Bieber's Instagram tantrum is the Achilles' heel of social media

Bieber's Instagram tantrum is the Achilles' heel of social media

CultureAugust 19, 2016 By Brian Frederick

Should any of us be sitting on our devices right now worried about a celebrity relationship gone awry? Do we dare pick sides and fight to the end protecting a complete stranger we somehow feel a weird kinship to? Does any of it fucking matter?

Quick answer: No. But Justin Bieber having a teenage tantrum over his ex-girlfriend throwing shade at his new girlfriend is a huge deal regardless of how much we need to care about it. Because for whatever reason, Bieber cancelled his Instagram account a few days ago — a move that’s going to cost a few people millions of dollars.

We don’t really need to get into the 'why' of his actions, do we? Dude posts a photo of himself with new girlfriend, old girlfriend goes in on him in the comments with the support of millions of other teenagers who haven’t grown a filter yet. Dude deletes Instagram. End of story.

Except, when Bieber canceled his Instagram, he erased an account with 77 million followers. With that kind of marketing firepower (albeit, most of it riding on his brand), Bieber could probably see anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 per post if he builds the right contract around product placement. Forget his other social media pages, this is potentially a massive dip into his earnings.

Nevermind he’s worth $200 million right now and can afford to lose something like this, unlike the rest of us. That’s not the point.

But it isn’t just Justin Bieber that’s losing out. There isn’t any way a kid from Canada could build up a brand this big without a bunch of help from faceless people in the industry. He has fees for these people, and lots of them. He pays them with money he makes from whatever lines of revenue he has coming in. Checks aren’t going to bounce, but people, we’re sure, are pissed.

And then there’s Facebook, which owns Instagram. Bieber was one of the top accounts it had on the site, something admittedly still struggling to try and keep up with Snapchat’s popularity. The global behemoth just lost a valuable asset, and could very easily see a chunk of users bail on the service to somewhere else where they can find posts from their favorite artists.

So it’s not necessarily whom that’s important. It’s the why. Eventually, places like Facebook are going to become the prehistoric relics they once fought so hard to uproot. It will become uncool, and face a real world problem of luring in younger generations to continue its own revenue stream. Investors expect to make millions off of this thing on a consistent basis, once that stops, so too does investing, and the slow decline into irrelevancy (Hi, MySpace!).

Bieber won’t derail Instagram (not to mention Facebook), he alone can’t. But myriad actions like this have the potential to do so. For him, it was an online tantrum we’ve all wanted to do a time or two in our own lifetimes. For business, it’s a rude awakening to how fragile this new world really is.