Saturday 1 October 2016

Katie Byrne: I'm a Belieber... and dare I say it, we should all do as Justin Bieber does

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Features writer Katie Byrne
Features writer Katie Byrne

Justin Bieber fans were recently disappointed to discover that their idol will no longer be doing meet-and-greets after his concerts.

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The singer took to his Instagram page to break the news: "I'm going to be cancelling my meet and greets," he wrote. "I'm meeting such incredible people but I end up feeling so drained and filled with so much of other people's spiritual energy that I end up so drained and unhappy.

"Want to make people smile and happy but not at my expense and I always leave feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression."

Bieber used a photo of himself hugging a young female fan to illustrate his point. It is not clear if this is the fan who gave him depression... It's a curious choice of photograph, though: one that seems specifically designed to show his remarkable piety when meeting fans who have paid up to $2,000 for a hug with the patron saint of pop music.

The beatific pretence is complemented by his Hindu-esque nose piercing and a silken jacket that is draped sari-style across his shoulders. Is Bieber the Hugging Saint of the pop world? He certainly has more Facebook followers than Amma, the Kerala-born spiritual leader. And the pearls of wisdom he imparts are just as widespread.

"Love has no limitations of caste, religion, race or nationality," says Amma. "We are all beads strung together on the same thread of love." Bieber, meanwhile, came out with this deeply profound beaut: "You don't need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn't make you a taco." Indeed it does not.

Both of these accidental gurus want to change the world. "Change yourself, the world around you will change," says Amma. Justin has embarked upon a similar noble mission: "Together we can change the world," he once said. Presumably he's still trying to work out how exactly.

Both urge their followers to surrender to the almighty; both have disciples who believe that their leaders can change their lives irrevocably and both know the power of a hug.

Amma claims to have hugged 35 million fans throughout the course of her career. Justin has given up earnings in the region of $35 million over the course of his career by deciding to no longer hug fans that are willing to pay for the privilege.

Amma will probably have given 70 million hugs by 2020. Justin will probably be wearing a Michael Jackson-style surgical mask by then.

In one sense, it's hard to sympathise with a star who feels like his 'spiritual energy' is being drained - and even less so when, as in Las Vegas last week, he replaces himself with a cardboard cut-out at the meet-and-greets his fans have paid thousands for. When you sign up for a life in the spotlight, there's a tacit understanding that the fans' energy is the nuclear fusion that makes your star burn bright.

In another sense, I envy him. It must be so liberating to have complete control over who is allowed into your personal space. Imagine having that power in the workplace: I won't be at this morning's meeting because you're all energy vampires sucking the chi out of me like diesel. Sorry guys, you know I love you, it's just that you're all a bit drab.

It's easy to laugh at Justin - it really is - but the truth is that I understand his decision. I once hid in a wardrobe rather than suffer the chronic dullness of a house caller. Elsewhere, I once got off the Luas six stops early when I noticed that the torpid monotone of an ex-colleague was sending me to sleep.

I open the window when I'm around nags or moans - it seems to help - and I recently became physically ill after receiving a limp, listless hug that was akin to being embraced by a slug wearing a condom. New-agers call these people 'energy vampires' and 'psychic parasites'. Everyone else knows them as 'doses' and 'drains'. It's merely a semantic dispute over a phenomenon that we have all observed, irrespective of our spiritual beliefs.

Some people energise us and empower us and some people make us want to go back to bed and wait patiently for the apocalypse to arrive.

Some people make us want to go out dancing and some people make us want to give up trying. Sure we're all going to die one day...

I often wonder if doses know the effect they have on others? Do they notice that people go running for the hills when they start pelting down with torrential pain? Do they recognise the almost paralytic ennui they induce when they ramble on and on about their office politics? Do they ever wonder why a suspicious amount of people blame a 'bad reception', an approaching tunnel or a Garda checkpoint when they call them on the phone? Probably not.

I never thought I'd be taking life advice from a man who sang "I could be your Buzz Lightyear, fly across the globe". However, on this occasion, I think we should all do as Justin does, and just say no.

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