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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
When it comes to his fans, is it too late now for Justin Bieber to say sorry?
The Grammy winner, who rose to fame at just 15, has amassed a loyal following famously coined the Beliebers. They've been at his virtual side since he sang about "One Less Lonely Girl" and infamously egged a neighbor's house all the way up to when won his first Grammy Award this year.
As even Bieber has acknowledged, it hasn't been quite so easy loving the now 22-year-old through his tumultuous young adult life in and out of the spotlight. "I suck by myself. Like, when I'm by myself and I feel like I have nothing to lean on? Terrible. Terrible person," he said in GQ, explaining the reason behind his newfound relationship with God.
However, it is a speculated relationship with Sofia Richie that has his fans up in arms. While the duo have publicly maintained they are nothing more than pals, the Beliebers were in a digital frenzy over the rising model, who has appeared all over Justin's social media in recent days. "I'm gonna make my Instagram private if you guys don't stop the hate this is getting out of hand," he wrote to his followers on Instagram Monday. "If you guys are really fans you wouldn't be so mean to people that I like."
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Bieber's former flame Selena Gomez came to fans' rescue while simultaneously offering her ex a reminder of his humble beginnings. "If you can't handle the hate then stop posting pictures of your girlfriend lol – it should be special between you two only," she reportedly wrote in the comment section. "Don't be mad at your fans. They love you and supported you before any one ever did."
While the Beliebers have loved the pop star unconditionally throughout his rocky near-decade of fame, it seemed like Monday's comment was a blow to their loyalty. Suddenly, #sorryJustinweloveyou began trending on Twitter, though the remark was far from sincere. Instead, it was a backhanded message to the star to signal that his fans are anything but sorry.
To make matters stickier, the singer took his warning one step further—he deleted his Instagram account altogether, destroying one direct connection with his devotees in one fell swoop.
While celebrities are certainly entitled to a level of privacy—no matter how elusive it may be—it seems Bieber's fans have consistently suffered from his attempts to draw a line in the public sand.
A month into his Purpose World Tour, Bieber cancelled all future meet and greets with his admirers, citing mounting pressure and depression as the root causes. "Love u guys, I'm going to be canceling my meet and greets. I enjoy meeting such incredible people but I end up feeling so drained and filled with so much of other people's spiritual energy that I end up so drained and unhappy," he captioned a photo of himself hugging a fan on Instagram.
"Want to make people smile and happy but not at my expense and I always leave feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression," he continued. "The pressure of meeting peoples' expectations of what I'm supposed to be is so much for me to handle and a lot on my shoulders. Never want to disappoint but I feel I would rather give you guys the show and my albums as promised. Can't tell you how sorry I am, and wish it wasn't so hard on me…And I want to stay in the healthy mindset I'm in to give you the best show you have ever seen."
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By May, he issued a message to his followers explaining why he decided to no longer take pictures with them. "If you happen to see me out somewhere know that I'm not gonna take a picture I'm done taking pictures," Bieber wrote. "It has gotten to the point that people won't even say hi to me or recognize me as a human, I feel like a zoo animal, and I wanna be able to keep my sanity."
"I realize people will be disappointed but I don't owe anybody a picture. and people who say 'but I bought ur album' know that you got my album and you got what you paid for AN ALBUM! It doesn't say in the fine print whenever you see me you also get a photo," he continued.
As some fans responded with criticism of the choice—"I don't think that it is right to deny your fans the pleasure of taking a picture with you, that to them was a chance of a lifetime"—Bieber answered.
"Years ago it was impossible to even take a picture at anytime not everyone was accessible to a camera now everyone has a camera phone and Now it's just a different thing," he explained in a comment. "If you think setting boundaries is being a douche I'm the biggest douche around but I think it's smart and will be the only way I last."