The rise of social media in the past decade or so has allowed us to become much closer to our favorite celebrities. Just as we utilize platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to feel close to our idols, they use it to reel us in. Taking all of the pros and cons into consideration, does the “following” factor outweigh the flattery?
[Screen Shot Courtesy of Twitter Counter]
I feel like I can write about this issue from a first hand perspective. In 2010, my best friend was cast as a leading character in the new Nickelodeon series “Victorious.” As the episodes rolled out, the show picked up a tween colt-like following, and so did Liz. Suddenly, when we went out together, I was prohibited from geo-tagging any Instagrams, or ever tweeting a location. Everything had to be vague. Not even on Facebook, where her profile is limited to just our friends, could she, or I for that matter, post any detailed plans because a few of her so-called “number one fans” figured out how to hack into her, as well as some of our friends’ Facebooks and obtain private information and pictures.
Fake Facebook pages with a variation of her name began to friend not only me, but friends of friends and acquaintances, and even some of our friends’ moms, just to see if they could get a glimpse of Liz’s profile. One time, we were flying back from LA, and when we arrived at baggage claim at JFK, a middle-aged man was waiting with her picture to be signed. How did he know where to find her? Social media.
I think social media in this day and age allows for a new level of celebrity obsession. I don’t think that prior to the 2000’s, fans knew where their favorite celebrities were going to be, who they were hanging out with, the restaurants they ate at, the places they shopped etc. For example, there are Twitter and Instagram pages dedicated to me just because I am Liz’s best friend, and I guess I post a funny tweet once in a while (at least I like to tell myself that I do). I have 12,000 followers on Instagram and 4,000 on twitter. Is it flattering or is it creepy? It frightens me to think that there are thousands of obsessive strangers around the world that know who I am, where I go to school, where I hangout, the fact that I’m in Europe right now and so on. It’s one thing to keep up with your favorite celebrity, I can admit that I stalked the Jonas Brothers for the better part of 2008, but is this generation doomed to wasting time in front of a computer screen, “fangirling”, “trolling” and even stalking their idols and the average joe’s that happen to be their friends, just to get a retweet or a mention?
[Screen shot courtesy of WeHeartKristin]
However, although social media allows for zero privacy, especially for the rich and famous, they use it as a tool to hustle. Through Liz, I became friends with another up and comer, Ariana. At the beginning, she used twitter as a tool to gain followers, and ultimately fans. Just as Justin Bieber did from the beginning, as Jeremy mentioned today, she would go on “follow sprees” and tweet to her few thousands of followers that she was going to “follow back” so to retweet and spread the word. Ariana’s building a following on twitter is what led to eventually getting a spin-off show and the production of her album. Her twitter followers surpassed that of the lead of the show’s (today she has 14.2 million), and she became the new it-girl in young Hollywood.
[My personal photo]
I think this is an example of the give and take aspect of social media, especially twitter. Yes, by participating, one gives up a lot of privacy, but he or she is also afforded a platform to build a name for her/himself. I do think that there’s a fine line between exploitation and manipulation of one’s fans through these direct access platforms, though. Most of these obsessed fans are either young or impressionable and are going to do whatever their end-all-be-all says. Personally, I love being able to read 140 characters of what’s on Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s minds, but if the tables were turned, I’m not so sure if I would want all of my avid followers to know what was on mine.
Obsessed fans have existed for as long as pop culture has, as seen with Elvis, “Beatle-mania,” and the more tragic assassinations of John Lennon and Selena. With more and more celebrities joining social media each day, are they asking for trouble or just asking for survival in a cut throat industry?