Personal boundaries are important for everyone, including K-Pop idols.
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This article includes descriptions of suicide or self harm and violence that may disturb some readers.
For many fans, K-Pop can be something that gets them through the hard times and is a source of comfort. This applies to the K-Pop idols themselves as well. Many idols are very friendly and talk openly about their own emotions in a way that seems like you are talking to a friend. But sometimes, the lines can seem blurred as the “friendship” may be different than that of reality.
During one of ATEEZ‘s “Guerilla” comeback fan-calls, a fan took the opportunity to share with Wooyoung how they felt that the group had saved their life during a hard time. Idols often hear words like this and are told they are a source of happiness for their fans, so this was not out of the ordinary at first. The fan then used a QR code to share a letter written in Korean that Wooyoung was able to read right then and there.
The letter went into detail about the horrific things the fan had experienced, including depictions of abuse that some might find triggering.
While it is truly awful that the fan went through these things, many netizens began discussing whether or not it is appropriate to “trauma dump” on idols. Trauma Dumping is a phrase that describes sharing traumatic experiences with an unsuspecting person without permission, often at inappropriate times and places. Fans say that this is exactly what happened to Wooyoung in this circumstance.
This is not the first time trauma dumping on idols has been discussed. Many STAYs have talked about the way that viewers will suddenly unload about their lives during Stray Kids Bang Chan‘s live streams. These topics have ranged from deaths in viewers’ families to users asking how to deal with self-harm.
While Bang Chan is known to be one of the most comforting and relatable idols and has said he doesn’t mind fans using him for comfort, many think that it’s not right to use him as what they call a “stand-in for therapy.” Fans also think that idols are not meant to fill this sort of role in someone’s life outside of entertainment.
What many fans worry about is the side effects of trauma dumping, where hearing about someone’s trauma can often trigger your own or cause negative feelings that make a lasting impression. Idols have been open about experiencing depression and dealing with their own issues, so the assumption can be made that repeated instances of trauma dumping can make an idol’s mental health worse.
The reason why some fans may feel like they are able to trauma dump and share extremely personal details with idols is because of the way that idol-fan relationships can feel much closer and more personal than they actually are. These fans forget that they are a stranger to the idol because of the one-sided bonds that can form with K-Pop groups.
In spite of this, many mental health professionals believe that trauma dumping is something that should not be done without permission even between close friends.
Fans suggest that instead of using idols to cope with any traumas you may be going through, seek out professional help instead and keep their experiences with their idols positive so as to not add to their already full plates. Telling an idol that their music made an impact on your life is something that is still encouraged, just not in the great detail fans sometimes go into during their meet-and-greets and fan-calls.