For every fandom, there’s an equal and opposite anti-fandom.
To her fans, Mimi Ikonn is wealthy, well-travelled, and winning at life. She’s lived out a rags-to-riches hero arc, from Azerbaijani immigrant to well-monied entrepreneur, residing in London with her husband, Alex, and their daughter, Alexa. Ikonn is the quintessential image of an online influencer—renewing her wedding vows in Positano, writing about the power of a growth mindset, welcoming subscribers to take a peek into her life. She occasionally lets her audience know that “living the dream” is not reality; she’s shared the marriage troubles that arose after the birth of her child and the debilitating anxiety she faced in her 20s. Ikonn’s 3.5M followers on Instagram and 1M subscribers on YouTube are evidence that her story resonates.
But on Guru Gossip, an online message board where users gather to discuss influencers, none of this is true.
To her haters, Mimi Ikonn is really “MeMe,” a narcissist days away from bankruptcy. She’s desperately clinging to her fading youth and a husband who doesn’t love her. The Ikonns are actually the “Icunts” or “The Dumb Fuck & The Tool”; their daughter is “The Ballet Brat.” A scroll through Ikonn’s Instagram reveals little that might be immediately objectionable; her content is the regular influencer fare—travel moments, couple snapshots, and fashion photos. Yet, haters gathering on Guru Gossip have generated over 12,000 posts following Mimi’s every move since at least 2016—critiquing every YouTube video, analyzing every Instagram post, and dissecting every action she makes. On the message board, everything she does is cause for condemnation:
This hate is anything but casual—Guru Gossipers aren’t just observers, they’re investigators. They’ve poured over public business filings and government documents, searching far and wide for anything that feeds the conspiracy: Mimi and her husband are scam artists projecting a false image online to siphon money from anyone stupid enough to buy into their shtick.
The tagline of Guru Gossip is “Discussions on YouTube Beauty Gurus, Influencers, Vloggers and Personalities.” The direction of these discussions is self-evident: a dedicated section for “RAVE ABOUT A GURU” has generated 10,799 posts, while “TRASH A GURU” has generated 1,006,706. Mimi Ikonn is just one of hundreds of influencers generating conversation on Guru Gossip each day. While her detractors are dedicated, they’re a much smaller group than those that gather to discuss influencers closer to household names. But if you read through Guru Gossip, sifting through the hundreds of thousands of posts on various influencers, you’ll see that though the details are different, the conspiratorial thinking surrounding each creator is the same: they’re a fake, they’re a fraud, they’re a phony.
Guru Gossip itself is just one of countless online spaces where people come together to hate as a hobby—critiquing influencers, belittling beauty gurus, and vilifying creators. When infighting among the mods on Guru Gossip led to a temporary shut-down of the forum, members split into various communities including Gossip Gate, a Discord 26,000+ strong and dedicated channels to disparage influencers like Alex Centomo, Niki and Gabi, and Olivia Jade. The team behind Gossip Gate is also behind Family Vlogger Gate, a dedicated Discord for ranting about family channels. Other similar online spaces include Gossip Bakery, YTMD, Tattle Life, and Lipstick Alley.
Fellow anti-fans can now more easily find one another, building a community that centers around contempt. For instance, while Gossip Gate is a macro community that discusses multiple influencers, within each channel is a micro community centered around a single influencer, whose members bond by picking apart a creator’s latest photo, ridiculing their most recent video, and deriding their last tweet. Being a part of these online spaces, connected through a collective interest, can provide a sense of camaraderie and identity that members reinforce through even more heightened anti-fandom behavior: rants, tear-downs, and even harassment.