How to Spot a Dangerous Online Relationship

How to Spot a Dangerous Online Relationship | Positively Smitten

By Ariel Godwin

If you’re part of the YouTube fan community, you’ve probably heard the names Alex Day, Tom Milsom, or Alex Carpenter. If not, a quick Google search will show that they are all vloggers and musicians, with cute hair and cuter personalities, who reach out to fans through the internet.

A little more prying will reveal reports saying that they have all used their influence to their advantage by starting abusive, illegal relationships with fans younger than themselves.

I sympathize a lot with those fans, because I know how it feels to admire an online celebrity. At 14 years old, I fell head over heels for the moderator of an online community I frequented. Unaware of my feelings, he invited me into his friend group and tolerated my tendency to brighten up whenever his attention fell my way. I was so young and infatuated that I would’ve reciprocated a romantic advance from him – even though he never made one, to me or any of his fans.

Survivors of less virtuous men’s toxic behavior have recently come forward in droves, repeating what they all have in common: “He made me feel special.” I know how they feel – my crush had a fan base of thousands, but he only talked back to a select group that included me. When a person you know and admire through the internet turns their attention back toward you, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed.

But as fans of Milsom, Day, and Carpenter are learning, not everyone abides by the responsibilities of a famous personality. It is always, always the duty of the celebrity to look out for their vulnerable fans, not to exploit them. The trouble is, when those celebs disregard that responsibility, young women don’t have anywhere to turn for help.

That doesn’t make those women helpless, though – far from it. Instead of blaming victims for getting into a situation out of their control, we should be providing support and advice, so that even if their crush isn’t looking out for them, young female fans can still take care of themselves.

The first thing to know if you’re infatuated with an adult celebrity is that this feeling is normal. It’s 100 percent natural to be smitten when someone famous returns your attention – who wouldn’t be? Falling in love is no one’s fault, especially if you’re a fan and your crush is significantly older than you.

But if he tries to pursue a romance, he is doing something very wrong. He’s taking advantage of two imbalances in power: the one between fan and creator, and the one between an inexperienced teenager and a mature adult. No matter what the circumstances, any relationship built upon those grounds can never be equal – a fact which the celebrity should know.

Even if you feel that you’re mature enough for a serious relationship (and I don’t mean to imply that no girl is ready for relationships at a young age), you have to accept that waiting until you’re both adults is the right thing to do. For one thing, it’s the law. It varies depending on where you live but, as a general rule of thumb, if you’re a teenager 17 years old or younger, you cannot consent to a relationship with someone over the age of 18. Then there’s the added component regarding heartbreak. If a romance goes sour, which can happen even when both partners are romantically experienced, it can leave you heartbroken for a long time. Getting into a relationship when you’re younger and not used to serious dating makes you 10 times more vulnerable to a hurtful falling-out.

In the meantime, take a step back and consider whether your crush might show the warning signs of an abusive personality. Did your intimacy develop quickly, and does he seem to care more about sex than dating? Does he do things like text other girls when you’re hanging out, lowering your self-esteem? Are your interactions limited because he wants to keep your involvement a secret? Does he always offer you alcohol whenever you’re together? Overall, do you feel like you’re putting more into the relationship than what you’re getting in return?

If any of this sounds familiar, get some friends to back you up, and get out as soon as you can. The relationship is not healthy – it’s one-sided, manipulative, and abusive. As the past few weeks have shown, online communities will band together to stick up for young women in these situations. While it may seem like you’re losing the love of your life now, time will show that the love of your friends – a healthy, supportive, unselfish love – is always stronger than abuse.

For resources on dealing with abuse, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence, please check out the following:

Ariel Godwin is a writer, designer and developer from deep in the heart of Austin, Texas. She laughs at her own puns and hopes that one day science can make her a dragon.

Photo credit Michael Law.


2 responses to “How to Spot a Dangerous Online Relationship

  1. Thank you! This is an amazing post, excellent advice and something I think is extremely relevant for a good friend of mine.


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