Celebrities consume us more than they ever have before. Never has America been so obsessed with the "celebrity" concept, or with celebrities as personalities. This spike in our collective obsession has reached a point that I believe is entirely unhealthy for the fabric of our society.
First, let's figure out why we are so obsessed. Prior to the '90s, there were two major sources for celebrity news, one televised and one print: "Entertainment Tonight" and People magazine. Soon after the turn of the millennium, we saw the proliferation of weekly glossy magazines as well as a growth in televised celebrity news programming. This was followed in short succession by the rise of the Internet as a news resource, hence the onslaught of celebrity blogs.
Whether we are obsessed with celebrities because the supply of outlets has increased, or the number of outlets has increased because of the demand fueled by our obsession, is a moot point. The fact is, Americans today are inundated with news about famous people.
Celebrities have become our universal water cooler fodder. Instead of engaging in personal interactions where we discuss our own lives, feelings and thoughts on current events, we discuss the lives of famous people documented in the tabloids as if we actually know them.
Our celebrity obsession has become so intense and all-consuming that we live vicariously through celebrities, sometimes at the expense of sacrificing our own lives and well-being. It's possible now more than ever as we follow them on Twitter through a device that lives in our pockets -- physically and intimately connecting us to a vacuous celebrity distribution stream that creates an entirely false sense of intimacy.
This closeness breeds a connection with celebrities and a disconnection from the people in our lives, tugging apart the fabric of our social connections with friends and family.
It can also be argued that celebrity obsession is merely escapism. In fact, these are the things that professionals, including doctors, lawyers, politicians and judges, sheepishly tell me: "I watch the Kardashians to decompress." Kudos to that person who can limit their celebrity consumption to mere decompression levels -- most people can't.
Our obsession has gone beyond mere escapism. The noise that celebrities create in our brains is helping to turn us into zombies who look up to celebrities as role models and often blindly follow their advice.
Now more than ever, brands are harnessing our obsession with celebrities to use them to tell us what to buy. We mindlessly spend our hard-earned dollars on their weight loss programs, fragrances, cars they drive, sneakers they wear and the mocha lattes they sip -- all of which they are most likely being paid to enjoy.
But celebrities are less harmful to you and I than they are to another subset of the population -- children. Adults can make their own decisions about how to consume celebrity, making the real danger how celebrity consumption affects the new generation of consumers. Today, children often grow up constantly connected to the Internet, and learn about celebrities at an early age.
These children make up a generation that would rather be on reality television than become president of the United States. They buy their clothes based on what Miley Cyrus tells them to wear and dream of having bodies like the Kardashians'. Kids will be the ultimate victims of our celebrity obsession unless we collectively find some way to break our habit now.
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