Opinion: Bring Back Respect

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

Only in 2019 would a funeral be confused with a meet-and-greet. And, only in 2019, would there be written instructions that urge fans to stay away.

Ethan and Grayson Dolan — known on YouTube as the Dolan Twins — have nearly 9 million subscribers to their channel. Recently, their father Sean Dolan passed away from cancer and his funeral was few days later.

Common sense would tell us that fans are not welcome at a private funeral and that the best way to pay respects is to give the twins some time and space to heal. Apparently, common sense isn’t so common, because as soon as news broke of their father’s passing, fans created social media accounts to party plan his funeral. This sounds like an exaggeration, but hashtags such as #SeanDolanMeetUpParty and #SeanDolanFuneralParty surfaced on Twitter. Meet up party. Funeral party. Not only that, but there was even an Instagram account that was dedicated to rallying fans to go to the funeral together, with agenda items such as “meet up at McDonald’s all together” and even “please cry”.

I know that not all fans would do this, and, in fact, a large number of the Dolan Twins’ fan base was disgusted with what happened, but enough people were actually thinking about going to the funeral that multiple YouTube news channels reported on it and the twins had to involve themselves while they were grieving.

This is absurd for reasons I hope I don’t have to explain, but what is equally disturbing is that this isn’t the first time fans have violated basic privacy rights. Fans of Colleen Ballinger, James Charles, and the ACE Family have all shown up at the creators’ houses or hotel rooms, hoping for a picture. I understand that these people have chosen their professions to be in the public eye, but that doesn’t mean that they should subject themselves to the fear of constantly being watched and stalked. Like any other person, they very carefully choose the portions they want to publicize, their decision to take that to a much larger degree does not make their entire lives open books.

Obviously, any time fans violate someone’s privacy is disturbing, but this time hit a new low. The possibility of fans showing up at the funeral was so real, that both creators were forced to tweet out statements shutting it down.

This needs to change. YouTube personalities were popularized with the idea that they would be able to interact with their fans on a more personal level than would mainstream celebrities, and everyone expected that it would come with a price, but no person, celebrity or not, YouTuber or not, should have to tell people they never met not to come to their father’s funeral. Period.

At this rate, the social media platforms that foster personal connection and communication will turn into avenues for disturbance and danger right before our eyes. We as a society need to reestablish basic respect and boundaries, and we need to do it fast.