The Public’s Obsession With Celebrities Has Gone Too Far

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Josie Krupens, Opinions Editor

 

   Fandom culture online has allowed many to feel as if they have a place of their own, and this is especially true for teenagers. Fans have used the Internet to express their love for influencers, celebrities, and content creators through fandoms, a community of fans of a certain media or person, for years. But when does being a “stan” of an influencer go too far? Sometimes, the behavior of die-hard fans, or “stans,” negatively affects themselves, others, and even the celebrities that they love. Stan culture and other over-the-top ways by which fans (mostly teens) on the Internet “support” their favorite influencers are forming a concerning trend of obsession.

   Some people, especially teenagers, form parasocial relationships with influencers. According to a website about mental health, “Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence.” More recently, people have been forming more intense parasocial relationships with online influencers, due to more opportunities on the Internet for influencers to connect with fans (findapsychologist.org). The issue with this is that a parasocial relationship that has gone too far could quickly become unhealthy, as the celebrity may not fulfill expectations that the attached fan places upon them. There needs to be a distinct separation between reciprocated friendship and admiration towards an influencer. Boundaries between influencers and their fans could easily be breached if fans act as if they know the influencer personally, and reasonably, a celebrity can never possibly know a fan on a personal level. Senior Abby Cosgrove said, “It’s not good for the youth’s mental health, because the relationship can’t be fully reciprocated. To the celebrity, they’re just one fan online out of so many others.”

   Intense fans may take their love for an influencer too far and partake in behavior that breaks boundaries and breaches privacy. All of that is made worse on the Internet, since leaked private information can easily circulate through fan communities. Many influencers have had their addresses leaked. According to Insider Magazine, people broke into a popular TikTok group’s house and posted about it (insider.com). Additionally, according to the BBC, YouTube Stars Jake and Logan Paul had issues with fans coming to their houses asking for autographs, and the same has happened to many other similar content creators (bbc.com). This is clearly harassment, not typical fan behavior. This trend is very concerning because public figures only have so much privacy left after detailing their lives on social media, and getting their address leaked is extremely violating and takes that privacy away just because a “fan” feels entitled to an autograph.

   When someone is extremely supportive of an influencer, this may discourage critical thought, especially when combined with the often polarized nature of social media. This becomes an issue if the influencer has done something offensive. Cosgrove said, “When people don’t support YouTubers critically, this lets them get away with bad things they might have done, since the fans just defend them instead of fact-checking accusations against them and holding them accountable.” According to Study Breaks Magazine, fans online can be incredibly one-sided and unable to say bad things about their idol while tearing down other similar influencers they don’t like. If “…a stan’s favorite celebrity does something problematic, it is swept under the rug” (studybreaks.com). When people, especially young people, can’t point out the flaws in those they look up to, it can get dangerous very quickly as they grow up believing that the people they love can do no wrong, when that belief is obsessive and wildly untrue. No one should blindly follow any other human being, especially since some toxic people can use it as an advantage.

   On the other hand, being able to critically support a creator is a good skill to have in a rising age of polarization online. Holding influencers accountable for their actions does not have to equate to hating or “canceling” said influencer. Rather, it simply means that a fan can think critically and point out the flaws in a person, an important step for teenagers in maturing and understanding that no human being is perfect.

   It’s not an inherently bad thing to support and admire a celebrity. The problem lies within when fans cross lines in their support and harass fans of opposing influencers online, and even other influencers themselves. According to Study Breaks Magazine, stans are notorious for lashing out at others on social media platforms over ridiculously small things, such as celebrity breakups or one artist getting their song higher up on the charts than another artist’s song. Stans of Singer Selena Gomez were caught up with “…bullying Demi Lovato — calling her ex-childhood best friend a whale or cow, making jokes about her drug overdose, using her failed engagement as a diss…” and much more (studybreaks.com). Fans should not be focusing this much time and effort into putting down others for a celebrity who they’ve likely never met in person, and who likely doesn’t even know they exist. Celebrities are able to defend themselves; they’re not fragile, they’re often people with confident-enough personalities to face countless fans and haters. They don’t need obsessed fans to speak on their behalf.

   Additionally, sending hateful messages is a horrible thing to do, and it’s extremely taxing on the mental health of the recipient. This is especially true with teenagers in fan communities who may get hate for supporting someone; it’s concerning when they’re already going through a stressful time in their lives as they grow up and handle school and other teen stressors. “Apparently mental health only matters when it’s about their fave, and everyone else is open season…” (studybreaks.com).

   The Internet has its ups and downs; it can be a place where people who have interests in common can join a community, and that’s especially important in a time where people are more isolated than usual. However, people have to make sure they’re being respectful towards critics, other fans, and the influencer him or herself. Fans, especially teenagers, also need to be sure that they’re not becoming too involved with the life of a celebrity to the point of obsession.