No Joy on DearU bubble frustrates fans and exposes parasocial paradox

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No Joy on DearU bubble frustrates fans and exposes parasocial paradox

Joy of girl group Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Joy of girl group Red Velvet [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

 
SM Entertainment last year started a private chatroom service called DearU bubble. Users pay a monthly subscription fee of 4,500 won ($3.8) and receive messages or photos from an SM star.
 
Although DearU bubble emphasizes a personal connection between artists and fans, it is still a paid interaction. Artists who fail to do the work and send the messages can be called out by their fans. Joy of girl group Red Velvet learned this lesson the hard way. 
 
DearU bubble is SM Entertainment's private chatroom service. Fans can pay a monthly subscription free of 4,500 won ($3.8) per artist to receive messages or photos from their favorite stars. [DEARU BUBBLE]

DearU bubble is SM Entertainment's private chatroom service. Fans can pay a monthly subscription free of 4,500 won ($3.8) per artist to receive messages or photos from their favorite stars. [DEARU BUBBLE]

 
Last week on a chatroom, a DearU bubble subscriber to Joy’s messages claimed that the singer did not send a single message via the service since Sept. 15. The anonymous post also complained that over the past two years, Joy messaged fans barely two or three times a month on average.  
 
Many in the comment section sympathized.
 
“This is why I unsubscribed. Once a month is too little, and this is a paid service after all. Many subscribers are offended,” one post reads.
 
Joy did send new messages on DearU bubble a couple days after the complaint was posted, but it was met with a mixed response. Some welcomed her back, but some expressed skepticism, saying she only resumed because of the criticism.    
 
DearU bubble messages sent by Joy in 2020 [SCREEN CAPTURE]

DearU bubble messages sent by Joy in 2020 [SCREEN CAPTURE]

 
Even considering Joy is currently busy shooting JTBC series “Only One Person,” many of her subscribers say they are entitled to more DearU bubble messages as they are paying customers.  
 
“It only takes a few seconds to send a message,” one comment reads.  
 
Pop culture critic Kim Heon-sik wonders about the product being offered.
 
Joy [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Joy [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

 
“Before criticizing the individual artist, we need to look back on what things can be monetized and what shouldn’t be,” he said. 
 
“Entertainment agencies have been monetizing content that their artists have to offer. But we can’t know for sure if the artists are fully on board with it. In the case of one-on-one messaging, this is actually a great deal of emotional labor on the artist’s part.”
 
Kim clarified that Joy is in the wrong, in the sense that she did not properly fulfill a business obligation. At the same time, he questioned the sincerity of celebrity-fan interactions if such services are monetized and therefore made into an obligation.  
 
“If she does send messages but only because fans are outraged when she doesn’t, is that genuine fan service? How sincere is that interaction? We must ask if the industry should continue launching similar parasocial services. It’s best to let willing stars do it voluntarily without payments involved.” 

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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