When asked what they would like to be when they grow up, the top 5 responses by children were all in the entertainment industry. All of them careers that come with fame and celebrity in a culture that worships celebrities and their outrageous lifestyles. It makes sense that children and people, in general, would gravitate towards that. What we need to critically engage with especially in the age of social media when you are just a viral clip away from fame and celebrity is the dangers and negative effects that come along with it.
Top 10 careers children aspire to
In descending order, the top 10 things children would like to do career-wise when they grow up:
- YouTuber – 34.2%
- Blogger/vlogger – 18.10%
- Musician/singer – 16%
- Actor – 15.7%
- Filmmaker – 13.6%
- Doctor/Nurse – 13.4%
- T.V. presenter – 12.4%
- Athlete – 11.9% /Teacher – 11.9%
- Writer – 8.4%
- Lawyer – 6.4%
Advantages of fame and the celebrity lifestyle
Fame and celebrity generally come with or attract and create opportunities to make a lot of money. In a culture in which your quality of life is -all factors held constant- directly proportional to your bank balance, there is something to be said for a career that brings with it truckloads of money. The wealth porn the media subjects us to from luxurious homes and cars to expensive clothes and other materialistic pleasures also draws us in, adults and children alike.
Celebrities get special treatment everywhere they go. Who wouldn’t want that? Then there’s the recognition everywhere they go and the ego boost that comes with that and fan adoration. Fame and celebrity ensure that you are seen and acknowledged, maybe even publicly loved in a culture in which many people feel less and less seen.
Negative effects of fame and celebrity
Emotional stress and unrealistic expectations
Fame and celebrity increase your visibility. While this visibility can boost your opportunities to make money, it can also have extremely negative effects. Being in the public eye opens you up to people’s comments, opinions, and expectations. All these diverse opinions about your life, criticism of you, and expectations about your conduct can cause extreme emotional stress. Most comments are also often cruel and insensitive because of the anonymity of social media.
Social media in particular is fertile ground for bullying. Content creators whether children or adults have to deal with opinions and criticism about everything from their appearance to how they sound and everything in between. You end up in a situation where you are constantly forced to play a part in order to stay on the right side of things with your audience.
Fame is fickle so you can’t afford to mess up or hold any contrary views for fear of losing it all. This pressure to maintain a certain acceptable public persona can result in psychological conditions like anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, depression, and chronic stress.
For people who edit their own videos, there’s the constant finding of flaws in your appearance as you compare yourself to others who are considered conventionally beautiful. Human beings are not designed to withstand the onslaught that comes with having your life exposed to all and criticized by all and sundry.
Commodification and exploitation
The public knows more about what’s happening in the lives of their favourite celebrities than they know about current affairs. Sure, current affairs can be depressing and boring, but the media also increasingly focuses on sensationalism to drive traffic to their sites. For them, celebrities and the famous are commodities to exploit and profit from.
The media will share details whether public or personal, regardless of the negative light they may cast the person in, and sometimes even without any consideration about the veracity of the story. This is standard practice and one that is guaranteed if one achieves fame and celebrity.
It’s not just the media that tries to make money off you but also other opportunistic people and corporations around you. This engenders trust issues because you feel like you don’t know who you can reasonably trust and end up trusting no one. This commodification and exploitation that comes with fame and celebrity can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health.
Famous people are also subjected to extreme media coverage which brings with it an increase in anxiety and the fear of being stalked. Extreme media coverage and intrusion ensures that your life is not your own but other people somehow can claim ownership of it. This also exacerbates any mental health conditions present.
For children specifically
Fame and celebrity come even easier for children in the age of starting Instagram accounts for newborns. Children often do not consent to having their pictures and lives documented and shared on social media. Young children while they are still in their cute years can easily be manipulated and exploited by their parents for financial gain. They are forced to deal with overt and covert pressure to keep performing in the individual or family social media channel especially if it is profitable. There’s also no way to know how a child will respond to the pressures of fame and celebrity. Parenting: The Dangers Of Posting Your Children’s Photos Online
Contrary to the claims of social media, fame and celebrity is not all roses. If you find yourself gravitating towards a desire for fame, engage in some self-reflection to find out why that is the case. We are often programmed by society to desire things uncritically, things that upon further scrutiny we may even find we don’t really want.
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