It goes without saying that the public can never get enough of their favorite celebrities. The digital age has blurred the line between stars and their fans, sometimes erasing it altogether. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter make fans feel like they are close to their favorite celebs. Being able to see tweets and candid pictures allows fans to become part of the stars’ inner worlds.
The issues of authenticity that surround this sort of thing are interesting on a philosophical level. When an A-lister posts an iPhone picture to her Instagram account, the uninitiated may think that the star is genuinely reaching out to fans and sharing something special and candid with them. This may very well be true for many celebrities; it would be uncharitable to presume that most of them do not have a great deal of affection for their fans. However, it is short-sighted and naive to take these social media posts at face value. Authenticity can be deliberately cultivated as part of a celeb’s public image. This does not necessarily mean that the person isn’t genuine. It only means that the decision to post a seemingly off-the-cuff photo is likely part of a much more complex public relations effort.
Taylor Swift has mastered this method of marketing. She has an instinct for how to balance pictures of herself in expensive designer gowns with pictures of herself hanging out casually with her friends. Her brand depends on her fans wanting to be friends with her, and Taylor has wisely chosen to extend this limited form of friendship to them. She is giving them a peek into what she is presenting as her private life. It may really be her private life, or it may be an artfully constructed one. That difference may not even exist for someone who has been famous since she was a teenager.
For celebrities like the Kardashian sisters, maintaining active social media presences is even more crucial. For better or worse, these women have become pop cultural icons, and it is all due to clever promotion of their lifestyles. While many people claim to loathe the Kardashians, there are even more to strive to emulate them as much as possible. The Kardashian girls are the perfect embodiment of what it means to be glamorous, wealthy and famous in the year 2015. The popularity of the much-discussed contouring makeup technique is owed entirely to these women. In fact, young women have taken to Instagram to share their pictures of them wearing similar makeup. These heavily made-up girls are an Instagram sensation in their own right, to the extent that this approach to makeup and beauty is now known as the “Instagram look.”
Twitter is another social platform that celebrities use to communicate with their fans. Twitter is a bit easier to manage than Instagram is, since not everyone is able to take pictures that are both spontaneous and aspirational. There are a number of celebrities who have successfully used Twitter to increase their star power. Azealia Banks is a rapper whose music has yet to break through to the mainstream, but she has become “Internet famous” for her controversial tweets and her penchant for starting fights with other celebrities. Time will tell if she is able to use this notoriety as a springboard to broad fame.
Sometimes, people who only have tangential connections to the entertainment industry are able to garner impressive online followings. When a production tech like Harriet Stephens tweets about the normal minutiae of her day-to-day life, people read them obsessively to learn anything at all about what happens behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. Alison Freer, a movie stylist, is another non-celeb whose work with A-listers has garnered her an online following.
People will never stop wanting to feel somehow connected to the stars whose music, films and television shows have shaped their lives and consciousness. Social media gives them a tiny taste of that connection while also creating its own kind of contemporary celebrity.