In a world driven by social media and instant connections, celebrities and influencers play a pivotal role in shaping our perceptions, influencing our choices, and even defining societal norms. But how did this phenomenon begin and impact us as individuals and a society? In this article, we will look at where celebrities and influencers originated from, how they have affected society, why we are so obsessed with them and what they do, and the cost of being famous.
The First Celebrities And Influencers We Turned To
The concept of celebrities can be traced back to ancient times when figures like rulers, warriors, and philosophers achieved widespread recognition. Over time, the advent of mass media, such as newspapers and cinema, propelled specific individuals into the limelight. It can be rather challenging to pinpoint the founder of fame precisely as the celebrity status is open to interpretation and has different meanings in different cultural groups. However, in the widespread media, those who stand out include Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley, to name a few; although many celebrities come and go yearly, very few stand the test of time where they create lasting impressions on society.
The rise of influencers is a more recent development closely tied to the digital age. With the emergence of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, individuals have gained the ability to amass large numbers of followers and impact public opinion. The term "influencer" in the contemporary sense, referring to individuals who leverage their online presence to shape views and promote products or ideas, is a product of the digital age. While influencers, as we know them today, emerged with the rise of social media platforms, there were individuals in the past who held influence in various domains.
Before the internet era, figures like fashion models, actors, and musicians often influenced public opinion and consumer behaviour. However, the term "influencer" took on a new meaning with the advent of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and other social media outlets. In the early days of social media, bloggers and YouTube content creators became influential by sharing their opinions, experiences, and recommendations with their audience.
One example often cited as an early influencer is Michelle Phan, a beauty vlogger who gained popularity on YouTube in the mid-2000s. She paved the way for the beauty and lifestyle influencer category and demonstrated the potential of social media to shape consumer trends. It's crucial to recognize that the concept of influencers is continually evolving, and the early influencers were often self-made individuals who utilized emerging digital platforms to connect with audiences in new and impactful ways.
Today, we recognize many influencers as quickly as celebrities, including Mr. Beast, Dhar Mann, and Jeffree Star. Moreover, anyone can become an influencer if they put in the work and know how to market themselves, which fuels the allure of making it big and having a fulfilling and fun life. However, sometimes the cost of fame is overlooked; many people have lost their lives chasing after something that never made them feel whole or shunned the limelight for a simpler life as society tore them down because of their actions, beliefs, viewpoints, appearance, and so much more. Being a celebrity, influencer or any other influential person in the public eye often means being under a spotlight so bright it can burn you alive.
The Impact Of Celebrities And Influencers On Society
Celebrities and influencers often use their platforms for philanthropy, advocacy, and positive social change. Their ability to mobilize large audiences has proven instrumental in raising awareness for various issues, from environmental concerns to social justice causes.
For example, Blake Lively is known for her advocacy work against human trafficking, and she co-founded the organization "Preserve," which aimed to raise awareness about human trafficking issues and support survivors. Additionally, she has been associated with the Child Rescue Coalition, an organization that works to combat child exploitation and trafficking.
Moreover, Mr. Beast, known for his generosity in his videos, including large cash prizes in videos like his Squid Game recreation, is also a philanthropist helping change many people's lives. Not only does he rally his followers, he also rallies other influencers and celebrities working with Mark Rober on Team Seas; he managed to fund a considerable undertaking and saw donations from Shopify and many others. The combined effort of so many saw 112,000 volunteers in 63 countries remove 15.1 million pounds of waste from the ocean.
However, the dark side of celebrity influence is undeniable. Celebrities and influencers can inadvertently contribute to societal issues, from fostering unrealistic beauty standards to perpetuating materialism to exhibiting vile and toxic behaviors'. The phenomenon of cancel culture emerges as a response to the unchecked power these figures wield.
For example, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis recently came under fire for supporting their co-star from That 70’s Show, Danny Masterson, who was accused and later charged with rape. Kutcher was praised for founding Thorn: Digital Defenders Of Children with his ex-wife Demi Moore, but he saw much backlash from his support to Masterson. After further backlash, he eventually stepped down as the chairman of the board of Thorn, and it is hard to say whether he or Kunis will recover to their previous status after the incident.
Furthermore, the long-term effects of celebrity influence are complex. While societal attitudes can shift based on their endorsements and behaviors', how lasting these changes are remains to be seen, and whether they contribute to genuine progress is uncertain.
Why Are We So Obsessed
The question of why we are so captivated by the lives of celebrities and influencers leads us to consider whether their lives are genuinely more interesting or if our fascination is rooted in a desire for escapism. Many of us live mundane lives in our eyes, and we often live through celebrities and influencers, judging their every action with significant criticism or praise, placing them on a pedestal. This creates toxic behaviour within ourselves as we try to attain what they have, and when we fall short, or our idol falls short, we uproot ourselves and delve further into the spiral of influence.
Examining our inclination to believe and follow their actions from a sociological standpoint reveals the role of social identity and the human need for connection. The psychology behind celebrity worship sheds light on our desire for validation and belonging. We see celebrities living lives of constant praise and admiration, fueling our insecurities and shortcomings. This, in turn, further fuels our desire to be like them, to be adored, respected, feel wanted, and be loved. However, we must learn that everyone is human and can make mistakes, even us. We can place stock in people who put a mask on every day, pretending to be someone they are not, and once that mask comes down, we feel betrayed. This is why it is essential to uplift and motivate people within your circle, not someone you have never met.
The Cost of Fame
Delving into the sacrifices celebrities make for fame provides insight into the often-hidden costs of their lifestyles, including privacy, mental health struggles, and the constant scrutiny they face. One star who stands out is Cardi B with her take on fame. She said numerous times that no matter what she does, she always feels like she's getting sent to the “principal's office.” Furthermore, she stated that people constantly change her words into something terrible. This can be said about many celebrities and influencers because, in so many ways, they give up parts of themselves to the public, which is never easy. It can be challenging to find your identity when who you are is not who you can be anymore.
As influential figures, celebrities and influencers bear a responsibility to society. Whether promoting positive change or embodying ethical values, their impact extends beyond personal gain. Whether they should be held accountable is not a question, but to what extent they are held responsible is. Determining the extent to which celebrities should be held liable for their actions involves a nuanced exploration of the dynamics between public figures and their fan base. Can someone be held responsible for something they did not know? We can take this further by using it in everyday life; if your neighbour commits a homicide in their home, should you be held accountable because you lived next door? What if you were friends with that person for thirty years? What if you went to their house every weekend? The extent of responsibility quickly becomes convoluted, which is why compassion and understanding are so important.
Finally, understanding when fans enter intrusive behaviors' highlights the need for mutual respect and recognition of personal space. There have been many instances where fans went way beyond the boundaries of celebrities and influencers. For example, this past year, KallMeKris explained in a video that she had drones fly over her house and men coming up to her door, and she felt unsafe in her own home, which forced her to move and take more steps to protect her privacy. These actions are terrifying to even think of, yet people feel that, in some respect, this behaviour is okay or justified, and it is not. No one, no matter their status in society, should be made to feel unsafe in their own home. Fans need to understand that boundaries are essential, and if we want to be fans, we can do that as long as it doesn't violate the other person's privacy.
It is essential to strike a balance in a world enamored with the allure of celebrities and influencers. While their impact on society is undeniable, we must also recognize the importance of self-reflection and the need to find our identities amid external influences. By acknowledging the complexities of celebrity culture, we can navigate this landscape with a more discerning and reflective perspective, fostering a society that values authenticity and individuality.