Our obsession with celebrities is not something new. Prehistoric civilisations invented gods that they considered as superior beings that could help them address the multitude of challenges that primitive life presented.
The Romans and the Greeks had boundless admiration for their athletes who possessed enviable physical qualities that many admired. The Olympic Games were one of the first celebrities’ showcases where fame was gained through sheer hard work and personal sacrifice rather than just good public relations.
A few decades ago, baby boomers read printed magazines like Football Weekly that shone a spotlight on international footballers’ skills as practices in football grounds on Saturday afternoons. Children collected Panini pictures of footballers that could be stuck in a much-desired album of football stars.
Women kept up with the few celebrities they knew about by reading Woman’s Weekly or similar magazines. Others never missed buying the News of the World, the weekly tabloid newspaper that specialised in salacious gossip and muck raking by investigating celebrities’ lives.
Even the Catholic Church seems to have ridden the celebrity cult bandwagon. In recent years it canonised several new saints, many of whom died only a few years ago.
So why are we so obsessed with celebrities? Why are some of us so interested in knowing every detail of some ex-footballers like David Beckham years after hanging up his boots?
Or why on earth would anyone be wasting hours watching TV to discover what the Frankensteinian creation Kim Kardashian is up to?
Some psychologist attribute this excessive desire to worship these fake gods to our innate desire for distractions. Our daily lives can, at times, be utterly dull if not even filled with trials and tribulations.
There is nothing wrong with desiring to be famous. What is wrong is seeking fame for its own sake
However much we may deny it, many have an intense desire for attaining fame and celebrity status. Social media has just injected steroids in some people’s motivation to achieve fame fast. Whether one is a business leader, a politician or an ordinary citizen, social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter appeal to our base desire for acceptance and, eventually, fame.
These platforms give us a captive audience. They feed some people’s egos by giving the impression that someone cares about them just by reading or listening to their comments and postings. In the popular psyche to be famous is to have disciples, a group of followers with an almost unquenchable desire to follow wannabe celebrities’ every word and deed.
One of the big problems with social media is that it creates a need for celebrity. It also gives many a taste of it. It allows you to imagine what it might be like to be famous but rarely does it deliver on that promise.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with desiring to be famous. What is wrong is seeking fame for its own sake. Being famous used to be about excelling in sports, science, political leadership and other human activities that make us better as a society.
The advent of the internet has created the illusion that fame could be achieved by mastering the art of communication through social media. The more traditional pathway paved with hard work lacks the instant gratification that we seem to be addicted to in today’s world.
This obsession with the celebrity culture might explain why today people are not creating as much as they did in the past. Rather than doing something culturally and socially constructive, many are just focusing on projecting themselves in a favourable light on social media.
Fame is an intangible concept. Unfortunately, many of today’s generation believe that fame can still be achieved without hard work because fame is something that others decide for you if you manage to project yourself well to a captive audience.
Our fame-seeking behaviour is more likely than not to end in heartbreak and failure. Achieving real fame may be accelerated thanks to modern communication technology but that does not necessarily mean it is any easier.
What happens when our search for fame consumes our whole lives and we end up never finding it? Fortunately, not everyone cares about fame. But for those who do it is often about an attempt to overcome some lifelong insecurity. The notion that fame will bring acceptance and love into your life can often lead to disillusionment.
I end with a quote that I recently read: “It is time we stop obsessing over a bankrupt concept and start living our lives not as celebrities or nobodies, but as people.”
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Original posted at timesofmalta.com