The Problem with Meet & Greets
By: Gabby Frost
Think about a singer, band, youtuber, actor, or some other public figure that you look up to. One that you'd do anything to meet and have a conversation with. Imagine you find out that you're finally meeting them in a few months on their tour in your continent. You're filled with the happiest emotions for the longest time, until they announce they're not doing meet & greets anymore for personal reasons. How would you react to this?
Some of you may have gone through that exact experience yesterday, when it was announced that Justin Bieber would no longer be meeting fans before his shows. Thousands of people, fans or not, criticized him for doing this as people paid hundreds, even thousands, for a meet & greet (M&G) package. It took a few hours for Justin to release a statement, and when he did it caused even more backlash.
A majority of people responded with, "how can meeting fans make him feel depressed?" but in fact, it is true. If you're a famous celebrity like Justin, millions of people want to meet you. When some of those millions of people finally get the chance to, they fantasize this perfect scenario in their head of how the M&G will go. By the time the M&G comes, certain fans try to push the celebrity to do the specific things they'd like and when they don't get their way, they can begin to look upset. Some M&Gs also make you get a picture with more than one person, which can be extremely difficult if you're put with people you don't know to meet one person. There have been instances of fans pushing each other to get next to Justin or fighting over who stands where.
I'm not a celebrity, but it would definitely make me upset to see these things happening almost every night of my tour. It's also very mentally draining to meet hundreds of people every night and try to fit their expectations. I understand that Justin didn't have to offer M&G from the start, but he wanted to do it to give back to the fans. He's allowed to put himself first now that his mental health is being drained every night. Not every fan at the show has M&G, but all have tickets. By having the life sucked out of him beforehand, it's not fair to the whole crowd coming to see the show. He's not promising all of the fans what he's offered them - a fun, live concert event.
Instead of having a M&G, Justin is holding a pre-concert hangout. I'm assuming this will be similar to a soundcheck, so fans will be able to get up close pics of him but not physically get one with him. If fans don't feel like this is worth the money they spent, they're allowed to get a full refund. Unfortunately, by getting a refund, these people have to give up their ticket to the show since it's included in the M&G package. (I don't agree with that at all, but that's just how it works for his tour.)
This problem isn't just with Justin though, it exists with almost every public figure that does M&Gs. Fans are expected to pay ridiculous amounts of money just to get a quick pic with a celebrity. Although it's people's choice to buy an expensive M&G, the entertainment industry should not be the ones pricing M&Gs this way. Why should "normal people" pay hundreds to thousands of dollars just to meet another person? Celebrities are human beings just like the rest of us. They shouldn't be held to higher standards than the rest of us and don't owe anything to their fans other than entertainment. They should be expected to put their mental health first, and not shamed when they do so.
It can be super cool to meet a celebrity, but remember that they are not obligated to stop and take a picture with you. They don't owe you anything if you happen to see them in a public setting or after their concert. We need to stop dehumanizing celebrities and start treating them like the real people that they are. Just because they are known by a large amount of people in this world, doesn't mean they still aren't human. If we start letting celebrities know they are human too, situations like Justin's could be avoided.