Followers Forever: Prior Commitment Predicts Post-Scandal Support of a Social Media Celebrity


  • Simon Tobias Karg
  • Michelle Lim
  • Simone Schnall


When learning about wrongdoings of others, people are quick to condemn them and make negative inferences about their character. This tends to not be the case, however, when they hold strong positive feelings toward a transgressor, or consider this person to be part of their ingroup. We investigated the extent to which followers of a social media celebrity, Logan Paul, would still support him after a highly publicized scandal, thus exploring whether they would remain loyal given their prior commitment, or instead, feel especially betrayed and therefore revise their previously positive evaluation of him. Using Distributed Dictionary Representations on a large dataset of YouTube followers (N = 36,464) who commented both before and after the scandal, we found that the more often a person had publicly expressed their approval of the protagonist prior to the scandal, the stronger their post-scandal support was. Similarly, prior engagement was also associated with fewer negative moral emotions, and more positive emotions and attempts to defend the transgressor. Furthermore, compared to non-followers of the celebrity, followers were substantially more supportive of him after the scandal. Thus, highly committed fans failed to update existing moral character evaluations even in light of an extreme moral norm violation, a pattern that is consistent with attempts to reduce cognitive dissonance to maintain a positive evaluation of self and transgressor.