How much time do you spend reading about celebrities? The idea of being Brad Pitt, Beyonce, Gigi Hadid, or a Kardashian seems exciting.
I mean, private jets, being fawned over by mere mortals like you and me, and living in a universe that seems beyond an average person’s reach—isn’t that heavenly?
Celebrities live in a world that often makes ours seem agonizingly bland by comparison.
Singers, actors, socialites, reality stars, TV presenters, athletes, politicians-these people tend to embody a perfectly figured-out life.
We have made celebrities substitute gods. We even refer to them as idols.
But is all that ‘fandom’ necessary or even deserved? Do celebrities really have life all figured out? Is fame all it’s cracked out to be?
Are celebrities happier than everyone else ?
Which makes you wonder—why exactly do most worship celebrities.
Celebrity Worship Syndrome
Celebrity worship didn’t start with Beyonce and Harry Styles. It has existed ever since the term “celebrity” became a thing.
Monarchs like Queen Victoria, singers like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and movie stars like Marilyn Monroe were also gods of their time.
We have idolized, followed, and preoccupied ourselves with every nitty-gritty detail of these people’s lives for ages.
However, the obsession and need to idolize celebrities has become such a problem that even psychologists have a name for it –celebrity worship syndrome.
Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS) is a diagnostic psychological obsessive, addictive disorder in which someone becomes preoccupied with the details of a public figure’s personal life.
The term was first coined by research team John Maltby and Lynn E. McCutcheon. According to the duo, idolizing celebrities is normal; just about everyone has had a celebrity crush at one point.
But then, what starts as harmless curiosity can result in a mental health issue when it becomes a full-blown obsession.
According to the research group, celebrity worship presents in three different dimensions:
- Entertainment-Social: It’s the lowest level of celebrity worship. People with this mental profile include extroverts who are attracted to a star and find enjoyment in following and talking about them with other people.
- Intense-Personal: Individuals who fit in this level of celebrity worship can be characterized as having intense and compulsive feelings about celebrities. One can even end up believing that a particular celebrity is their soulmate.
- Borderline-Pathological: A few people who reach this stage (the highest dimension of celebrity worship) tend to have extreme and uncontrollable thoughts, fantasies, and behaviors regarding celebrities.
Such people believe that they have a close relationship with a celebrity, and they take the belief seriously.
Needless to say, this is what causes stalkers and other unsavory behavior like someone harming themselves, breaking the law, and even getting into debt just to get close to their idols.
Associating With Celebrities For Social Acceptance
As humans, we naturally are constantly in pursuit of acceptance, whether from friends, romantic partners, or even strangers.
Feeling like we’ve been accepted, that we belong to a particular group is fundamental to us.
Various factors influence social acceptance and among them is the type of interaction we have with others.
What I mean by “type of interaction” is that other people gravitate towards a particular celebrity to seek approval from friends who also adore the celebrity to feel like a gang member.
talking about certain celebrities can serve as a ‘common denominator’ to spark conversations and for social acceptance.
We tend to develop strong admiration for a particular celebrity because we want to be included among their “diehard fans.”
Sub-consciously we find these celebrities extraordinary, we tend to think that some of their worth will rub off on us if we associate ourselves with them.
For instance, we all know that you can instantly dominate conversations just by being associated with a celebrity.
More often than not, people hope to heighten their own popularity by associating themselves in the same social circle as popular people.
It’s sort of everyone’s hidden motive, whether you know it or not.
Isn’t it why we insist on celebrities signing our autographs and why we post pictures of ourselves with famous people on Facebook and Instagram?
We want people to marvel at the thought that we’ve interacted with a particular celebrity and that we are “cool.”
Plus, how much faster can you multiply your likes and followers on social media other than making others see that you are part of a particular celeb’s social circle?
Do We Live Vicariously Through Celebrities?
Whatever your moral stance on life and friends is, there must have been a moment where you’ve found yourself intrigued by events in another person’s life.
If you have ever invested your emotions and even pictured the person’s circumstances as your own, you’ve lived vicariously through them.
It’s normal, and we especially tend to feel the same affinity with celebrities.
Unbeknownst to most of us, this behavior is often the root of all our misery.
You can live vicariously through a particular celebrity because you believe or feel that you both deeply connect at a deeper level. You might even be convinced that you have common traits with the person.
