Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber: Cyber attack or fangirl fantasy?

“Jelena” was (and is) a defining element of the pop-culture zeitgeist of the 2010s. From Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez’s first date in 2010 to their final break in 2018, fans and haters alike were dialed into the couple’s activities, event appearances, twitter feuds and paparazzi-captured kisses. Five years later, however, with Bieber now married to Hailey Baldwin and Selena single but ever-beloved by her supporters, new lines are being drawn, and it is unclear whether they are between fans or the celebrities themselves.

The so-called “beef” between Selena and Hailey began back in 2018, just months after Jelena’s final dissolution when Bieber and Baldwin tied the knot. Since then, the pop star and model have had an alleged conflict, presumably related to the short time in between the two relationships and the long legacy of “Jelena” that still permeates social media and tabloids today.

Most recently in the virtual tension between the two women, Hailey Bieber posted a TikTok that has since been deleted, using a viral audio which viewers interpreted to be body shaming Gomez. This “shade” was accompanied by an Instagram post in which Bieber and best friend Kylie Jenner appear to be making fun of Selena Gomez’ laminated eyebrow fail. While neither post explicitly references Gomez, Selena’s fans have set on a crusade against Hailey Bieber and all of her supposed “mean girl” friends. Selena has taken to social media to dispel rumors of this so-called “beef,” but once the stans have sharpened their knives, it’s difficult to sheath their weapons. 

After a long search through TikToks, tweets, comment sections and a few frustrated conversations with my peers that started with the question “Selena or Hailey?”, I can’t shake the initial question I was faced with when I sat down to write this article: Who the fuck cares? Because it is 100% not me. In the ironic sense of the question, it seems odd to me that online interactions by celebrities are nitpicked so closely to generate cyber warfare between complete strangers who are members of armies they never enlisted in. However, I truly am curious about who this feud really matters to and why they care so much. 

The vast majority of my friends are “team Selena,” and I suppose if I had to sit myself in one of the camps, hers is the one I would begrudgingly choose. I know my own commitment to Gomez is because of my love of “Wizards of Waverly Place” as a kid, specifically my adoration of Gomez’ character Alex Russo. What I’m still curious about, however, is the source of loyalty for the younger generations on social media, those that didn’t grow up with the Disney channel of the early 2000s or for the early days of Hailey Baldwin’s nepo-baby modeling career. 

What seems most important to these internet armies —  rather than condemning Hailey Bieber or defending Selena — is telling the rest of the world whose side they are on. Regardless of the obvious misogyny and trivial pot-stirring that characterizes this entire discourse, its existence demonstrates people’s desire for community and identity; it just so happens that users are inventing conflict between women to do so. 

For me, the more important takeaway from the Selena-Hailey feud is that internet and social media users are increasingly desperate to feel like they are a part of something. What matters more than who’s right and wrong is entrenching oneself in a stance, surrounded by like minded adolescents and sharing in a communal attack. 

While stans are still debating back and forth, Hailey and Selena have both waved their white flags. In response to a number of death threats directed at Hailey, both women posted Instagram stories to condemn the attacks, expressing care and concern for the other. As the would-be perpetrators of these cyber attacks rush to each other’s aid, I’m left wondering if any of this was real or imagined, intentional or not and if we have entered an age where the rampant phenomenon of misinformation poses a true life-or-death risk. 


Share and discuss “Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber: Cyber attack or fangirl fantasy?” on social media.