UFC fighter Paige VanZant and model Charlotte McKinney told us how they deal with stalkers and harassers on Instagram

Web SummitCharlotte McKinney looks on as Paige VanZant talks about social media at Web Summit.
  • People ought to think twice about harassing Paige VanZant online. She punches people for a living. But they do it anyway.
  • UFC fighter VanZant and model Charlotte McKinney told us how they deal with creepy or dangerous online fans.
  • McKinney has a time-delay tactic to avoid stalkers, who have harassed her family members.

Sometimes, being “Instagram famous” isn’t much fun. Sure, you might have millions of adoring fans. And yes, brands might give you sponsorship money for exposure on your account. But the dark side of social media stardom is the harassment and stalking you get from obsessive fans. Many users say Instagram has a harassment problem that the company has failed to deal with.

On the 20,000-seat centre stage at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon this year, I participated in a panel about social media with UFC fighter Paige VanZandt and model/actress Charlotte McKinney, who have 1.9 million and 1.4 million Instagram fans, respectively.

While most fans only want the best for the celebrities they follow, some of them can be creepy and dangerous, McKinney told me.

Paige VanZantWeb SummitPaige VanZant backstage at Web Summit

“I recently had an incident with a fan who had been following me for years and was trying to find me, and he found my parents. They went to my parents work,” she said. “So that stood out to me and really frightened me and makes you realise not only are you putting yourself out there but it’s your family and friends. I have a niece, I don’t like to share her relationship, because it can be really scary. They can really obsess and try and find you.”

“Thank god I wasn’t there,” she said.

McKinney has developed an interesting strategy that makes life more difficult for her stalkers: She posts pictures on a time delay, so people can’t rush to where she is whenever a new photo appears.

Charlotte McKinney waits to go onstage in Lisbon.Web SummitCharlotte McKinney waits to go on stage in Lisbon.

“It’s really important to geotag where you’re at once you leave,” she said. “Sometimes whether it’s a hotel stay, or a vacation, or an event you’re working at, you’re still giving your location. So for me, if I need to shout-out a hotel or a place I make sure [to do it] when I’m gone.”

“It’s hard because they’re fans, these are the people who adore you, so you don’t want to be mean to them. But there’s definitely a barrier,” she said.

Her tactic is wildly different to that used by Alfie Deyes, the Brighton, UK-based YouTube star whose social media life often occurs in real time. He told Business Insider that he cannot go to the supermarket or Starbucks without building in a three-hour block of time because his fans will figure out where he is, based on his Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, and show up for selfies, which he indulges.

VanZant and her husband, MMA fighter Austin Vanderford.Web SummitPaige VanZant and her husband, MMA fighter Austin Vanderford.

People ought to think twice about harassing VanZant online. She punches people for a living. Her UFC record is 7 wins, 4 losses and zero draws. But people still make insulting comments about her on her Instagram page. “I definitely found it hard at first to have that thick skin and know that there will be those negative comments. I don’t need to change myself to fit this image to make everybody happy as long as you’re being true to yourself and being true to your brand and your image then you’re going to have posiitve feedback. But anytime you have a significant following there are going to be those people.”

“When I have almost ‘stalker-type’ fans I’m usually with a bunch of professional fighters, and I know I could beat them up so it makes it a little bit easier,” she said. “But at the same time it is scary. There is someone following your every move, when there is someone showing up at the hotel to take pictures with me, you just have to, you have to put safety first and there are those people who will follow you everywhere.”

VanZant also has an interesting personal motto for those days when the insults and barbs get to be too much” “They’re still paying attention, and you still matter.”

Watch the whole video of our conversation here:

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