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Don’t fill yourself up on celebrity culture

In American society, classism comes in the form of celebrity worship.

In a country where we often value ourselves above others, we’re all too willing to give up our self-worth in favor of placing strangers on a pedestal.

Unlike Great Britain, the United States is not ingrained with a class system. There are no lords or ladies here. Theoretically, anyone can be elected to the highest office in the land. However, we uphold a class system of our own that comes without rules or any real structure.

Fame of any sort automatically places an individual at the top of the social pyramid. One does not have to be especially talented or intelligent to captivate an American audience. When we see someone on a screen, we automatically assume they’re more important than we are.

In 1990, Berkeley psychology professor Philip Cushman described the empty self theory as a post-World War II approach to how we think about ourselves.

“By this I mean that our terrain has shaped a self that experiences a significant absence of community, tradition and shared meaning,” Cushman wrote.

Cushman said that, on the inside, the empty self experiences social absences and their consequences as a lack of personal conviction and worth. Instead, it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger. Because the post-World War II self is empty, it unconsciously strives to acquire and consume in order to compensate for what’s been lost.

A 2012 study found a correlation between celebrity worship, materialism and compulsive buying. All three were linked to lower self-concept clarity and lower levels of well-being, supporting the empty self theory.

Modern American society is, in essence, empty. Though we preach individualism, we miss out on that sense of self that comes from tradition and, more importantly, community.

That’s where our celebrity worship comes in. In 2002, researchers concluded that celebrity worship is linked to a search for a solid identity and social role.

The empty self strives to find meaning in something. For example, most of the people who know me likely associate me with Taylor Swift.

Since I was 15, I’ve touted her music as my absolute favorite, wearing the fan name “Swiftie” as a badge of honor. My love for Taylor Swift is well-documented, culminating in the purchase of a single nosebleed seat for my first major arena concert this summer “just for the experience.”

Like the empty self theory says, my idolization stemmed from my 15-year-old self’s search for identity. When I moved to a new state and a new school, I found solace in something familiar, and it’s stuck with me.

However, in the three long years between ‘1989’ and ‘Reputation,’ I had to find other things to fill my empty self. Instead of finding another thing to obsess over (okay, maybe along with finding several new obsessions), I learned to look outside myself for a sense of who I was.

I found community on campus through new friendships and organizations. I filled my time with creative writing rather than too much social media. Once I started building my days around things of real substance, my own self-concept grew stronger. Without Taylor, I was still a whole person.

Now that Taylor Swift is stepping back into the spotlight, I’ve integrated her music back into my daily routine. However, she doesn’t hold that coveted top spot anymore. The most important person in my life is none other than my own empty self.

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t fill yourself up with celebrity culture. Let it be a snack but not a full course meal. Fill yourself with things of substance- friendships, hobbies, the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

You can always check Twitter later. Your first allegiance is to yourself. What’s most important is that you build yourself into the person you want to be, not a shallow imitation of someone “famous.”

Related Links

New York Times: Inequality and the Modern Culture of Celebrity

International Journal of Culture Studies: The celebritization of society and culture: Understanding the structural dynamics of celebrity culture

Psychology Today: Why We Are Obsessed with Celebrities

“I’m Your Number One Fan”— A Clinical Look at Celebrity Worship