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Celebrity Influence On Youth

A celebrity poses for the camera, a picture that young girls will try to emulate soon afterIt shouldn’t come as a surprise to many reading this that celebrities have more influence over how we think, how we develop as individuals and how we view ourselves, then they probably should. In 2018, and indeed for the past few years, and next few, it has been and will continue to be difficult for young people to find an identity that is meaningful to them. There are a multitude of causes, political beliefs, new religions and ways of thinking that bombard us on social media every minute of every day. Save the forests! Be a libertarian! Try the only meat diet! Don’t believe everything you read, the 8 reasons the internet lies to you!

There’s a great deal going on, and with the steady decline of “traditional” ways of thinking in the west, people look to believe in something, or someone. Who exactly? Well that’s very individualized, but for many young girls at least, it seems to be female celebrities. Before anyone rolls their eyes and thinks to themselves: “why listen to anything one of those showoffs has to say?” consider a few things. Female celebrities, while they do represent an unattainable body image, outwardly appear to have everything going exactly right. They represent the life goals of many young people nowadays. They are often beautiful, stylish, well traveled, are financially independent, are treated with respect, live in gorgeous homes, never wait for anything and people talk about them often. All of these things have two sides to them, of course, and most are outward projections and not reality. It’s important, though, to see it from the perspective of a young woman or girl who has so many opinions and beliefs thrown at her every day. She wakes up, checks her Instagram or what have you, and sees a post featuring an attractive man or woman hugging a sea lion with an animal rights one-liner caption over the image, next she sees a cooking video on how to make delicious vegan lunches, followed by one of her more politically inclined friends sharing a post about how Donald Trump is the best president since Abe Lincoln and then toss in a few click bait articles specifically targeted to young women and teens claiming that if you drink mango juice your face will glow and hey here’s a coupon for plastic surgery with a link that leads nowhere.

Human beings love role models. Maybe it brings us peace of mind to think that there is always someone doing better than us, being more interesting than us and saying the things we wouldn’t think to say. The problem with this is that, as people, we become overzealous. We defend our role models to the ends of the earth and emulate them to such extremes that they aren’t just role models anymore they are gods that can do no wrong. So when a celebrity is arrested with a big bag of cocaine, high as the sky and yelling racist nonsense at police officers, we can’t condemn them because we’ve spent so much time idolizing them. Our beliefs would be shattered and too quickly so we double down and defend the behavior, and in doing so try to normalize things that are unhealthy and bad for us like drugs and addiction. It seems half of Hollywood has some kind of addiction that plagues them, and the only way celebrities can cope is to “Speak out” or “tell their story”. In doing so they inadvertently glorify the behavior and gain sympathy, while not telling us that the only way they got healthy again was to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at resort style rehabilitation facilities that would bankrupt just about everyone shy of George Clooney.

A young woman poses for her Instagram feed because she wants to be a celebrityDo celebrities cause young girls to become addicted to drugs? I couldn’t say, so it would be irresponsible to say yes. Others would argue that they do, and many would say no. What does seem to be true, however, is that young people see a life without consequences and how even if they were to become addicted to drugs, people will still bend over backwards for them and that there are special treatment places you can go to do some “self healing” to fix all of your problems. Treatment centers are remarkable places where a whole lot can be accomplished, but to glorify the need for it is not something that should be encouraged. Life has consequences, even for those who seem beyond their reach. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, a fundamental law of physics, and it applies to many other parts of our lives as well. Looking to celebrities on occasion can be healthy and helpful, but to have someone in Los Angeles quasi raising our young girls through Twitter and Instagram posts is probably not what anyone really wants.

For all the younger readers out there, you’ll know what this next bit means. TL;DR: (Too long, didn’t read)

Celebrities make sense as role models at a very base level, and they can actually be incredibly helpful in raising awareness to things like addiction while reducing the stigma, but it’s important for the people directly involved in the lives of young people to reason with them and encourage them to think for themselves as much as possible. No one person should be our identity, because unlike the myths and legends of the past, celebrities are simply people, and people will always be and have always been flawed. Flaws make up a huge part of what is unique and important about us, but it’s fundamental that we keep in mind that some parts of us are positive and other parts negative. It’s how we form as individuals and how we grow.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals