Why is today’s generation so obsessed with becoming a celebrity, or famous? From all the competitive reality shows to social media mania, the quest for celebrity status has become an addiction to some. However, like most there is no limit to what one will do to satisfy the urge. What qualifies someone as a celebrity today, has less to do with talent and more to do with exposure. Traditionally, to be considered a celebrity, one would have to display some natural endowment such as: starring in a blockbuster movie, performing to sold out crowds in a major arena, or winning a championship title in any sport. However, today what signifies a celebrity is anyone who has 10,000 or more followers on Instagram, a viral video on YouTube, or had the unfortunate/fortunate mishap of a sexual rendezvous recorded and sold to the highest bidder. How and when did this happen?
Some blame Facebook, or its arch rival Instagram, yet they both contribute to the narcissistic mania of self-importance and unjustified celebrity status. They are just the vehicle in which these behaviors are communicated. Society is becoming more and more fascinated with being seen, and popular, regardless of the catalyst. Everything is up for display from the mundane to the extraordinary, whether it is uploading a plate of dinner or celebrating a legitimate accomplishment.
A few years back a family came into public view when they reported their son floating uncontrollably hundreds of miles in the sky in a run a way hot air balloon. The family was on every news channel, with the father at the forefront, pleading for the safe return of his son. Millions of Americans were drawn to their screens unable to turn away, captivated by the fascinating story. A few days later, to everyone’s disbelief, it was revealed that this was all a hoax orchestrated by the boy’s father to gain media attention and exposure. His son was never in the balloon as reported, but was hiding in the family home the whole time. In the end, the father did get his wish after all, his five minutes of fame. In this instance, a father exploited his own children for fame. Sadly, this narrative is not unique.
The phrase “five minutes of fame,” is a term used to describe the amount of time that passes before one must reinvent themselves to remain in the limelight. This is a culture fixated on the next best thing to the point that the average audience attention span is merely five minutes. Some confuse success with fame, when in fact the two are mutually exclusive. There is a plethora of successful people who are not famous, and whose faces are not splashed on every social media site or on the cover of every newsstand magazine. Think of all the inventors, scientists, and educators who are contributing to society. They are quietly acknowledged among their peers for their efforts. However, they are not famous outside of their respective industries.
Today’s youth should be taught to be successful but not at the expense of their dignity and morals. They should aim to be the best at whatever they do, knowing it does not guarantee exposure or worldwide recognition. They should be taught to value who they are and not let anyone dictate their worth. Just because their social media posting did not garner 50 plus likes does not lessen or devalue their worth.
There is a book reaffirming this ideology in just 130 pages titled, Pray Your Kids are Ugly. This book is a fascinating read regarding the dumbing down of today’s culture. While the title may be off-putting to some, the author’s message, written in a satirical tone, is about the fascination with social media and self-importance consuming and corrupting today’s youth. He explains how this generation could have birthed the next Einstein or Mozart, and how the potential may never be realized due to the time wasted with this generation’s compulsive preoccupation with social media. Today’s society and their obsession with fame perpetuates the notion that it is not important how you become famous just as long as you are.
The allure of fame and becoming a celebrity is a social epidemic, with “likes” having replaced awards, comments replacing accolades, and tedious every day activities replacing actual achievements. The Internet, or more specifically social media, cannot be blamed for the “dumbing” down of society; they are just the vehicles. It is the user or driver exploiting themselves, and society’s obsession with being famous, that is causing the deadly crash.
Opinion by Debra Pittman
McClure, J.K. Pray your kids are ugly. Self-published. Printed by Createspace, California, 2014