The Instagram account of Anna Kulcheva, a happy mother from Moscow with a two-year-old son, shows a photo of herself in a bathing suit, carrying Moschino and Mac handbags.
For several years, Anna has harbored a secret hobby – she is a member of the closed “Bathrobe society” @gufssister, a private Instagram community with 119,000 followers. Posts in the group consist of pictures of Russian and foreign stars with comments from fans, mostly negative.
“Under one of such photo, which tells about Bradley Cooper’s split with Irina Shayk over Lady Gaga, one girl suggests sh*tting comments all over the singer’s account. Someone I know wrote: ‘Gaga, you’re such a piece of mutton.’ That’s how it all started,” says Anna.
According to one of the commenters, Artak Ghazaryan, people wrote increasingly strange things in Lady Gaga’s account, be it a recipe for borsch or stories about a sprat-only diet (don’t even ask), simply because they wanted to be part of this “uniquely Russian hangout.”
“Many later wrote that we managed to create a real Russian atmosphere in the Lady Gaga comments,” says Kazaryan.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born."Reuters
Another commenter, Anastasia Demina, agrees with Kazaryan. She lets on that she just wanted to be part of the story, since everyone was talking about the flash mob.
However, when others climbed on board, including Russian celebrities, it turned into a trash can, says “bathrober” Kulcheva.
“All these recipes and jokes about garages up for sale weren’t funny at all. That first post of ours was just a leg-puller, we didn’t know what it would lead to. It wasn't meant to be about insults, just lots of Russian slang,” she explains.
“Let’s visit @leonardodicaprio. Maybe he can help our ‘Negligent society’ to save Baikal. We’re gonna create a wave!” – this post appeared in the bathrobes community and the comments in Lady Gaga’s account about a week ago.
In an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, the community administrator, known as Klara Gavrilovna, commented on the new flash mob on Leonardo DiCaprio’s page as follows:
“Baikal is a lake that's more than 25 million years old, and is endangered. Why not talk about it on TV and the radio? Are they going to build factories there or not? It’s all hush-hush,” she says.
Actor Leonardo Di Caprio arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards at the Royal Opera House in LondonReuters
According to Kulcheva, also a “negligent society” member, for a long time the community used a photo of DiCaprio as its avatar
“He’s really into environmental issues. Plus he’s a media guy and understands Russian a bit. Why not turn the flash mob into something socially significant?” says Kulcheva.
The administration of the “Negligent society” turned down Russia Beyond’s request for comment.
Vladimir Zykov, director of the Association of Professional Users of Social Networks and Messengers, confirmed that the flash mob started in a closed community, and that the “bathrobers” also have groups in the Russian social network VKontakte and the Telegram messenger.
“People love to be involved in a big story, and there’s no better place than the Internet for that. Besides, it gives people a chance to show off their wit and even out-wisecrack the stars,” Zykov suggests.
For him, the problem with the Lady Gaga comments is that it really was a case of cyberbulling. Just that the Russian commenters failed to see the difference between amusing jokes and genuine harassment, and crossed the invisible line.
The founder of the Runet’s first large-scale collective blog Dirty.ru and the “Leper colony” community, Jovan Savovich, described such behavior as the usual desire to have fun.
“Imagine you write a recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls in the comments in a celebrity’s account. And then tell everyone about it. And then these cabbage rolls get discussed on TV. What a ride! Sure, it’s complete nonsense, but that doesn’t lessen the fun. That’s how the Internet works,” explains Savovich.
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