On Sunday, footballer Gabriel Agbonlahor was sent death threats on Twitter from One Direction fans – lovingly termed ‘Directioners’ - after injuring one of the band members, Louis Tomlinson, during a charity football match. The singer was left limping and later vomited after a shoulder barge from the Aston Villa player.
Some of the threats were as outrageous as ‘This guy hurt Louis knee. I shall hurt your face. I better hear that you apologized or I will find you, and I will kill you’. And this isn’t the only instance of crazed Directioners overreacting. Last month, a Channel 4 documentary about over-obsessive fans sparked Twitter outrage and unsupported claims that Channel 4 is a ‘murderer’ after there were rumoured to be over 100 suicides in response to the documentary – which only served to prove the documentary’s point. Another instance included American singer Taylor Swift holding hands with 1D member Harry Styles, which provoked the following tweet: ‘You’re a f***ing ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood.’
Agbonlahor announced that he intended to apologise shortly after the incident. However, it’s absurd that Directioners are demanding an apology so strongly – it’s a game, and a game where players often get knocked over and hurt. This display of over-the-top fandom is, frankly, quite saddening.
But another lesson to be learned is that we need to avoid taking Twitter abuse too seriously. Abusive comments on the social-networking site have been the subject of much discussion of late, with death threats sent to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez after her campaign to get Jane Austen printed on our £10 banknotes, among others. Of course, Twitter threats could be an indication of something more serious, but in the vast majority of cases, they are not. Agbonlahor is a case in point: threats from teenage fangirls should not be deemed acceptable, but they should hardly scare us.