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Idolizing Celebrities: the Border Between Idol and Fan

By Raluca-Mara Mare 

Staff Writer


Via The New York Times


The rise in social media presence and accessible content regarding anyone, anytime, allows for a comforting feeling in many fans’ lives. It is easy to keep track of upcoming albums, released interviews and the tiniest details of a celebrity’s life, now that all this is easily available at your fingertips. This media phenomenon resulted in the rise of numerous fan artists and endless fan bases around the world. What they all have in common: a feeling of strong connection to a celebrity.  This feeling can range from mere interest to obsessive mania. The fine border between fan and celebrity is then easily broken when the fans, particularly teens, are blinded by adoration. 


Why does this sentiment of connection occur? 


NYU Langone psychologist, Dr. Yamalis Diaz, explained that the teens and young adults that find themselves in this situation often belong to a “very sensitive developmental period” in their psychological development. As they form their own identity, an attachment to an influential person - such as a famous celebrity - often helps them shape their world vision. “People essentially value and reinforce these celebrities in the way that teenagers wish people would see them,” Diaz said. The psychologist also adds that “There is this big clash between fans trying to figure out who they are and then having 100% access to their celebrity idols… That’s where the obsessive component starts to take over.” The fact that teenagers' dopaminergic brains are stimulated whenever they take in information, watch a new video, read a new post, or go live, is another factor contributing to their obsession with certain celebrities.


Celebrities and influencers are aware of this effect upon the public and use it to their advantage in order to generate larger fanbases. Through frequent social media posts, partnerships with brands, shows, and events, these influential people manage to keep the fans connected. Celebrity promotion is an effective marketing tactic because it is built on the fans’ trust and increases engagement with the products, which results in enhancing the brand image. Some examples of this would be Rihanna’s collaboration with Puma, Bad Bunny’s with Adidas, Jack Harlow’s with New Balance, and Maluma’s with Macy’s Royal Fashion Collection, just to name a few. 


Given the celebrities’ hold on the entertainment industry, their fan bases form large communities that influence almost a majority of the population - especially affecting younger audiences. In fact, according to Dr. Yamalis Diaz, a celebrity crush may be the first time a teen explores romantic sentiments or a "developmentally appropriate" physical attraction. However, this line can be trespassed whenever an infatuation with a celebrity becomes all-consuming and isolates the person from the world.  According to the mental health website PsychCentral, it can develop into "obsessive-addictive disorder" or "celebrity worship syndrome." The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not yet recognise the condition as clinically significant, although Diaz said it can be worrisome. When a fan watches hours of celebrity content and that prevents them from interacting with others in real life, they have crossed the "line of normalcy." This situation is concerning on many levels, as the fan’s dopamine levels are dependent on consuming the celebrity’s media.   


What can happen when this consumption gets out of control?


Most people have experienced phases of celebrity obsession at least once in their lifetime, often for a variety of KPOP idols, One Direction, or Taylor Swift, just to name a few. If you can relate to this, odds are that you held these people in high regard and put them on an invincible pedestal due to their fame. Although these inclinations can be beneficial habits that help people view life more clearly and form communities around people they value, they can also lead to unhealthy fixations and delusional idolizations. Many celebrities still have a large spotlight in the public’s eye, regardless of their wrongdoings. Similarly to Kanye West, Chris Brown continues to have a strong fan following despite being accused of abuse and sexual assault on multiple occasions, even being arrested on counts of rape. Despite the fact that West has been involved in scandals since 2009, his admirers continue to overlook his callous remarks about issues such as abortion and slavery, particularly in his tweets. 


Let's all take a step back and acknowledge that real life is not like what these celebs portray. They should be appreciated for the art they produce or are involved in; they do not offer sufficient life lessons and should not be viewed as idols or role models in any other setting. Keep in mind that this is their job, they are paid to be thouroughly liked by the public.  

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