Fame comes at a price. For many celebrities, it is simply hard to walk out of the house without having to deal with fans that often don’t respect the concept of “personal space.” But in the era of social media, where every actor, singer, model and athlete is expected to be on the social platforms, it can result in increased anxiety.
Though anyone can make a joke that went “too far,” commit a seemingly minor faux pas on Facebook, or inadvertently “like” the wrong tweet, for celebrities, the wrong move can derail careers and send the PR teams into “damage control.”
That explains why many celebrities are opting to sign off on the social platforms; with some saying they are doing so for their mental health. However, the decision to ditch social media didn’t actually begin with the famous.
“This movement started years ago with increased funding directed toward mental health related research and then public health campaigns to draw attention to the data,” said Dr. Allison Forti, associate teaching professor and associate director of the Department of Counseling Online Programs at Wake Forest University.
That in turn led to universities creating wellness-related programs to improve learning outcomes and larger companies emphasizing mental health to improve productivity.
“These early interventions toward destigmatizing mental health led to public figures realizing they have a unique opportunity to bring mental health awareness to the mainstream,” added Forti. “Public dialogue, coupled with increased use of social media platforms and technology, paved the way for the current movement we see. Now people readily acknowledge taking a mental health day from work, discussing depression and anxiety is getting easier, and mental health counseling is increasing.”
Celebrities And Fame
Celebrities actually need to be seen, as that big break won’t likely come without “getting out there.” However, once the individual’s name is up there in lights, social media just helps them remain relevant with increasingly fickle audiences.
“Social media is not necessary to remain relevant when it comes to A-list musicians, actors/actresses, and professional athletes. However, celebrities using social media can engage more intimately with their fans and create a more curated fan experience,” explained celebrity publicist Danielle Sabrina, founder of Tribe Builder Media. “Outside of remaining relevant, celebrities can leverage social media followers to drive sales for their businesses, sell tickets, drive music downloads, etc.
True A-listers such as Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian still leverage their social media followings to drive sales and brand awareness for their products.
“Social media can be a powerful tool for celebrities that need to make a comeback or want to respond to backlash or false narratives. In addition, social platforms provide a form of communication to fans and the broader public that doesn’t rely on traditional media outlets,” Sabrina added. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, newly emerging celebrities and influencers struggling to stay in the spotlight could have a tough time without utilizing social media.”
The New Medium
It should also be remembered that Elizabeth Taylor and Jimmy Stewart built decades-long careers without social media, while screen legend Greta Garbo arguably would have blocked any would-be followers – had she even signed up for the services.
“There are plenty of celebrities who are not known for their social media posts so celebrities can be popular without posting to social media,” said Dr. Mai-Ly Steers, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Duquesne University.
More importantly, the concept of celebrity has existed long before social media. Yet, it needs to be remembered that many actors/actresses from the silent film era struggled to make in the “talkies” and Lucile Ball and George Burns are among the few radio stars who were able to make the leap to TV.
“Celebrities also used to exist before television, but if they didn’t evolve from radio, they would eventually fade. Just like Kevin Hart, The Rock, and every Kardashian/Jenner, to attract the most attention, you must meet the audience where they are – social media,” warned Dr. Dustin York, associate professor of communications at Maryville University.
The Kardashians could be a good example of how a celebrity can even become a brand via social media.
“It helps them speak directly to their fans,” said Steers.
“Celebrities pushing projects directly to their fans via social media is exactly why brands like FashionNova spend over 40 million dollars a year on influencer marketing – it works,” added York. “For example, if you’re promoting a new movie on Netflix, what makes you think a potential viewer will watch your commercial that gets sandwiched between anxiety medication and a pickup truck commercial on CBS? Celebrities must use their authenticity and direct communication to reach fans directly on social media.”
Another downside of social media and celebrity may not just impact the celebrities.
“Fans may even develop parasocial relationships – a one-sided relationship where the fan feels like they know a celebrity intimately based on their social media posts,” said Steers.
While not healthy for some users, this can still be good for the celebrities, and their influence, as it can fuel a desire for the products the Kardashians or other celebrities are promoting.
In the end, even as some of the most famous sign off, it is likely they’ll turn up on another platform – as the spotlight is always calling.
“If there is another platform that people begin to favor in the future,” Steers said, “celebrities who have built a brand on one platform will naturally migrate to the new social media platform and build a fan base there.”