Can Celebrities Just Shake It Off, Shake It Off?

How social media has changed our relationship with celebrities

On the same day that Taylor Swift re-released her music on Spotify, Katy Perry dropped her new album, and a grand debate broke out in the office. It started with everyone taking sides; Are you Team Swift or Team Perry?

Both women are talented, but I feel more personally invested in Taylor. I follow her every move on Instagram. When she has friends over to her home on Rhode Island I want to be part of her #squad, and I feel disconsolate when she has a breakup. This personal investment in a celebrity’s habits, appearances, and personal life have risen to new heights because of social media, and to me, makes it harder to be a celebrity today.

Do you remember during the 80’s and 90’s when you would have to plan your afternoon or evening around seeing your favorite celebrity in a TV interview? Or your excitement when Tiger Beat magazine featured your favorite celebrity in a tell-all interview. Sure, you had some access to celebrities, but it took an enormous amount of effort to connect with your favorite singer or actress. The public relied on talk show hosts and TRL (Don’t worry, TRL is coming back this fall) to ask their favorite celebrities what they thought about the latest fashion trends, or their favorite vacation spots. Generally, you had no idea what they were eating for dinner or who they hung out with. Without social media, celebrities could lead relatively private lives and would only exist in the spotlight when they were promoting their most recent projects.

Today, celebrities live under a microscope. Not only are they followed by paparazzi, but they have pressure placed on them to make sure their “brand” is up to par. Some celebrities curate their Instagrams in artistic photos of their experiences, while others, like Demi Lovato, share personal struggles with fame and body image. Celebrities have more control than ever on what they share with fans and foes. They can be their biggest promoter — like Taylor’s Instagram overhaul for “LWYMMD,” connecting with fans on a new level. No longer do singers need a media outlet to give the exclusive play, they can bring it directly to their fans.

But the downfall to this intimate relationship with fans is that there is now an expectation. There was an expectation for Taylor to share information on her new album. There was an expectation for her to share her thoughts on her feud with Katy Perry. Taylor’s resistance to share has only brought her backlash. Today the pressure of being “famous” requires celebrities to live a lifestyle that was never demanded of them in the past.

The access that fans are exposed to has created a demand for 24/7 insight into their favorite singers, actors, and athletes. On one end, more exposure through social media has led celebrities to have the ability to create a more solid brand for themselves. A significant amount of revenue has been produced through this access, through celebrities promoting products. However this is only beneficial to both parties if the access comes about on the celebrity’s terms. As we seek to follow the rich and famous on more platforms, more frequently, we as a society must keep in mind that there is a line that has to be drawn at some point. We must respect that line as well as the celebrities privacy while appreciating what they choose to share.