Why This Generation Is So Completely Obsessed With The Idea Of Celebrity

by Adam Pliskin

Arguably, Generation-Y’s defining characteristic is its obsession with celebrity.

We created the Frankensteinian monster that is Kim Kardashian. We made stars out of lowly housewives who behave like children. We turned Beyoncé into a golden calf — a false idol whom many of us are only too eager to kneel before (please don't kill me, Beyhive).

The question is: Why? Why are we so determined to worship at the altar of celebrity? Why are we so desperate to turn men into gods?

The easy answers to these questions lie within our innate desire for distraction. Shows like the “Real Housewives of Who gives a Flying F*ck” appeal to people because they represent a simple way to supplant one’s own trials and tribulations with those of another.

Similarly, “Keeping up with the Kardashians” allows us to marvel at the fame and wealth of others while simultaneously perpetuating these things.

But the tougher answers to our question lie deeper within ourselves. Our love of celebrity has to do with our own intense desire for it. And make no mistake, most of us desire fame, in one form or another.

Case in point: social media. Facebook and Twitter appeal to our base desire for acceptance — a desire, which if extended to its logical conclusion, can seemingly only be satisfied by extreme and immeasurable fame.

Social media sites allow us to experience something eerily akin to fame. They give us a captive audience. They feed our egos by incessantly assuring us that someone is listening, that someone cares. This is what it is to be famous.

To be famous is to have disciples, a group of followers consumed by your every word and deed. To be famous is to be heard.

Therein lies the trouble with social media. It creates a need for celebrity. It gives you a taste of it. It allows you to imagine what it might be like to be famous, but rarely does it deliver on that promise.

But, of course, sometimes it does. As we well know, you can become famous through social media and the Internet. You can build an empire on a foundation of sex tapes. You can end up in Vanity Fair for posting photos of your ass on Instagram.

That reality makes the fantasy of fame that much more insidious. This is because it makes it quite easy to delude one’s self into chasing this sort of fame. Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with being famous. But there is something wrong in seeking fame for fame’s sake.

Being famous used to be a byproduct of some perfect storm of talent, effort and luck. Once achieved, it served as a means for more readily showcasing your art or your ideas. It was a means to an end and not the end in and of itself.

And sure, it’s not hard to understand the appeal of achieving this end, of becoming famous, especially by way of the Internet. Often, it requires less work than the traditional pathways and yields similar results. Why work your ass off when all you really need is a great ass?

But, there are a ton of problems with this. Firstly, people aren’t creating as much as they did in the past. Instead of doing something culturally and socially constructive, many members of our generation are just essentially whoring themselves out in an attempt to gain recognition.

See, the thing about fame is that it’s intangible. It’s not something that you can necessarily work towards. It’s a concept. It’s something that others decide for you.

You can, however, work at becoming a better writer or musician or artist. These are (potentially) noble pursuits. These are (potentially) beneficial to other members of the human race. Whereas, seeking fame for fame’s sake is just about the most vain thing you can do.

The other problem with this fame-seeking behavior is that, more often than not, it’s bound to end in heartbreak and failure. There may be more avenues for achieving fame than ever before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any easier.

There are so many people trying to traverse the desert of anonymity, that there’s just not enough room for everyone in the promised land.

Chasing fame is like chasing a ghost. It’s a fool’s errand. What happens when you search for it for your whole life and never find it? What does that do to your psyche? How could you ever hope to be happy without this thing you crave so desperately?

Now, not everyone in our generation cares about fame. But for those who do, it’s often about more than just fame. It’s an attempt to overcome some lifelong insecurity. It’s a feeling that fame can right the wrongs of the past, that it can grant you absolution.

It’s the notion, probably a subconscious one, that fame will bring acceptance and love into your life — that it will fill some gaping void in your chest.

But anyone who’s spent any amount of time on Facebook (i.e. all of you) can attest to the futility of this notion. You know that it doesn’t make you feel more connected, but more disconnected. Fame is just a more extreme version of this. It won’t fill that hole, but widen it.

The other thing people fail to realize about celebrities is that, at the risk of sounding trite, they're just people. Flesh and blood just like the rest of us. Even if you manage to reach the peak of fame, there’ll still be a human being standing atop that mountain. And it’ll be a human with flaws and anxieties and mortality.

Fame won’t make you a god. Fame won’t save you from death. And fame alone won’t make you happy.

So, why do we love celebrities so damn much? Why do we fawn over them? It’s because we desperately want to be them. We want what they have. And, because of the Internet, we feel that’s not far from our reach.

I admit, the trappings of fame are probably pretty great, at least for a time. But, ultimately, fame is a construct, a fiction, a fleeting fantasy. You can’t hold it in your hand. You can’t feel its warmth.

Fame is a dream that slips from sight upon waking. It won’t heal some ancient wound. It won’t make you whole.

So, I think it’s time we stop obsessing over a bankrupt concept and start living our lives not as celebrities or nobodies, but as people.

Photo Credit: Getty Images