Thanks to the advent of social media, it’s become fairly common for people in the public eye to share their gripes on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or all of the above.
But given the number of followers celebrities have, any impassioned conversations they have online often make headlines, with the occasional exchange going viral.
The latest public dispute to become mainstream news is between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. The two women are closely associated through their husbands, footballers Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy. On Wednesday, Rooney posted a message on Twitter in which she accused Vardy of having sold stories to a tabloid newspaper about her. Vardy has since responded on Twitter by denying the claims.
Rooney and Vardy’s dispute has elicited a flurry of media attention, with people all over social media chiming in to offer their thoughts on a matter that would typically unfold behind closed doors, but is now on the front page of the internet for all to see.
But what compels celebrities to argue online in the first place? And why does the public have such a vested interest in their feuds?
Social media expert Jodie Cook, owner of JC Social Media Agency, explains to The Independent that our perceptions of what is public and private has changed in a way that fuels this behaviour.
“People increasingly live their lives online, and using social media during an argument has become a way for people to put the power firmly back into their own hands," she says.
"Social media also makes it easier for celebrities and people in the public eye to share their news without relying on journalists or publications."
Additionally, some people might find it easier to take their feuds online because they feel vindicated to be crueller in a public space, says digital detox expert Tanya Goodin.
“We simply say things we wouldn’t dream of saying in real life on social media,” Goodin tells The Independent. “That’s largely because all the cues that might stop us saying something in anger are missing – we can’t see the hurt expression on the recipients face or their body language as we let stream a blast of invective.”
Social media users are increasingly neglecting the fact that there are real people behind avatars and feeds, Goodin adds, which allows this behaviour to flourish. “Disagreements are always much better sorted out face-to-face but we seem to have forgotten that as Twitter spats become the new normal,” she says.
From Rooney and Vardy to disputes between Chrissy Teigen and Donald Trump, read on for some of the most explosive social media arguments that have occurred between celebrities in recent years.
Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy
The dispute between Rooney and Vardy emerged on Wednesday. Rooney tweeted a statement in which she accused Vardy of leaking stories from her Instagram account to The Sun.
In her message, Rooney claimed she had suspected Vardy was behind the leaks and confirmed her suspicions following a process of elimination.
Within the hour, Vardy, wife of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, had vehemently denied the allegations in a statement in which she claimed her Instagram account must have been hacked. Vardy also expressed regret that Rooney had chosen to make the dispute public rather than settling it privately.
“Coleen clearly feels she has been tricked,” says Cook. “Conducting an experiment to find out who was betraying her was something she deemed necessary in order to find out and explore the perpetrator. “Perhaps this should be kept ‘private’, but then that depends on what you deem as private. Here, it looks like Colleen is setting the record straight. She lost control over what was made public in the first place, so now she wants her side of the story to be public too.”
Chrissy Teigen and Donald Trump
Model Chrissy Teigen is far from the only person with whom the president of the United States has argued online, but she is perhaps the most notable.
Teigen’s repeated Twitter takedowns of Trump frequently go viral, but the animosity made headlines in September when the president criticised her and her husband, musician John Legend, for not giving him credit for signing a bill on criminal justice reform.
“I SIGNED IT INTO LAW, no one else did, and Republicans deserve much credit,” Trump wrote. “But now that it is passed, people that had virtually nothing to do with it are taking the praise. Guys like boring musician @johnlegend, and his filthy mouthed wife, are talking now about how great it is – but I didn’t see them around when we needed help getting it passed.”
In response, Teigen tweeted: “Lol what a p**** a** b****. tagged everyone but me. An honour, mister president.”
The president’s public feuds are particularly problematic, says senior therapist Sally Baker, because his online vitriol endorses that of others. “Social media feuds are a top down phenomenon,” Baker tells The Independent. “When the US president behaves in this way, it gives license to everyone else to do so. That’s why we’re seeing it more and more.”
James Charles and Tati Westbrook
The dispute between beauty influencer James Charles and YouTuber Tati Westbrook became one of the most insidious in recent years given the gravity of accusations made between them.
The pair, who were previously best friends, began arguing in April when Charles publicly promoted a rival brand to Westbrook’s own line of beauty supplements.
Following the post, Westbrook, 37, published a clip on Instagram saying she felt “lost” and “betrayed” by an unnamed person and soon unfollowed the 19-year-old YouTuber on social media.
