The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Celebrity culture is ubiquitous in America. It is a driving force in everyday life, and leads many to know popular figures far more intimately than they would any other stranger. 

For some, it extends beyond mere fascination, bordering on obsession and the utmost reverence for these celebrities, regardless of whether they have a terrifying carbon footprint or a fanbase that doxxes whoever speaks out against their “mother." Some fans have fallen into the trap of putting these celebrities on a pedestal, defending the honor of this god-like figure in their consciousness and generating a cult-like approach within certain fandoms. 

This is a parasocial relationship — a one-sided connection between two people. Many times the recipient is a public figure, with fans fostering an extremely loyal and unhealthy emotional attachment to them.

Although parasocial relationships are not a new concept, more of our generation is becoming susceptible to being in them.

A Meta-Gallup survey has revealed almost a quarter of adults feel fairly or very lonely, with loneliness rates tending to be higher among the younger adult population. This may be attributed to a diminishing sense of connection and community and feelings of isolation, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many have utilized social media to make and continue their connections to alleviate this. Many discover that sense of community from engaging with content shared by their beloved celebrity. Participating in such communities can be positive, bringing people with aligning interests closer together.

Social media has drastically changed our access to these public figures, providing more insight into what they do on a day-to-day basis. With a quick search or scroll, a vast wealth of information about these figures is at our disposal. 

However, in extreme cases, the constant upkeep and undying devotion to an individual with whom they do not have personal relations becomes unhealthy. Actively participating in fan narrative, enforcing the belief that your celebrity can do no wrong, absolves them of their humanity.

Treating celebrities like pillars of ideal living is a dangerous mindset. Take the leaking of the location of rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s mother’s gravesite, assumed to have been done by Nicki Minaj’s fanbase, also known as “Barbz.” 

Megan Thee Stallion’s recent single “Hiss” garnered a substantial amount of attention with a lyric about Megan's Law — which Minaj assumed was about her, ultimately leading to the re-ignition of the feud between the two rappers and their fanbases, and the leaking of Megan Thee Stallion’s personal information. 

Since this event, many other online users have expressed their distaste for Minaj and her reaction to Megan Thee Stallion’s new single. Unfortunately, it has led to some individuals and their families getting doxxed by fans, too. 

As a person in a position of influence in American culture, you cannot escape the public eye. The current era of social media has all but mandated a celebrity’s life be showcased for everyone to read, hear and feel. Through these parasocial relationships, fans can feel entitled to their lives, and they are often treated differently from "normal" human beings and held to different moral standards. 

Treating celebrities as superior — and being surprised when they proceed to make mistakes — is what not to do, as it continuously sets the stage for disappointment. It also goes without saying, though, that one should not support someone with damaging beliefs or who has done deplorable things just because they like their songs or movies. 

It is upon us to gather a more balanced perspective by holding those public figures accountable for their actions. Then, maybe, we can contribute to a healthier and more responsible fan culture.

@dthopinion opinion@dailytarheel.com

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