Many of us follow the lives of celebrities with an enthusiasm which borders on the fanatical. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and etc… We do not know these people and in most cases we have never met them. Those people sure don’t know we exist. But what are we really doing when we tune in to E!TV or buy the latest edition of People? And why do we give them so much of our precious time? In this article we will discuss reasons people are so interested in celebrity gossip.
People are hardwired
It seems that normal people are hardwired to worship and gossip about famous people. They have done it throughout history. For example, women threw their underwear at the 18th Century composers Chopin and Liszt, and the ancient world lauded great warriors. According to social psychologists, the reason we do it, is that, back during our evolutionary development, learning about the members of our immediate social network increased our chances of survival.
Knowing who could be counted on to provide help, who might betray you or who was available as a mate gave you an edge over your contemporaries at a time when people lived within more immediately connected social networks. However, today, for most of us, survival is not questionable, and for some reason we still do it.
The reason is our evolutionary heritage. People still do it and the only difference is that now our group is not just our immediate social network. Our groups also include pseudo group members, those famous people we see every day whenever we turn on the TV, open a magazine or browse the internet – celebrities. It seems logical that observing the behavior of celebrities might have benefits – maybe we can learn enough to rise to their level. At least that is one take on the today’s mania for celebrity gossip. However, there are other suggested reasons for our interest in lives of famous people, too.
As opposed to those we only observe, within the group of people we do actually know and interact with, celebrity gossip play an important role. It gives us something to talk about, a common interest, and by doing so facilitates the development of social bonding and trusting relationships, which is another necessity for survival, even in our modern society.
Desires and drivers
Our own desires play an important role, too. Famous people symbolize our hidden wishes for beauty, validation, invincibility, immortality, fame, wealth… Our observation of their lives reinforces notions of possibility and transformation, the idea that one day our lives might change for the better. It could happen to us, if it happened for them.
However, there are darker driver of celebrity worship, such as lack of identity, boredom, loss of religion, and social fragmentation. In an increasingly fragmented society, in which people suffer greater levels of isolation from common goals and beliefs, celebrity gossip and worship fills a void. It usually provides an escape from the mundanities of daily life and, in some cases, replaces traditional value systems with its promise of transformative status and wealth, and vision of an earthly paradise.