One of the many things that thrive in the murky environment of the Internet are ‘fandoms’, groups of loyal followers devoted to an element of pop culture, be it a celebrity, pop band or TV show. Since the establishment of Twitter in 2006, celebrity fandoms have taken off. Justin Bieber’s diehard fans alone make up 3 percent of Twitter users, whilst between them all just five One Direction members boast more than 84million Twitter followers.

Whilst these fandoms’ love for their idols can be benign, they also provide a breeding ground for immeasurable hysteria. Each with their own individual titles, they can act like armies, staunchly following their chosen disciple, to what appears to be no end. Lady Gaga’s former “BFF” blogger Perez Hilton found this out last year when he found himself at the receiving end of a barrage of homophobic vitriol from Gaga’s “Little Monsters” after Gaga accused him of stalking her. The “Mother Monster” had to step in after some of her fans threatened to kill and kidnap Hilton’s infant son.

Such irrational behaviour is indicative of a number of fandoms, with those who follow “tween” sensations being the most notorious. Selena Gomez’s “Selenators” regularly clash with Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers” over the couple’s on-off relationship. After breaking up with One Direction member Harry Styles, Taylor Swift’s “Swifities” ran to her defence after the “Directioners” labelled her a “slut” amongst other charming adjectives.

The venom that One Direction’s “Directioners” harbour towards the band’s girlfriends and critics is just one of the reasons why they have become one of the most infamous fandoms. Fans have been known to write intense fan-fiction and “ship” the notion of relationships between the band members. So intense is the admiration held by ‘1D’ fans for the band, that they became the subject of the 2013 Channel 4 Documentary “Crazy about One Direction”.

Unsurprisingly, the documentary was not well received by the “Directioners”, and Channel 4 felt their wrath. The producers were branded murderers after rumours spread that fans had killed themselves over their negative portrayal in the documentary.

Beliebers displayed similar levels of mania when they launched the outrageous campaign titled “Operation Cut for Bieber”. They uploaded pictures of themselves cutting their arms in an attempt to stop him smoking marijuana. Justin was told, “you stop using drugs, and we’ll stop cutting”.

The establishment of Twitter in 2006 has had a binary effect on fandoms. Primarily, it has broken down the barriers between celebrities and their fans. Nowadays fans can directly message a celebrity, and if they’re really lucky the celebrity might just respond. Unlike fan mail, which is delivered to an unknown, far-off address, the unified Twitter forum ensures you that there is a (small) chance celebrities will see your tweets and know you exist. For many fans that provides immense gratification, and fuels their constant tweeting, begging celebrities to simply ‘retweet’ their tweets and acknowledge their existence.

The most recent example of fandoms losing touch with reality are the “Pistorians”. The following comprised mainly of women, profess their support for Oscar Pistorious across various forms of social media. Despite the athlete being on trial for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who he claims he mistook as an intruder, the Pistorians’ admiration for him seems to reach no end. The “Support for Oscar” Twitter account has almost 2,000 ‘likes’.

Throughout their tweets, their Facebook page and their WordPress blog, the Pistorians plaster inspiring quotes, from the likes of Mother Theresa and Robert F. Kennedy, across photo collages of Pistorious. They have compared Oscar’s plight to that of Job in the Old Testament, the “blameless” and “upright” citizen who is challenged by God when he loses his wealth and his ten children for no justifiable reason. In what is meant to be a fitting tribute, the Pistorians use one of Reeva’s final tweets to remind Pistorius’ many critics “before… you raise your voice to criticise, acknowledge people’s circumstances, you don’t know their struggle”.

The blind defence of Oscar Pistorious by his supporters has sparked memories of the equally questionable “Team Breezy”. Team Breezy, like the Pistorians, were a following comprised almost solely of women professing their support for another violent celebrity. This parade of supporters dedicated their loyalties to Chris Brown, the pop star who physically assaulted his then girlfriend pop star Rihanna in 2009. After his controversial ‘comeback’ performance at the Grammys in 2012, Team Breezy’s support for Chris Brown grew all the more vociferous. They tweeted disturbing messages of support, asserting that Brown “could beat me all he wants” and other statements condoning violence and domestic abuse.

Many parallels have been drawn with the Pistorious trial and the OJ Simpson trial of 1995. Both trials involve athletes. Both of whom overcame adversity to reach dizzying heights of fame and fortune. Both have been accused of killing beautiful blondes in an outburst of aggression. OJ Simpson’s trial also took place in a country fractured across racial lines. It also received unprecedented attention, with 150 million viewers tuned into his acquittal in October 1995.

However, unlike the Pistorious trial, supporters of Simpson did not have a forum to turn to to express their unwavering support for the athlete. Support for Simpson had to be expressed within a wider forum that would provide challenge their beliefs.

Similarly, no such Pistorian-style affection is given to Sherien Dewani, the UK businessman who is accused of facilitating his bride’s murder in Cape Town, and is at the heart of South Africa’s second biggest murder trial. Non-celebrities aren’t subject to such fascination which will come as little surprise to many. The fascination with celebrities in the modern world has been a poignant phenomenon. So much so that in 2003 psychologists coined the “Celebrity Worship Syndrome”, to describe the obsessive-addictive disorder displayed by those who follow intricate details of celebrity lives.

This of course is rare, and our society’s permeation with celebrity culture is relatively harmless as long as a healthy measure of perspective is taken alongside our daily dose of celebrity gossip.

However, the addictive behaviour that online celebrity fandoms facilitate is worrying.

The paradox of the Internet and social media is that these can distort your perspective of reality. On the one hand the Internet can give you access to an unending amount of information, and yet it also provides you with the tools to shut you off from the world completely. As the “Pistorians” and the “Directioners” show us, it is clear that many members of fandoms choose to do the latter, preoccupying themselves with a warped reality, and it is a trend that shows no sign of stopping.