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Celebrity Worship Syndrome: Do you Have it?

May 14, 2012 10:05 am

By: Hyacinth Mascarenhas

Do you wake up to check a celebrity’s twitter feed right as you get out bed? Do you wonder what the Kardashians are having for breakfast? Do you know more about the latest Academy award winners than the presidential election results in France?

Society has always been interested in the most talented, beautiful and successful of our times, from real people like Elvis Presley and Brad Pitt, to fictional celebrities like Edward Cullen and Harry Potter. But are we crossing the fine line into a celebrity-obsessed society?

Every week, billions of people tune in to their favorite reality television shows from the Jersey Shore to tabloid shows like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight to find out what their favorite celebrities are up to. While most plead guilty to these charges (including myself), there are others who consider these their major “news” for the day.

Rather than picking up a copy of the New York Times, people are more likely to pick up any one of the wide variety of celebrity publications at the grocery check-out counter.

According to National Publicist Director R.J. Garis, the media does play a role in promoting this trend, but is still based on reflecting public interest.

“Shows and publications that focus on celebrity driven material tend to get far greater ratings and readership,” said Garis. “In a money-driven industry, you have to sell to survive. The media is just responding to what the public is buying.”

While fans may range from the regular movie-buff to the full on paraphernalia collector, experts have coined the term Celebrity Worship Syndrome, an obsessive-addictive mental disorder where a person becomes overly obsessed with the details of a celebrity.

According a study conducted by Dr. John Maltby, there are three types of CWS ranging from “mild affection” to “hard-core CWS sufferers.” Maltby’s findings, published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, also show that people suffering from CWS may do it for more than just entertainment. Some do it to create and maintain a bond with a celebrity even so far as to die for them.

Additionally, the study of around 700 people aged 18 to 60, also found that 22 percent of the sample had the low-level form of CWS as opposed to the 2 percent of people who did possess the more serious, “borderline pathological” form of the syndrome.

From icons such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe to today’s guilty tabloid pleasures such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, society has always been fascinated by celebrities.

Jake Halpern, journalist and author of Fame Junkies, however, says this trend has grown with the advancement of media and technology.

“There are so many more news outlets that make these stories both instantly available and ubiquitous,” said Halpern. “Even if you don’t care about Paris Hilton, unless you are living in seclusion in Himalayas, you end up hearing or reading about her.”

Socially media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter also provide people with a more personal view of their favorite celebrities, and allow fans to feel a closer connection to them.

While popular news outlets on Twitter such as CNN have 4.4 million followers, they still pale in comparison to celebrity twitter feeds such as Kim Kardashian who have a whopping14.4 million followers.

“It’s fine to be interested in your favorite stars and to occasionally follow their posts, etc., but it should always remain a casual interest, not a priority,” Garis said.

Everyone has their own favorite reality TV show or follows at least one celebrity on Twitter, and it’s completely normal to do so. Keeping it an interest and not an obsessive need, however, is key to maintaining a healthy balance of interests.

Is this growing obsession with celebrities a cause for concern, or is it simply a part of our personalities and mindsets as humans?

“If the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is check a celebrity’s Twitter or Facebook posts — that is a signal you have crossed the line. If you are out with your family or friends and find yourself constantly checking in with celebrities via your smart phone, that’s another sign,” Garis said.

Perhaps the media should pay more attention to what the public should know, as opposed to exclusively what they want to know. Just because a child loves and wants cookies all the time, doesn’t make it the smart, healthy or responsible choice.

“I think a great deal of important news, inspiring stories and information are being lost because the media is using up too much airtime and print space on celebrity related material. I think our society is being damaged and deprived as a result,” said Garis. “If the sign on my door said magician instead of publicist, I would change that.”

 

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