While you may have tried to avoid it, it’s time for you to pay attention to what’s happening over on TikTok. Right now, it’s all about the latest drama — taking place between two of the apps biggest creators (ModernWarrior and ChelseaHartIsMe). You might think this isn’t important, but it’s direly so. This superficial and emotionally immature mess has now spiraled into a community catastrophe that is putting real lives and mental health at stake.
A little background on what’s happened…
In short, Diné activist Lance Tsosie was outed by fellow TikTok creator and progressive activist Chelsea Hart. In a harrowing video, the 28-year-old clock app favorite detailed her experiences with Lance and the heartbreaking truth that their relationship had been a less than faithful one.
It turns out, though, that the story was a lot more complicated.
Lance hadn’t been fully honest with intentions, but neither had he explicitly led Chelsea along (which became clear through various receipts release by fans and both parties). He had lied about his sexual partners, though. The narrative soon exploded into a confusing jumble.
More stories came out about both Lance and Chelsea — many from Chelsea — on the growing situation. It exploded into a firestorm TikTok sensation that is crowding the “For You Page”. There are even rumors that she is pregnant with Lance Tsosie’s child (unconfirmed).
It’s now become a nasty he-said she-said that has put Black creators and the indigenous communities squarely in the crossfires. Real world threats are now being exchanged, and both creators are in fear for their life and (seemingly) regretting the entire dispute.
What the Chelsea Hart and Lance Tsosie drama can teach us.
The emotional drama and explosiveness of this story shouldn’t bother you, as it doesn’t bother me. What is important to consider here, though, is the bigger picture. No matter how superficial you think this drama might be, it’s now come to a head in such a large way that real-world, non-influencer individuals are being affected on and off the app.
There are some crucial lessons that we need to take from this so that we can do better a better investment of time and money in the activist and content creators we patronize in future.
Narcissism thrives on TikTok
While there are a host of issues going on here, it’s hard not to see the narcissistic behaviors at play on both sides of the fence. Narcissists and narcissistic behaviors flourish and thrive on the infamous clock app.
Here, both their grandiose and victim-etched behaviors are able to build huge and dedicated audiences and followings.
ChelseaHartIsMe’s fans have already harassed and shut down the accounts of a number of Black creators. On the other side of the line, Lance and other members of the indigenous community are now being targeted and attacked at the indirect urging of the other camp.
All of this comes down to cults of personality, each enthralled by the larger-than-life persona they’ve become obsessed with. Each day, these personalities log in and feed more and more of their soul to the app. All in the hopes that they will receive more likes, more praise, more followers.
What’s more narcissistic than that? It’s a trait we follow down the road to our own detriment. As we are watching happen in real time.
Emotional maturity is lacking
There is substantial emotional maturity lacking in this entire situation, no matter which way you look at it.
On Lance’s end, he wasn’t crystal clear with all of these women about his intentions. He just wasn’t. There’s nothing wrong with having as many partners as you want, but those partners all need to be fully knowledgeable of the situation.
Lance didn’t tell them the truth because he wanted what he wanted, and he didn’t want to deal with confrontation of it. That’s selfish, and it lacks in emotional maturity.
But then we have Chelsea…
The scorned partner who decided to detonate a nuclear bomb in the most dramatic of ways.
This is not the space to diagnose Chelsea. And I won’t do that in this piece. But this is a good time to consider whether behaviors like these (when we see them in our own lives) are emotionally mature.
Is this how someone with emotional intelligence would act?
Because that requires coming from a place of empathy — even when someone has wronged you.
By all means, get mad. Call him a million times and leave him a nasty voice mail if you want to. But there is no need to make this a public issue.
Women have been communicating subtly with one another about players and f*ckbois for generations. We have our signs, our codes. We message one another and DM the truth back and forth in more intricate networks than the Musk satellites.
Chelsea could have chosen to confront these issues in more private ways, but she chose to make the public (more specifically, her very active and volatile following) a part of the conflict. For no reason that really involved public safety.
Doing that came with the knowledge that Lance would be publically crucified and his causes diminished. That is incredibly immature and reflects more accurately the behaviors of a teenager than a millennial who’s been through more than half a dozen military and financial crises.
Covert narcissism is insidious
Again, this is no place to diagnose Chelsea and I’m certainly not the person to do it. But I would be hard pressed not to see reflections of my mother in the current situation.
