I am a Swifty, Directioner and Mirfanda. I unashamedly succumb to my weekly dose of the Celebrity Apprentice, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, TMZ and occasionally, while sitting in an orthodontist waiting room preparing to enter two hours of torture, Seventeen Magazine. My iPhone is my best weapon — with it, I am able to follow my favorite celebrities’ every move through tabloids, Instagram and Twitter.
Like many other teenagers my age, I have been afflicted with Celebrity Worship Syndrome — yes, this is a scientific term, and although there isn’t an official diagnosis, CWS pertains to individuals who become obsessed with celebrities due to an overexposure to popular media. While my various pop culture addictions seem fun in the moment, the overwhelming research indicates that CWS causes anxiety, depression and higher levels of stress.
As fandoms grow to become almost as prestigious as country clubs, we adolescents are eager to slap a label onto our fanaticism — we don’t just like Justin Bieber, no, that would be too simple and straightforward, so as Beliebers, we believe in him — and will go on for hours arguing about who is the most devoted fan or who “discovered” him first. And although this devotion can lead to our classification as a living, breathing encyclopedia for all things Taylor Swift, it can also cause many negative effects.
A report by the USA Weekend revealed that 60 percent of teens wanted to get a tattoo or piercing in the same place a celebrity has. More than half of them agreed that their peers smoke or drink because they see their idols doing the same thing.
What’s more, research consistently shows that an overexposure to media can cause a distorted body image. The pictures that measure what perfection ought to look like are often unachievable unless rounds of Photoshop are used. Even their personalities are just as manipulated, controlled by dozens of public relations professionals.
At its root, excessive idolization of celebrities stems from the period of time when adolescents grow up, when they distancethemselves from their parents, and need an accessible role model — it’s an inherent element of youth culture, but we ought to become aware of its adverse effects and thoroughly enjoy our own lives instead of fixating on our smart phones waiting for the latest update on our “idol” of choice.
In case you didn’t know, celebrities are people, not property, and none of us will truly own One Direction no matter how hard we try. Yes, Taylor Swift’s house can be easily located on Zillow or through your own GPS triangulation. But that doesn’t mean you should follow the footsteps of the man who swam two miles in cold water to get to her beachfront home in Rhode Island.
Rather than idolizing strangers, be grateful for and look up to your parents, teachers and everyone else who has helped you throughout your life. Worshipping celebrities without realizing that they don’t deserve your single-minded admiration is just as misguided as naming all of your children based on alliteration of the letter K — don’t let celebrities become the Daisy to your Gatsby.