By: Ellie Naone
For as long as I can remember, I have been influenced by the lives of celebrities, online personalities, and social media influencers. From what I wear, to what I eat, to where I go – every decision is, in some way, influenced by someone I look up to (or don’t). And I’ve always considered this “normal”. My friends are the same way, people my age do the same things, it’s what makes something trendy. But it wasn’t until my mom called me crazy for my “out-of-pocket obsession” with Harry Styles that I started to second-guess whether the obsessed nature my generation has become accustomed to with celebrities, is normal.
I know that my parents and my grandparents all had people they looked up to and loved. And I know that there were groupie fans for musicians when they were my age but at what point did it change from a healthy love for the music and the artist to an unhealthy obsession where everything we do is impacted by these celebrities? The only answer I can come up with is social media.
Social media exploded when my generation was growing up and ever since then the interest in celebrities’ lives has gone far beyond their concerts or premieres or award show appearances. We now have a look into their personal lives and what they like to do for fun and where they eat on Fridays with their friends – that’s something people haven’t had access to in the past. It’s a whole new sort of connection and closeness we are lucky enough to feel with our favorite celebrities but it also opens up a whole new door of knowing too much and wanting to constantly know more.
I notice it with myself too. Subconsciously I am always wondering what my favorite celebrities are doing or if they’re dating someone new or what their latest relationship drama is. I am obsessed with Harry Styles, and I say that with confidence. But I know probably more than I need to know about him. I know right away if he’s posted on social media because I have his post notifications on. I follow fan accounts so I constantly see any random updates about him on my timeline. Fans have access to this kind of information now because social media has made it so easy to get.
The relationship fans have with the people they look up to is increasingly growing into unhealthy, toxic, and concerning. You hear so often on social media the term “stan”. Stan culture is what happens when love for an actor, influencer, or musician is taken slightly over the top. Stans have a mob-mentality where anyone who speaks out against their beloved idol, is immediately wrong and deserves to be bullied online. Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles are all examples of celebrities with a large following that would do just about anything to anyone who speaks out against them. But fans and followers feel this strongly about the people they look up to because of the way social media has made them feel. Social media has given people the idea that they are allowed to have access to celebrities’ personal information simply because they have access to it.
Everyone has come to know and understand that social media is a toxic environment. While it has hundreds of benefits, it’s become less of a place to connect and more of a place to stalk, hate, and judge – whether it’s yourself, your peers, or celebrities. And as a Gen Z, it’s easy to say that the obsession we have with influencers and celebrities is normal or second nature because it’s all we know. But when we allow obsession, or “stan culture”, to affect the way we treat other human beings is when we’ve taken it too far.