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Vandana Kohli
Vandana Kohli


Celebrity status

gurmehar-kaur2 Gurmehar Kaur

Celebrities are looked upon as role models. They are acknowledged and celebrated for their talent, skill, looks, intelligence or accomplishments which is what makes them ‘celebrities’. Because they are famous, we tend to assume that they’ve got it all right, and that they will not err.

This approach, of regarding the rich and/or famous as role models, is inherently more prevalent among children and teenagers, who are not accustomed to either acknowledging, or dealing with shades of grey. In their absolute and impressionable minds, things and people are mostly black or white, a propensity further sharpened by the tools of our times.

Vicious tools
Social media is one such tool. Every person has a voice today. Every thought or opinion can be expressed—every moment of life can be documented and shared, instantly—in words, pictures and videos.

This is a profound development. If there is injustice happening, the world can know about it immediately. Support can be found; action can be taken. But this grouping can happen for things that are destructive as well.

Take the case of Demi Lovato, a celebrated American singer and songwriter, who got drawn into a savage feud between the Kardashians and Taylor Swift a few months ago. The other side ignited its ‘army of revellers’, who then proceeded to attack Lovato for her views. The speed of the exchange worsened the situation. After a point, overwhelmed by the viciousness and fury of the feud, Lovato was forced to go off the grid for a while.

As was the case with Gurmehar Kaur, a college student, who inadvertently got drawn into a political debate of such magnitude, that she went from national news to off the grid in a couple of weeks. “This is all my 20-year-old self can take,” she said about the trolling, which included comments from sportspersons and actors.

Celebrating what?
In both examples, ‘celebrities’ contributed to the savagery of the exchange. In the US, social scientists are recognising and studying the role of social media in doxxing, or posting personal information in the public domain to shame an ex-partner or an adversary. Celebrities are doing the same, not just to spite or bully their chosen target, but also to gain even more eyeballs, traffic and hits to their sites. This, in turn, feeds further into their ‘celebrity’ status.

It’s a war in which the side that is more noisy, relentless and brutal succeeds in ‘punishing’ the other. It’s ‘shaming by the crowd,’ a tactic that has always been considered primitive and base, in humankind’s quest for civility and civilisation. It throws up deep and troublesome questions about what we consider progress to be.

On the micro plane, this trend is a tricky one, especially for parents and teachers. Children and teenagers are measuring their popularity from the number of likes and hits their pictures on Instagram, or their posts on Facebook and other social platforms, garner.
It is no less than an obsession with youngsters today, and the fallout is tremendous. A teenager can go from euphoric to depressed in the course of a day. The emotional upheaval is immense and unnecessarily intense, given the nature of the technological tool. It is fast and often, furious.

‘Celebrity’ status, thus, seems not so much about accomplishment these days, as it is about noise and sensationalism. In which case, parental intervention and guidance becomes imperative. They can make a difference, provided their own status reads ‘offline’ from time to time, on their social media accounts. 

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The Week

Topics : #Mindscape | #opinion

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