Shoot for the stars, but keep celebrity worship down-to-earth

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

With how accessible online content is in the modern age, it’s hard not to go a little crazy taking it all in. Everyone has the music, TV shows and social media personalities they consume on a daily basis — as well as the means to learn just about anything regarding those forms of content and their creators — right at their fingertips on the internet 24/7. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have even allowed our favorite artists, actors and influencers to give us a peek into their personal day-to-day lives, or so we may think.

Here’s a tough pill to swallow: Whichever idol you adore could be a completely different person in real life than they choose to project to the world. So, why do so many fans of celebrities and influencers describe, defend and bond over these stars as if they’ve spoken face-to-face?

The celebrity craze has been happening for decades, of course, so we won’t pretend people going ga-ga over household names is a new thing. Ever since artists like Elvis and The Beatles were causing girls to scream and faint from the stage, there have been dedicated followers known as fans. However, there is a definite difference between being a fan and being fixated, and the addition of the online world to the equation these last few decades has blurred the line between the two.

This phenomenon is known as a parasocial interaction: absentmindedly tricking yourself into treating a celebrity or influencer like you know them personally. More of us than we would like to admit have behaved in ways that suggest we are confused by this boundary. In fact, according to TIME, “51% of Americans have been in parasocial relationships, though only 16% will admit to it.”

Undoubtedly, one of today’s most beloved and obvious celebrities who could qualify for this is Taylor Swift. Perhaps you’re a Swiftie who has found yourself saying things like, “Taylor has such a good heart” or “Taylor wouldn’t do something like that” in conversations about her before. Well, unless you have indeed met Taylor Swift before, it is simply inaccurate to claim such things about her since you don’t know her on a personal level.

This kind of behavior doesn’t just apply to Swifties. Every mainstream artist, actor and influencer has fan groups containing people who behave somewhat delusionally. And considering how many people are affected by this, don’t feel bad about it if you realize you are too. Considering these celebrities and influencers are the ones producing the content that brings us comfort, entertainment and happiness, it only seems natural that some of us are going to have an intense affinity for them.

With social media, it’s even easier to fall victim to the illusion that we have a true connection with these individuals. The ability for influencers to respond to comments, do livestreams and make more personal, casual content can make the interaction feel mistakenly real.

However, as users of social media, we need to keep in mind that celebrities and influencers are not our friends and that we don’t know them, even if social media makes it feel like we do. These icons are making content for an audience, not us as individuals. Though we receive music, films and social media posts from them, any sort of relationship is ultimately one-sided. Besides, what these icons choose to put out into the world may not even be the truth of how they live and what they are like in reality.

So, take note of the time you spend online engaging with this kind of content. If we get too lost in the sauce, so to speak, that’s when there is room for unhealthy fixations and even stalkerish activity, which only causes anxiety for your beloved idols.

Instead of making famous people your favorites, make sure to prioritize the real relationships in your life — the ones with people who truly know and love you for who you are. Additionally, don’t let someone else’s dislike of your favorite artist or television personality keep you from maintaining a relationship with them or being friendly to them.

These stars may shine brightly, but remember to keep celebrity worship down to earth.