What you need to know:
- Almost a two-thirds of the world population is to a certain degree active on the internet and this has made social media the go to place for anyone seeking fame or how to retain it.
- Mercy Kavutha looks at how this phenomenon is shaping celebrity lifestyles and that of their fans.
Being a celebrity in the 21st century with the ever-increasing spread of technology and infrastructure, it’s already obvious that your influence on social media is paramount to maintaining your status quo.
There are 2.7 billion active people on social media and 2.5 billion active mobile social users according to 2017 data, and I kid you not it doesn’t stop there, everything is worldwide now.
People are investing more time and resources online – liking friends’ photos on Facebook, posting ‘thirst trap’ photos on Instagram, snapping ‘turn up’ snaps on Snapchat, posting ‘top foundations under 1000’ videos on YouTube and sharing #KOT tweets on Twitter. In fact, the average person spends at least an hour and a half on social media daily. We can no longer imagine our lives without social media or even how we survived before this era! So, question is, what does this mean for local celebrities, name human ‘brands’, social media influencers, and even politicians? With the rampant increase of gossip blogs, mean natured meme pages, misleading hashtags and fake news agencies? Trouble, that’s what!
Social media following is vital to any form of entrepreneurial success for any celebrity. A person is more likely to get influenced by someone they admire on the internet than a random person on the street. Besides how they look, many people are influenced by what celebrities do and what they think is cool. If someone sees their role model doing something, they figure they should try it too, and even if a celebrity does something totally crazy, who are we to question?
Initially when social media was still fairly new, celebrities were rarely seen as influencers. But the tide has turned in their favour and so are regarded as trend setters and human brands more than ever before. Most celebrities are forced to post most if not all aspects of their private lives from #aftershowerselfie,#atthestudioselfie, #makeupfreeselfie, #vacayselfie, to even giving away GPS-specific information concerning their whereabouts without taking into account the repercussions like stalkers and green eyed viewers all because these are the minimum requirements to stay relevant.
The fans want to know what you are doing, where you are doing it and who you are doing it with regardless of your privacy-related preferences. It’s so bad that even if you are more reserved than others, they will still find some dirt on you to put all over the tabloids.
It’s no new feat, ever since the 1900s celebrity news has found their way into the media and to the mouths and ears of curious fans excited to hear that the lives of the people they look up to and worship aren’t really all flowers and roses as famously perceived.
A classic example, Marilyn Monroe, who at the time of her death experienced what they called a “paparazzo frenzy”; her career had been going downhill and it was being splattered all over the magazines. And despite her preoccupation with repairing her public image by giving interviews to high profile publications up until the last day, pressure from the paparazzo proved to be more than she could handle and her death was ruled a suicide.
People have always been fascinated by celebrity scandals and gossip, but the influence of social media has changed it from a simple form of entertainment to a raging obsession making the quality of news worse, allegations more outrageous, the pictures more intrusive, but oddly, the stories way, way juicier.
During the American presidential elections in August 2016, an ongoing up rise of fake news articles on Facebook was the cause of great controversy and uproar. Talk of the “Pope endorses Donald Trump” story that was among the most trending only that it was fake. Of the top 10 fake news articles, six were related to the elections and each of them got over a billion hits, and one even ended up being published by well-respected news agency without disclaimers, warranting Facebook management to jump into action with the introduction of the red fake news button next to each fake article, failure to do so resulting in legal action.
And thus began the reign of Kenyan social media fake news agencies and online gossip magazines. It has been a maze hunt finding truth from all the stories. And despite many campaigns against the epidemic nothing seems to change.
In 2017 China’s cyberspace authorities ordered internet companies to close over 60 popular celebrity gossip social media accounts with the remarks: “Websites must adopt effective measures to keep in check the problems of the embellishment of private sex scandals of celebrities, the hyping of ostentatious celebrity spending and entertainment, and catering to the poor taste of the public”.
They add: “They must also propagate core socialist values and create an ever more healthy environment for the mainstream public opinion”
Should the government adopt the same resolve? Other countries seem to recognise the impact of such news to society and how they warp our view of celebrity lifestyle.