have been following Charli around, looking for chinks in her armor.
In her Instagram Live, D'Amelio calls out Trisha Paytas, an aspiring singer and actress turned social media spectacle. Paytas has been around the block on social media and has come under fire recently for both pretending to be Jewish and pretending to be Mexican on TikTok. She's so dramatic that every time she is trending on Twitter I click on it, because I know it will be an absolute mess. Paytas has recently taken to commenting on Charli and Dixie for their choices on social media, going so far as to try to "expose" them for having silently lip synced along to a song with the N-word in it. If you look at Paytas' TikTok account, where she's posting videos recapping the feuds she's been in and beefing with other TikTokers, you can see the scope of her work: she's just trying to piss people off. It's been working for her since she said she'd vote for Mitt Romney in 2012, and it works for her now.
That kind of behavior leaves people like Charli D'Amelio in a situation that's uncomfortable at best, traumatizing at worst. While Paytas is encouraging people to scrutinize her behavior leads to the exact situation where Charli and her family are asked to justify behavior that's frankly totally normal. If you're looking for any traces of imperfection in anyone, you will find it. The intensity of the focus that the lens of social media puts on people like Charli means that almost anything they do can potentially become a vector of harassment. Even talking about it has the potential for encouraging hangers on like Paytas to keep going. At least Charli seems aware of this dynamic, saying of Paytas in her Instagram Live, "Some people are just getting involved just to get involved, and I'm just going to say, Trisha Paytas, you have been completely rude to me…. You have your own problems, please stop worrying about mine."
Good advice, for everyone.