May 24, 2019 | 62° F

Social media, digital devices killed celebrity authenticity

Thinking back, it is quite difficult to remember what life was like before the technologies of today. How did we ever get around without a GPS or call to let our family know if we got caught in traffic and would be late for dinner? The generations to come will never know what it will be like to go a day without looking at a screen or scrolling through a social medium — to their disadvantage of course. Being born in ’95, I can still remember what it was like to spend endless hours playing outside with the neighbors or reading "The Magic Tree House" series in my spare time, as opposed to navigating my way through Netflix and Facebook like so many young kids do now. As the hands of time have moved forward, evidently, so has our knowledge of technology. This improvement, naturally, came with a few downsides to its many positives. As our understanding of computers and electronics flourished, society’s sense of self and worth devolved, in return.

Presently, we see social media used in many different ways, whether it is networking, advertising or even just keeping in touch with friends and family. These are all very practical uses. It allows people to be recognized in all of the ways that they want to be and even add to their connections and future successes. For instance, if you were to own a private practice or restaurant, your website could reflect all of the amazing aspects your business has that sets it apart from others, while also helping to create revenue. The best part about social media is that all of this self-promotion is free! Many times, a viral picture or link could be the reason for a person or place’s massive popularity — like a Buzzfeed feature on the best donut shops in New York or someone sharing an article on Facebook of the 15 food trucks that you must eat from in the city. Social media spreads the word quickly. We see the effects social media has on fame just by looking at the Instagram or Twitter posts that celebrities make everyday. Miley Cyrus, with 16 million Instagram followers and Kim Kardashian, with 27 million Instagram followers, rely vastly on the Internet to keep them famous. Have we ever thought how different pop culture was before social media though?

Artists and celebrities were more honest with themselves before the era of the Internet. It goes without saying that any person getting attention on TV, radio or magazines is going to need to build an image. But before the Internet, or iPhones to post selfies, or websites to share a brand, this image was much harder to keep up. It was most definitely more difficult to attain fame and keep it before social networking. Celebrities’ work ethics were more diligent, their fans were truer and the lack of ridicule and hate comments never diminished their sense of self. Because networking accounts were not in existence, it was less likely people would form a biased opinion on them, so they could, therefore, be true to themselves. If they were being publicly judged, only those reading People Magazine or watching Late Night were aware of it. Although social media and the Internet help to get someone’s name and talent out there, it can really disrupt the path of success. It is so easy for people to quickly make assumptions about others, without any real knowledge of the person, just by judging the things they post online. For instance, I dislike Taylor Swift solely based off of the things I hear about her on the Internet, when in reality, I know nothing about her. A reputation could be ruined in the blink of an eye with misunderstandings like this and it has been seen many times before in the entertainment business. Private matters are now shared publicly and sometimes virally without a second thought. I think now, being in the spotlight is a much more difficult feat to conquer because feedback is immediate and it is not always positive. Because we are all able to hide behind screens and keyboards, it is so easy to post ridiculous or even cruel comments on other people’s social media accounts. There are no consequences to this.

It is for this reason that people conform to an image they think others will like because the image they may want could receive negative feedback. We become what society accepts and praises — those that incessantly post crave the attention. They crave getting likes and comments and this does not just apply to celebrities. There’s a certain thrill that comes with posting something to a social network, waiting to see who will like it, or who won't for that matter. It takes a strong person to withstand this and ignore the nasty things that might be said about them online. After a while, we post what we think is bound to get the most attention, not just any old picture or tweet. All of these new websites and apps have turned us all into social media robots.

Epatia Lilikas is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in English and economics. Her column "Digital Canvas," runs on alternate Fridays. 

Epatia Lilikas

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