The Dangers of Deifying Celebrity Opinions

Being drawn to charismatic individuals is a basic part of humanity as a species. Depending on your views on evolutionary psychology, this is perfectly reasonable from an animalistic sense. The most popular among us wields a strong social position, which we unconsciously can interpret as making famous individuals worthy of respect. The real world isn’t so black and white, however, where this deification can lead us down roads contradicted by facts and decency.

Celebrities are Just People

The difference between the average person and a celebrity is a level of talent in one or more areas and a megaphone. Sometimes this talent can be world-class, marking the person as a genius that few others could ever match. The problem is that genius is often narrow in scope, but their audiences don’t see it that way.

Even the banalest sayings, when spoken through the mouth of someone famous, can be interpreted as something more. Shared through memes and social media, fans can gather behind celebrities, praising them and heralding them as sort of deep-thinking philosophers. Sometimes, of course, advice given can be truly helpful and insightful, but just as often it can be vapid and shallow, then elevated to an undeserved position.

celebrity opinion Elon Musk

Elon Musk” (CC BY 2.0) by dmoberhaus

Most commonly, dangerous and incorrect positions are boosted when given moral or political weight. This can then fall under the purview of fake news revolving around certain individuals as pointed out by ExpressVPN. Sometimes these associations are basic misunderstandings or rumors, but other times they can signal boost factually incorrect assumptions. Elon Musk is a famous example of this, as a man famous for making many misleading claims, including predictions on Covid, automated driving functionality, space flight, underground highways, and much more.

The Feedback Loop

The reasons why celebrities continue down paths of disinformation are myriad and complicated, but like their followers, they do tend to center on a basic human need. As humans, celebrities love to be respected and heard. PsychCentral notes a lack of approval as being linked to low self-esteem, whereas the opposite can help us feel secure, respected, and confident. To most of us, the respect of our family and friends is usually enough, but celebrities see respect on a level most of us can’t comprehend.

To a celebrity, thousands or millions of people might hang on to their every word, holding them up and pushing them forward. To fans, this creates a type of parasocial relationship. As described by VeryWellMind, this lets the audience feel like they know and are involved with a famous person. For the celebrity, ego, and acceptance are fed, leading them to engage more with their audience, and espouse opinions that a dedicated audience will continually support as a genius. Both sides grow this way, and with alternative thinking being filtered out by pressure to conform, an echo chamber forms.

celebrity opinion via instagram app

Instagram and other Social Media Apps” (CC BY 2.0) by Jason A. Howie

The endgame of deifying celebrity opinions is that, eventually, many will reach a breaking point. With unchecked egos and no need for a factual basis, claims can grow increasingly outrageous until a breaking point is reached. So, what is the takeaway? Respect accomplishments, but understand that everybody is as flawed and prone to erroneous thinking. If we uncritically follow the voices of uninformed or ill-reasoned celebrity opinions we can signal-boost dangerous misinformation and bullying. In the age of social media, we need to hold ourselves to a higher level than that, where the merit of an opinion is based on facts that support it, not on who said it.

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