It’s 2019, and we are obsessed with celebrities more than ever. If we’re not reading magazines about their lurid lives, we’re following them on Instagram, dissecting their song lyrics, or convincing ourselves we really did see them out grocery shopping.
This fixation isn’t new: status hierarchies go back to our hunter-gatherer days, when it was always a good idea to keep your eye on who was on top. You could look to them to emulate their successes, and just be aware of the social situation.
I couldn’t find a single celebrity or influencer account which consistently posted a realistic or even achievable lifestyle.
But although our obsession is old, our 24/7 access to celebrities’ lives is relatively recent. Beyond tabloid magazines and celebrity interviews, the advent of social media has given us more than a glimpse, but rather a full-blown view into celebrities. More than ever before, we feel we truly know every glamorous, gilded facet of the celebrity lifestyle. And that’s dangerous.
The reason we’re so obsessed with them is because we want to be like them. Remember, back in the day, it was possible to become like the most popular/successful members of the group. You could see what worked for them and do it, too. So we were obsessed with the people at the top, but in a more productive way, because we could hope to one day become them.
Today? We’re surrounded by rich, famous people who have nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers, hundreds of dollars’ worth of daily skincare routine products, airbrushing, and plastic surgery., nearly none of which they show to us on their social media. It’s unachievable, but invisibly so.
We feel like we know everything about them, so we believe if we just stare hard enough, pay attention for long enough, believe with enough gumption, we can be like them, too. Even though our brains know better, that doesn’t stop us from staring and hoping that we could be like that too, if we could only crack the code.
Pair that with the highlight reel of social media: people only post the good stuff about their life. You won’t catch an influencer telling you about their raging diarrhoea — you’ll only see the gorgeous shots of a holiday on the beach.
Constant access to unbelievable lifestyles, filtered to only show the very best of someone’s very good life? That’s a recipe for disaster.
Inoticed the trend in myself when I browsed on Instagram. I would be happily browsing the posts of some of my favorite celebs when I started to get these nagging feelings of inadequacy.
I had to face it: I was never going to be as pretty as Taylor Swift, or as fit as Chris Pratt. I’d never have skin like Zendaya’s, and I’d never be as successful as Ava Duvernay.
Now the thing is, I’m a healthy user of social media: I’ve turned off ALL my notifications, I monitor my time, and I try to be mindful about what I consume. For example, I don’t follow anyone who promotes unhealthy habits like #teatoxing. (Cough, Kardashians.)
Because, despite fears about what we put in our bodies, what we view is also what we consume, and it can be just as harmful as any unhealthy aspect of our diet.
So when even just this limited window into the lives of celebrities began to affect my mental health, I knew I had to stop.
Humans are incredibly visual creatures, which is why Instagram is one of the most successful (and pervasively dangerous) types of social media. Celebrities present a heavily curated aspect of their lives for public consumption, and we eat it up and ask for more.
Instagram has been found to have profoundly negative effects on psychological and health associations for us. We take what other people show us as absolute truth, and suffer for it because we can’t ever compare favorably to it.
Our desperate desire to follow celebrities stems from our deep-seated belief that we can one day become like them.
When faced with the inescapable conclusion that we aren’t as good, and never will be as good as the lives they choose to show us, it has consequences on our mental health.
So I made the choice to unfollow all celebrities.
It’s their job to look as successful and happy as possible. That means they constantly post pictures of luxurious getaways, taut, toned bodies, happy, beautiful faces. I don’t have those resources, nor do I have that lifestyle. By default, that means that I’ll always fare badly when comparing myself to them, which I inevitably will.
I couldn’t find a single celebrity or influencer account which consistently posted a realistic or even achievable lifestyle. So I purged them all.
Our love for celebrity gossip and lifestyle news won’t ever fade. But we can control the way we absorb this culture by limiting the types of comparisons we make every day. Unfollow celebrities and see how your life changes for the better.
The worst that could happen? You’re out of touch when they release a new single, or start a new relationship, or announce a new project.
But the benefits are that you’ll be happier. You’ll suffer less body-image problems. You won’t have this persistent, underlying feeling of not being quite good enough, and when you look at the pretty pictures on your phone, you’ll be making the choice to consume in a responsible, healthy way.