Frankly, it’s a sad and pathetic lifestyle you can choose to live in. It shows how much you are dissatisfied with yourself and feel that your life is meaningless.
People who do these often detach from their reality. They may start acting, dressing, thinking, and living like their idols.
We also tend to obsess over a celebrity because we want to get a taste of their affluent, glamorous, famous, and seemingly carefree life.
We live the fantasy through them!
It explains why we are usually interested in “keeping up with” what they eat, who they date, where they vacation, their latest car model, and even their workout routine.
Are Celebrities Lives An Escape From Our Own?
Humans have a constantly-growing need for escapism. This basically means that we tend to feel inadequate now and then, feeling like we could have been “someone” or “something” more.
For this reason, we adore celebrities that have the traits we lack. Doing so gives us a break and distraction from our lives.
Too many times, we live our lives through prestigious people because we feel that they have done what we couldn’t, or have what we don’t.
And, it is all in our brain.
According to researchers, we (humans) have mirror neurons in our brains that allow us to recognize ourselves in other people.
Mirror neurons allow us to only associate and imitate individuals we feel we can connect with the most, or are just like us.
For instance, we all want to be rich, good-looking, talented and loved even when all we have is a blunt and uninteresting life.
So, we have mirror neurons for celebrities because we see that they are like us. We imagine being like them— richer, more powerful, popular, with fascinating lives.
We worship, adore, and follow them because for a moment, obsessing over their lives offers us an escape from the harsh and uncomfortable pieces of our lives.
We feel like they fill a void in our lives; that they complete us.
But then, when you obsess over a popular person with the notion that they lead a perfect life, it becomes difficult for you to distinguish what’s real from what they present to you.
We hear it so often, that these idols are normal people like us and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them. Apparently, they invest a huge amount of effort and cash into displaying “perfection.”
Despite the heads up, we still compare ourselves to them. And their seemingly perfect appearances and well-figured out lives hurt our self-esteem in return.
Of course, it’s totally okay to admire celebrities for their talent, wealth, and good looks.
What isn’t, however, is obsessing over them because it could lower your self-esteem.
Why We Confuse Celebrities With Experts ? The “Halo Effect”
Being famous gives you a platform to say what you want, but it doesn’t mean that you know what you’re talking about.
Most of the relationships we form with our favorite celebrities are usually one-sided (unless you’ve actually heard your favorite idol say that they love you too!)
Surprisingly, these relationships still blossom into their own unique and very personal connections, respect, admiration, and trust.
Why we do so is because of a cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect.
It is a form of cognitive bias in which our general impressions of an individual influence how we feel and think about their behavior.
Essentially, this effect affects our perception of people according to how attractive and sociable they are.
The greatest example of the halo effect in action is our overall perception of celebrities.
We often think that because they are rich, popular, talented, good-looking, and charismatic on the screen, then they are intelligent, trustworthy, and can never be wrong.
“Well they’re smart enough to make $1 million dollars”. Not necisarily.
This forms a kind of social capital that gives such people more influence over their followers, their behaviors, and their life choices.
Brands are well aware of society’s fascination with celebrities and their life choices. It is for this reason that celebrity endorsements work.
Do you think Kim Kardashian (famous from a porn tape) KNOWS ANYTHING about balancing federal budgets or international geo-politics? Of course not, but that doesn’t stop her from influencing her “followers” to think a certain way.
Celebrity culture has made us assume that when a popular person endorses a product or service, it is automatically high-quality, legit, and authentic.
That’s why we often assume that a beautiful celebrity is more knowledgeable about beauty products than we do. Or, that a sports person knows more about refreshing beverages and weight training.
It’s the same way we sometimes assume that an actor who plays a doctor in a movie knows more about healthcare, drugs, and surgeries.
To put it simply, we tend to confuse celebrities with experts because our minds fail at recognizing real and make-believe.
Since celebrities are familiar to us, we trust them just like the people who are actually familiar and trustworthy to us in real life.
We need to remember that celebrities are ordinary people, like you and me. You see glamor and fascination in their lives, but they eat, drink, think, and feel like “ordinary” people.
We only lose our minds when we see celebrities because celebrity worship comes from a place of admiration and a sense of shared identity.
Our imaginations and secret desires for affluence, publicity, and mass love are what make us worship these celebrities.
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