The controversy escalated further after Westbrook posted a 45-minute long video about the feud and went on to accuse Charles of “manipulating people’s sexuality” - she claimed the beauty influencer would boast about approaching straight men and then "cracking" their sexuality.
“This dispute was one of the most shocking in terms of power imbalances,” says Baker. “But it’s also a symbiotic relationship,” she adds, explaining that both parties benefited from taking their argument public because, not only did it make headlines, but it earned each of them millions of additional YouTube views and more followers on their respective channels.”
Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel
In 2013, the rapper and late night TV host got into a heated Twitter brawl after Jimmy Kimmel mocked Kanye West for calling himself the “number one rock star on the planet” in an interview with BBC Radio 1.
West responded with a series of tweets insulting Kimmel and people connected to him, like his ex-girlfriend, actor Sarah Silverman. Kimmel responded to some of the tweets, mocking West further, before West deleted everything he’d tweeted about Kimmel altogether. In a recent GQ interview, Kimmel said he was “so happy” about the feud, explaining: “I live for moments like that”.
“These two are bound to disagree because they have completely opposing political views,” comments Baker. “They are totally polarised but again their disagreement benefited both of them because it kept them in the headlines.”
Adam Levine and Lady Gaga
In 2013 after Maroon 5’s Adam Levine criticised an anonymous musical artist on Twitter, writing: “Ugh...recycling old art for a younger generation doesn’t make you an artist. It makes you an art teacher. I unabashedly love writing and performing pop music for both myself AND everyone around me. That’s It. It doesn’t need any extra sauce.”
Lady Gaga, who presumed the tweet was about her, replied: “Uh oh guys the art police is here”. Three days later, Levine wrote a tweet that seemed to be in response, writing: “By the way, I'm NOT an artist. I sing in a band and I make music with my friends.” Levine added: “While we’re at it we should call the grammar police,” referencing the fact that Gaga wrote “is” and not “are” in her earlier tweet.
Commenting on why the somewhat innocuous dispute received such a large amount of media coverage, Cook said that because both artists are such high profile people, “it might feel like a guilty pleasure to read about a feud between them” so there was an appetite for articles about it.
Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker
Sex and the City actors Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker have long been cited in discussions about celebrity feuds, with both actors having made comments alluding to a rift in previous interviews. But their row came to a head in 2018 after Jessica Parker left a supportive comment on one of Cattrall’s Instagram posts in which she revealed her brother had passed away. Days later, Cattrall replied with an eviscerating statement addressed to her former co-star, writing on Instagram: “I don’t need your love or support at this tragic time. Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now.”
“This rift was particularly newsworthy because fans of Sex and the City bought into the fiction that these two were close friends,” says Baker. “But if you listen to Cattrall, she has repeatedly said in interviews that her and Parker were never friends. They don’t like each other, why should they?”
Kim Kardashian West and Bette Midler
In 2016, Bette Midler criticised Kim Kardashian West for posting a nude selfie on social media. “If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera,” Midler wrote on Twitter. In a follow-up post, the Beaches star urged Kardashian West to put her platform to philanthropic use and encourage her millions of followers to donate to charity as opposed to posting photos of herself.
The reality TV star responded to Midler in a tweet, writing: “hey @BetteMidler I know it’s past your bedtime but if you’re still up and reading this send nudes #justkidding.”
“This case was interesting because it was about a golden era celebrity taking on a contemporary celebrity,” comments Baker, explaining that Midler’s comments were intentionally inflammatory and hence garnered widespread media coverage.
Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher
The Oasis brothers have famously despised one another for years and often take their arguments online.
The most recent exchange to make headlines was after Liam’s performance at Glastonbury Festival, when Liam was accused of sending “threatening messages” to Noel’s wife, Sara Macdonald, via his daughter Anaïs after Macdonald allegedly labelled him a fat “t***” on Instagram. On Twitter, Noel shared what appeared to be a screenshot of Liam’s message to the teen model, which read: “Tell your step Mam to be very careful”.
Liam quickly responded with a public apology on Twitter expressing his “sincere apologies” to “my lovely niece Anaïs for getting caught up in all of this childish behaviour”.
“This is a very relatable feud,” says Cook. “Everyone has fallen out with a sibling. But this being high profile relationship makes it fascinating to onlookers.”