Belieber, Directioner, Barb, Monster, Selenator, Lovatic: Do you suffer from Celebrity Worship Syndrome?

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Celebrities have played a large role for many years, as we are fascinated by their lavish lifestyles and glamour.  However, with the rise of social networking sites, in particular Twitter, where many celebrities tell their ‘followers’ what they’re up to every second of the day they play a much more worrying role in the lives of their fans.

As religion becomes less popular in the Western world than it was in the past, a new culture of “celebrity worshipping” has taken over.  Only a few minutes needs to be spent on Twitter to see how this new culture has taken over.  Justin Bieber has 22,961,581 Twitter followers at time of writing, but this figure is growing constantly. The Justin Bieber fans (mainly female adolescents) call themselves ‘Beliebers’ a pun on the word ‘believer’, which was once associated with religion.  This is not a concern and just shows a change in language and culture over time, the concern is the emotional health of not only ‘Beliebers’ but all celebrity worshippers.

A new Psychological condition has been recently identified as Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS).  McCutcheon & Houran, (2003) found that fans become progressively more obsessed with a celebrity over time.  It all begins with following the celebrity for “entertainment-social” reasons, such as reading about them in magazines or watching them on television.  This then develops into fans believing they have an “intense-personal” relationship with the celebrity.  This is still not necessarily bad for emotional well-being if managed in a healthy way, but if not controlled positively can lead to an addiction to an idol, derogatively known as ‘stalking’.  Celebrity stalking is not a new problem and can have dire consequences, when looking at Mark David Chapman, the stalker and murderer of John Lennon.

The song “Stan” by Eminem, explores the notion of celebrity worship perfectly, from just a mere admiration to an obvious unhealthy obsession with dire consequences.

It has been found that celebrity worshippers are more likely to have anxiety issues, depression and difficulties maintaining social relationships, than those who do not follow a celebrity.  In severe cases celebrity worshipping can cause people to become neurotic, tense and emotional.  This suggests that celebrity worship is not always good for emotional well-being.  It is important to realise when simply admiring an idol has turned into Celebrity Worship Syndrome and is having a negative effect on a person’s emotions.   The admiration has turned into an obsession when the desire to know the latest information about an idol interrupts day-to-day life, such as affecting work or relationships.  Some worshippers report feeling particularly emotional when they cannot get hold of any news on the celebrity.  Others feel that if their idol does not reply to any of their messages it is a personal attack, which can cause depressive feelings.

The majority of celebrity-worshippers are female adolescents.  During puberty it is common for adolescents to identify with a role model in order to find their own identity (Lin & Lin, 2007) and it is common for this role model to be a celebrity.  However, adolescence is often a fragile period of life and celebrity worship can often become intense.  This has an effect on school-work as well as peer relationships.  Findings by Maltby, Giles, Barber and McCutcheon, (2005) suggest that celebrity worship during the ages of 14-16 years can cause eating disorders, after desiring the idols looks and figure (which is often faked by photoshop).  However, these issues are normally resolved by adulthood (ages 17-20).  Cheng, 2007 also found that those associated with a fan-group reported lower levels of self-esteem than those not part of a fan-group.

Here are just some posts I have found on Twitter after a few minutes of searching.  Read these and make your own mind up whether you think we have a dangerous epidemic with the idolisation of celebrities or if it is just all harmless teenage crushes.  I’d love to hear your comments.

To Nicki Minaj: “I didnt wanna go to sleep until i knew u landed safely … now i can finally rest”

About Justin Bieber: “Feels weird saying, “Justin Bieber.” I feel I know him on a more personal level & can call him, “Justin.”

About Selena Gomez: “Selena makes us have second family, Selenator! Selena Changed Our Life and we know it!”