Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, Charli D’Amelio have all cried on Instagram Live – but are the emotional outbursts real or not?
- In a world where anything on social media feels curated, spontaneous displays of emotion – think Lizzo crying about her haters – are seen by some as contrived
- Crying on Instagram Live could be seen by some as a form of ‘sadfishing’ – a term for posting sad content online to garner sympathy, support or drive engagement
What do singers Chloe Bailey, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa, TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, Euphoria actress Sydney Sweeney and countless other influencers have in common?
They’ve all shed tears during an Instagram Live – or “cried on IG live”.
But in a world where anything on social media feels curated, spontaneous displays of emotions – efforts to vent, raise awareness and connect with followers – are seen by some as either contrived, embarrassing or both.
That’s led to the memeification of crying on live. As in “imagine crying on live”, said by people who predict they’d never be in that situation. It’s the polar opposite of the normalise-talking-about-your-feelings-and-rejecting-toxic-energy therapy speak – basically, live your truth, but log off first.
Why are people so uncomfortable with people bawling on Instagram Live?
Part of the appeal of an Instagram live for a celebrity is that it allows them to address fans directly in a way that is (or at least feels) intimate and unscripted while still controlling the narrative. But the more famous someone is, the less likely they are to receive the benefit of the doubt that their emotions are real.
“The celebrities that we saw in the past in mainstream media were very carefully curated by other people to cater to a fan base,” says Jenna Drenten, an associate professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago, in the US state of Illinois.
“Today, we have things like Instagram Live, Cameo, TikTok, these very of-the-moment, always-on platform features, where celebrities can convey this real-time, behind-the-scenes perspective of their lived experiences.”
These tools give them “a chance to be more human”, she says. On the other hand fans, and often the media, view anything a celebrity does as content. “There’s a perspective that any tears are only for entertainment, because celebrities are always for our own entertainment, for fans entertainment.”
On August 15, two days after the music video for her new single, Rumors featuring Cardi B, dropped, Lizzo hopped onto Instagram Live. The song, full of her usual self-confidence and swagger, is about brushing off haters on the internet (“Sick of rumours/But haters do what they do”). But instead of celebrating the success of the song, she admitted that sometimes mean comments on the internet do bother her.
“On the days when I should feel the happiest, it just – I feel so down,” she said.
The live isn’t available on Lizzo’s Instagram account, but it’s easy to find. Soon, fans published screen recordings of the clip to YouTube and Twitter. Blogs and news outlets wrote about it; her haters made fun of her for crying on live; and her followers and supporters – including Cardi B – criticised the internet trolls for pushing her to that point.
Lizzo reappeared on live later that week. “Don’t worry about me … I have several forms of therapy, including a therapist,” she said in the video, while sitting in front of a giant chocolate cake decorated like her hand from the Rumors music video. “I’m OK! But just know that I’m the kind of artist that is going to be completely transparent if it’s necessary to start a conversation for some progress.”
Her initial video was part of a subgenre of crying on live – women, particularly black women, resetting the narratives (and dispelling rumours) circulating around them. This was the flip side of that.
Crying leads to catharsis, and catharsis leads to peace of mind. Or as Lizzo put it: “Having my Cake and eating it b****”.