Why are we so interested in the lives of people we don't know personally and haven't met before? Sarah Cullen looks at celeb obsessions.
Celebrity obsession has been in vogue long before we started “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. We are not the first generation of young people to adorn our bedroom walls with posters of our favourite celebrities; our parents were as guilty of it as any 2017 teenager. While ours may feature Justin Bieber and characters from Orange is The New Black instead of Boy George and Blondie, the same premise is still there. We are obsessed with celebrities.
When you consider the products we buy, the TV shows we watch and the magazines we read - we are a society driven by what celebrities do and say. Every magazine has a familiar face on the cover, faces we recognize as if they belong to neighbours or old friends. But where does the fascination come from; why do we even care? In ten lifetimes, most of us will never meet these people that we follow religiously everyday on Snapchat. Nevertheless, as social media becomes more and more of an instrument for us to connect with celebrities, the more we cling on and listen in. It is astonishing to think that while we watch John Legend perform at the Grammy’s, we can then turn to read his daily tweets to the 9.3 million of us following his account. This destroys the concept that just because a person is on TV, they live on a different planet to the rest of us. They have become incredibly localised at the hands of social media.
I believe there are many reasons why we obsess so much over these famous figures. One reason in a 'Sociology of Media' Audience was the idea of ‘fandoms’. These are groups of people who are all passionate about a person or thing and celebrate it together. With Beyoncé and her Beehive and Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters, there is a strong connection that surpasses distance and time zones. People find extreme comfort in these relationships and feel like they have found their places amongst fellow fans. This is, of course, aided tenfold by Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram where fans communicate with one another. Considering the fact that twenty years ago, even ten, this platform did not exist and the closest contact you had with your idol was a letter in the post or a picture in a magazine, it becomes evident that social networking created gigantic change.
Another pretty obvious reason I believe we obsess is because celebrities, surprisingly enough, tend to have very good lives. Like magpies, most of us are drawn to beautiful things and the world of celebrity is full of them. It can be refreshing to see how the other half lives, and it’s genuinely enjoyable to watch red carpets filled with gorgeous clothing the average person can’t afford. The slightly sad aspect of this is many people end up using these stranger’s lives to fill voids in their own. They can find what they’re missing by watching stars on Snapchat driving Bentley’s around LA.
One could also argue that human beings are simply nosy by nature. It’s not only celebrities we stalk on social media; everyone has a few people they follow on Instagram that they have never met but still keep up to date with what they post. My own natural curiosity (or complete nosiness) is what keeps me up googling the heights of the Gilmore Girls cast at 2am.
Whatever the reason for it, celebrity worship has survived thus far and as social networking gets even bigger we will see the fan-celebrity relationship change once again. Actors on screens are now people on our phones and by that logic who knows - in five years, we could all have Brad Pitt’s personal mobile number!