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Social media and celebrity worship

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” These are the words of Steve Jobs, CEO and Co-founder of Apple Inc. This quote is relevant for all of us, one the one hand, we appreciate the fact that all of us are extraordinary, with our calibres and flaws that make us who we are. But on the other hand, we sometimes fail to recognise our identities, we project it onto to someone else. It is as if, we are existent for someone else,a person who is not known to us personally defines who we are, not our talents or in the case of some, the fact that they themselves are gifted. 

All of us have been beguiled and attracted by celebrities and public figures at some point in our lives, as teenagers or young adults. We have been a part of fandoms, have followed all updates about our favourite celebrities. From what are their likes and dislikes to their live locations sometimes. All of this has been credited to social media, be it,Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Almost every public figure has a social media account. We are made to believe that it is necessary for us to know what a film star is indulging in,  from time to time. An observation that may be attributed to social media fandoms is that people to are unable to communicate and understand dissents, instead of a civil debate as to why a celebrity is liked by one and disliked by the other, use of abusive language and personal attack occurs. Fights within fandoms are also prevalent. In the real world, we must be ready to face disagreements, with our colleagues or class mates in case of school going teenagers. The energy lost in unnecessary Twitter fights can be channelised to work hard and someday be as successful as the entities that have become a part of our lives. A dangerous dimension of toxic fandom and obsession has been portrayed in the film, Fan (2016) starring Shah Rukh Khan as the film star, Aryan Khanna and an obsessed fan, Gaurav who follows the star and indulges in revenge and all attempts to destroy his as well as the actor’s life for the sake for his obsession.

I hereby quote Gabriel Symonds on Quora, a doctor and counsellor “Projections onto celebrities to the point where they become obsessions are a symptom of emptiness of much of modern life, seeking validation from external sources such as the number of likes they attract on social media.” External validation is sought by us, even in real life, so seeking the same on Twitter or Instagram is also valid. According to Wikipedia.org, Parasocial interaction (PSI) is a psychological term described by Richard Wohl and Donald Horton in 1956 wherein the audience considers media personalities as friends, despite having no or limited interaction with them, it is an illusionary experience. Repeated exposure to media persona causes the media user to develop a false or illusionary intimacy or identification. This exposure makes us believe that what is said in the media is the gospel truth. Any contradiction to that is necessarily a fallacy. Gabriel Symonds goes on to say, “It’s then understandable that some may become abusive if their projections are threatened by others claiming to be the true believers.” 

Celebrity Worship Syndrome(CWS), as defined by Psychology Today is, an obsessive-addictive disorder where an individual becomes overly involved or interested (completely obsessed) with the details and personal life of a celebrity. A person who is in the public eye can be the object of obsession such as television or film actors, pop music artists, authors, politicians or journalists. It can be Simple-obsessional, as in, stalking a celebrity (79% of cases according to Wikipedia), Entertainment-social, which means admiration for a celebrity for the ability to garner the attention of the viewers/listeners, Intense-personal, that is, to perceive the celebrity as physically attractive and see a soul mate in him/her and Borderline-pathological, the willingness to commit crime for the obsession towards a celebrity.  According to research, Intense-personal level of CWS has been linked to depression, anxiety and stress.

One must realise, that at the end, all of us are here to make a mark, to be successful in our respective interests and fields. We can certainly admire people and role models for what they do for the society or even if they entertain us, we may also support them at times, on social media. But all of this, at the cost of saturating our identities with theirs is certainly not worth it. The media too must make sure, that they inform the people about  real life heroes, rather than just talking about where a public figure went, airport looks or photo shoots. India, is a country of diverse traditions, people from different parts of India strive to make a change, to create history. It is the very India, where prayers are done for the recovery of Amitabh Bachchan from COVID-19, where Rajnikanth fans wait outside the hospital to get a glimpse of him and know about his health. The concern and emotional connection is heart warming for these celebrities who have worked hard to establish themselves. At the same time, we too have a vast array of opportunities in our lives to be the torch bearers of transformation and capture the love and appreciation of the people of the nation and the globe.

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