Is Fame The New Patriotism?
A thought spookier than Halloween.
This post stemmed from a sentence that I read in a Joan Didion book. So I’ll begin with that:
“It’s a difficult point to admit that we are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves.”
- Joan Didion | Slouching Towards Bethlehem
The social pressure of life has been on my mind a lot lately. Nevermind the social pressure of going to an event or meeting new neighbors or doing other normal socially-related things. But rather, it’s the documentation of these social things really stresses me out. I’m not a girl who regularly takes aesthetic photos. It’s not ingrained into my DNA. I don’t ask my friends to take pictures with me much even though I sometimes want to. And when I get on the Internet and scroll for five minutes, I immediately fall into the thought process of: “There’s no place for me here.” and “Do I need to buy a film camera?”
Is Fame The New Patriotism?
As I study the epidemic of social media causing some sort of imposter syndrome within our own lives, I find an article from Teen Vogue 2013. Mind you, this is an entire brand that has built its story around profiting an obsession with celebrity culture. So the article’s existence surprised me. This quote, that’s now ten years old, stood out to me:
In a survey of fourteen-to-eighteen-year-olds by The Washington Post and Harvard University, 31 percent of teens went beyond just wanting to be famous and admitted they think it's likely they'll be famous someday. Not only that, but a group of girls surveyed by Jake Halpern, author of Fame Junkies, said they'd much rather be a famous person's assistant than be the CEO of a major company.
- Teen Vogue in 2013
Ten years later, this demographic is now having social media for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can only imagine this statistic is trending upward. Perhaps so much so that I started to wonder… is fame is society’s new patriotism?
The most obviously-unified culture that I see is not around American values, religion, nor is it even around progressive social issues. It’s around fame. It’s around celebrities like Taylor Swift. Never in my life have I seen people as proud to be an American as they are proud to be a Swiftie. (And I say this as a Taylor Swift fan myself). It’s fun and it’s cute and also - it’s terrifying.
Us common folk have been warned a thousand times that fame is torture, prison, and so forth. And yet, the idea of “being seen” holds such a large stake in our lives. Many of us have spent hours of precious life watching other’s lives play out online. We save these pieces of others, because it’s always cooler to be them instead of us, and try to bully ourselves into their box. We want to see ourselves the way we see them. Compounding on and on until we’ve lost sight of what we really are becoming. Do we really want to know who our favorite musicians are eating lunch with every single day? Or are we just looking, in a rather peculiar way, to be seen ourselves? Is celebrity visibility something we attach to because we know that hundreds of others will join us in the effort? Is our addiction to fame just an easily-accessed band-aid to patch over how out of place we truly feel?
Maybe the seemingly easiest way to feel seen is to become adjacent to someone else who we think, could never feel the same way given: they have more followers, more money, and more success. An aggressive longing for more visibility is the one thing we all seem to agree on. Myself included.
Do We Trust Our Undocumented Interactions?
Social media has likely desynthesized our trust in our real-life interactions with others. Online, we have metrics to track whether people still love us. Are they still following? Are they sharing? Are they liking my posts? In real world land, we actually have to trust that our human experience is enough. Which to some extent - is much scarier.
I sometimes find myself upset that I didn’t take cooler photos while I lived in Miami. There are moments where I feel like this lack of aesthetic images to share online invalidates my living experience. Imposter syndrome creeps around the entire experience because I’m abstaining (or trying to) from that external validation that I’ve grown so used to. In moments like these, I’m giving way too much weight to a polarized community.
Recognizing Polarized Communities
“I think the polarization we experience all around the world these days is between the intense individualism fans have and feel entitled to, as opposed to working and helping their communities.”
-Landon Jones | Former Managing Editor of People Magazine
It’s no wonder we have increasing anxiety and depression and everything else. If we weave so much of our self-worth into these starkly polarized communities, if we unfollow everyone who doesn’t like Taylor Swift’s new song, if we block out every opinion that differs from ours to ever reaching the blue light under our nose: it will feel devastating when we inevitably go up to bat with our own life. When we post a photo of our favorite moments and end up in people’s dislike or unfollow bucket. In a polarized community, everything feels personal.
Perhaps it’s time to enjoy an actor or actress performance without attaching to the performer themselves. Maybe there is some space for us to practice boundaries with our consumption of other’s work and lives and social media feeds without feeling the need to make a decision on how they fit into our story. There is something freeing in the idea of not polarizing everyone and everything you come across into a bucket of good or bad, like or dislike, obsessed or detest. Your life is more than constantly deciding who you’re a fan of.
With the right boundaries, there is much less pressure to be seen and much more room to just be human.
Tiny, Tiny Baby Steps:
Little ways to incorporate depolarized communities in your life:
Go to a book club. Practice disagreeing over your opinions in healthy ways. Learn that everyone’s opinions are valid about something - even when you don’t agree.
Take a social media hiatus. Enjoy life undocumented.
Go to a play. See live music. And notice you don’t have to be invested in the entertainer’s life to enjoy their work.
Make a scrapbook of your most special moments. Notice the photos that mean the most to you are likely not the ones you’d post online.
& What do you think?
I’d now like to ask: What do you think? Is fame-culture polarizing? What boundaries do you have to keep healthy perceptions about ‘being seen’? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.
Halloween Vibes Restored:
There weren’t many spooky vibes in this article so here’s a few things that I’ve been up to to remain enthusiastic about the wonderfully-haunted season:
Animated Movies: The Corpse Bride, Monster House, and Wallace and Gromit
Getting Sick and Playing Rollercoaster Tycoon: at the first drop in weather lol
Reading the fall books: 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Atlas Six, and The Unmaking of June Farrow
Planning a release date for “Book #2”: Insert lots of winking.
As always, thanks for reading! Sending you all the love and pumpkin spice (if that’s your thing).
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