Have you got teens in your house?
Chances are their lives revolve around Instagram “influencers” and celebrities. It’s amazing how young people seem to feel a compulsion to watch glamourous people and their lifestyles.
Though that’s not new. In simpler societies, people admired and copied the best hunters. Nowadays we watch celebrities.
Actors, musicians, athletes, internet vloggers, and so on. Surveys suggest that up to a third of men and women are hooked, so it’s not just teenage girls.
Some people even have an intense interest in politicians and their wives! It’s only older people who seem to be immune.
At it’s simplest, it’s just about keeping tabs on a celebrity and talking about them with friends.
And some stars do provide positive role models. Athletes who inspire participation in sport, for example.
And who among us has never tried to run, jump, sing, or dance? So what’s wrong with admiring the skills of people who do these things better than us?
The problem is that for some, admiration goes well beyond what's reasonable.
Perhaps spending endless hours on the internet reading about what they like to eat, where they get their hair done, or where they live.
And for a few people such interest definitely leads to problems.
Young women who idolise celebrities tend to have a poorer body image for example, and celebrity watchers tend to have poorer psychological well-being and to be more dependent and needy in relationships. Especially if their favourite celebrity’s a “love object”.
So following celebrities can easily become unhealthy. About one in 10 of us admit to intense and personal feelings for their idol.
And for a few, admiration turns into obsession. About one per cent even come to believe that their celebrity knows them, and that the relationship’s important to both of them.
That’s a delusion of course, and worse, it tends to become addictive. Needing ever increasing involvement to maintain the illusion. Leading to stalking and worse.
Psychologists call these one-sided relationships “para-social interactions”. One person knows a great deal about the other, but not the other way round.
Celebrities and their fans are perfect examples, and the whole entertainment industry actively promotes them.
Events that are not newsworthy when they happen to ordinary people make headlines when they happen to celebrities.
So much so that they’ve become an important part of Western life, replacing our admiration for people who really do accomplish things.
Should we worry about that? Well, leaving aside the stalkers, it’s probably just a question of balance.
Celebrities are fun, good entertainment certainly, and valuable for that. But some of them are terrible role models.
Bad spouses, or rude and abusive individuals. And think of all that wasted time! So shouldn’t we put celebrities back where they belong, and reserve our admiration for people like the scientists, engineers, nurses and farmers who really do make our lives better.
Don’t they make celebrities look just a little bit unimportant?