My mother was the constant victim, right down to every crisis she would manufacture for herself.
It didn’t look like that on the outside, though. It always looked like a world of wrong, and she was the endless victim caught up in a life that wasn’t fair.
But it was fair.
My mother made bad choices for herself every single day. And she did so knowing it would lead her down the road to physical or financial ruin. That’s why she did it.
As a covert narcissist, my mother knew that if she stayed broke, if she just let the house get run down enough…someone would come and swoop in and save her. Better yet, they may even turn against, or punish, the person she decided to blame for the catastrophe.
Covert narcissism is insidious. Centered around emotional manipulation and power plays, it will see the narcissist destroy themselves and everyone else around them if they can fill that hole inside of them (even if only for a moment).
The burden of public activism
In one respect, it always feels a bit like justice when a cheater gets outed. This specific story, though, has come with some serious reality checks when it comes to weighing the cost on communities and public activism.
The truth is that being an activist comes as a serious burden.
Sure, it might feel good to do the right thing and to be on the right side of history. But you also stand with the intention, hope, and future of your entire community on your back when you take a stand for them.
Inside of all that forward action, your humanity is bound to be called into question. Knowing we all make mistakes, you still have to strive to do better and be better in this superficial society that will deny you for the very color of your skin.
This story has taught us all what a critical eye comes with standing in the light of truth. It’s a costly one. Your failure doesn’t just cost you, however. It costs everyone you’ve ever spilled your blood for.
The dangers of performative activism
A victim that’s lost in all of this is the indigenous communities that Lance has always stood so strong for (especially in the beginning of his fight).
As usual, racist and neo-nazi groups have taken this opportunity to refresh their campaigns against him — which never fully ended.
Once the news broke, these groups were quick to spread vicious new disinformation campaigns, and they attacked other members of the indigenous community on TikTok, too.
And you can see the other thing happening on the other side. Chelsea — self-proclaimed enby and LGBTQ+ activist — dug further into the drama by making claims of pregnancy and viralizing the term “WOMBLANDS”. Shortly after, alleged lies were revealed about previous pregnancies that the creator shared on her TikTok account.
Now, hate-brigades troll her posts and the posts of those like her. They’re using the drama to direct hate and diminishment on anyone else who presents like Chelsea, or who shares a similar story.
There have also (allegedly) been sketchy claims made of “sexual assault” which involved little more than unwanted photos of a general nature.
It’s done a lot to undermine the stories of other survivors who fight to have their stories heard; who fight to find the courage to speak up (then are buried under this useless drama by the algorithm).
This is the danger of performative activism.
While I have never followed Chelsea, it’s not hard to see and feel the disingenuous aura in her videos. It always felt fake. Scripted. For attention.
For Lance, it felt much the same in these last months of being a long-time fan. I admit I hit the unfollow button not long before Christmas when it began to feel like the activism was more of a personal diatribe and Live Journal.
All of this has boiled down to real life people who are going to find it harder to have their stories heard. Real life people who are going to find it harder to be believed. People who are going to feel like they can’t speak up, or shouldn’t speak up, or don’t have a right to speak up. People who were already shut out of the systems that be.
But seeing it all laid out, it doesn’t really strike one that either of these creators was thinking about the big picture. The bigger cost. So we then have to ask ourselves…are these the activists that are really going to bring us a better future?
What you should take away from this…
In the end, there’s a lot that we could and should take away from this.
First and foremost, we need to improve the way we view victimhood and we need to get better at spotting performative victimhood and activism in the workplace, our lives, social media, and the world.
Look for people who always have a crisis. Someone who always has drama. Someone who always has an axe to grind. Well, people don’t have chaos in their lives every day. They don’t seek to crucify others on the internet when a face-to-face denial is so much more satisfying.
There’s a hollowness that rings true in constant victims; to those who nothing is ever their fault or doing.
As a people, we need to get better at spotting the “victims” who are doing it for the fame, and the survivors who are striving to give themselves (and those like them) a truly self-defined and sovereign life.
By that same token, we must get better at spotting performative activism and shutting it down before it has the chance to undermine the chances and strides of entire communities.
Look for creators and lotus eaters who turn more toward their own benefit than they do the platforms they stand on. People who gain more from their posturing than the people they’re supposed to be standing up for. It can be a slow slide, but it’s a noticeable one if you wake up and care to take a look.
© E.B. Johnson 2022