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Celebrities, Fans & Social Media – From the Archives

July 23, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever really thought about celebrities? We talk about them all the time. Their names sell merchandise and tickets and air time. The perceptions on a narrow part of the entertainment world – country music – over the last five or so years have brought some interesting observations. Several times I’ve thought of writing this but until now put it off. Why now?

In many ways it seems celebrities are a “love-to-hate.” There’s always been the fanatical edge, which has led to the too-soon loss of Selena, John Lennon and others. There is the entitlement issue sometimes on both sides of the aisle. What most forget in the zeal to shred or worship is that there are real human beings behind those names. What most can’t imagine is if you were put under the same glare of the spotlight you would fail miserably.

No human being can be everything, say everything, and do everything to satisfy millions of people, even thousands or hundreds of people. Yet we the public demand they must. We hang on their tweets and even though they may say the same thing as 3,000 other people that hour THEIR comment is the one that will be picked up by the media in a further frenzy.

Pick the latest celebrity – there’s been several of late. Michael Vick has created more heat and venomous posts that even those who even hint at anything remotely in the solar system of moving on are flamed. Yes the accusations were horrible; yes he was convicted of and did terrible things. He served his time and satisfied the courts so…move on. Not! One forum I observed openly that he’s held in more disregard than someone unknown who killed a state trooper. Or even another celebrity who killed a person. That met with outright nasty comments of people killing people go to prison and killing cops gets the death penalty. Really…so why are the people behind BOTH of those incidents free in society now? Why is the hate for this celebrity so strong that there are kids, of another race I might add, doing the same thing on a regular basis but no one does anything about it? Indeed the public is so focused on shredding him they don’t even see the thousands of dogs killed daily because no one’s watching.

Further removed is a person targeted by the tabloids, one of many selected to run false sensationalized stories and often based on questionable “sources”. Twice the solution has been retaliation in the form of putting phone numbers, email and other contact info on the “writer” and inviting fans to turn the tables for a dose of unpleasant medicine. There have been times she’s questioned whether anyone would buy a magazine about celebrities with good stories and at least this person’s response was unanswered. From a writer standpoint many venders aren’t interested in good stories about celebrities it seems but there are some independent writers who are.

Of course there’s the double sword – the writers interested in doing positive articles and content are often shut out – it is impossible to get through the managers, handlers, companies, assistants and other people to DO one on the bigger ‘names’ in the news! On the other hand there are also people who will bend over backwards to accommodate writers to do a positive story.

However in the bigger picture there seems very much a difference between the “Hollywood” celebrities and celebrities in other areas such as music. There are many musicians, singers and entertainers who share their personal lives via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, events after shows as well as chats and many other ways of reaching out to interact with the fans who bought the cds and concert tickets. Even that has some risks and has some people unhappy with the result.

They don’t post enough or they’re not “nice” (are you nice all the time?!) or other criticisms. There is also the possibility that they do the same thing many of the rest of us do – post and walk off to do something, get interrupted and 15 minutes later remember and get back to the keyboard! Many share photos from the stage, some stream a show or two on the web for fans who couldn’t be there. More than any time technology has allowed fans to feel like we’re a part of celebrity’s lives but in that it’s hard to remember that as we type something back they may be getting 10 or 100 or 1,000 or 4,000 or 10,000 or more people typing something back also!!

Ever type something and not word it exactly right, then someone gets upset and hammers away for an hour over a minor infraction that means nothing in the big scheme of the world? Magnify that. Add in a heft dose of comments about how rude you are for not answering, how your opinion (which they wanted to hear!) is wrong, how they like the music but don’t like you. Add into that the long night traveling the night before, the soreness from a misstep and a wave of normal “stuff” we all hit. Now think about that for just a few minutes. Know when you type something someone is going to be unhappy – what do you do? If you answer random people there are others not happy because you don’t answer THEM. If you don’t answer anyone then you’re ‘unfriendly’ – which if it was true you wouldn’t be there! Step in their shoes for just a few minutes and watch.

The internet can be an awesome thing but too often it’s a source of hatefulness. There was a group of fans after one entertainer got married that actually verbalized he should have checked with the fans first. Another was raked over the coals for shaving and getting a haircut! Aren’t those personal decisions people?! Do you want to take a public opinion poll every time you change your hair color or cut your hair?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are those who argue that celebrities wouldn’t be where they’re at without people buying the cds and movie tickets and that is true. Most that I’ve talked to I promise you keep the fans in mind in most of what they do.Thoe who have built a presence online go out of their way to maximize their contact and dollars.

There are other people that say buying that cd or ticket gives them the right to have a say. Now hold that horse right there. When you buy a cd or concert ticket or movie ticket you’re entitled to the CD or the show – that’s it! No more. Many celebrities give freely of their time the very best that they can do but you really cannot please everyone.

Then there are the fans that outright cross the line to stalking or entering private space without an expressed invitation. If you have ever had that happen it’s the most unnerving thing you can imagine. To have someone you don’t know at your home because they “just wanted to say hi” or “just wanted to see the place” is beyond creepy. You don’t know their intentions or what they’re going to do and obviously boundaries are not something that they recognize.

Earlier this year country singer Gary Allen had to appear in court to end five years of stalking from someone who not only entered but damaged his home. Contact with a celebrity leads to accusations of being “led on” on the computer even from entertainers who are not online. Just because someone is online with a presence doesn’t mean it’s them. Web marketing is a factor for many but not all do it themselves. There are also many “fans” that have used people’s name other than their own.

Being questioned by the woman Gary Allen did get a restraining order against there seemed a passive aggressive line of questioning on several fronts. When questioned he said “it freaks me out” and “the whole thing scares me” and in the end he did get a permanent restraining order against the woman. It should never need to get that far for anyone.

Some fans in less public displays start battles with other fans vying for their object’s attention. It becomes a game rather than a human being on the other side of it and that’s where things go very wrong for all involved.

There is no reason anyone no matter what they do for a living need be subjected to this kind of attention. ‘Do unto others’ has not gone out of style! And on the other hand when it works well it’s awesome for what it is – a chance to cross paths with someone else. Whatever they give is a gift – and increasingly many hold contests, have special offers and other things for those who follow online.

It cannot be all things to all people. For the celebrities – thank you for the effort in view of the too-short days. For the fans – enjoy what you are given and don’t make it more than it is. It takes one person to spoil it for all when instead of supporting and fun it becomes dangerous. When you seek them out and don’t like what you see zip it – you don’t have to keep engaging!

If you look for the good in people you will find the good – and celebrities may have more people knowing their name, reading their books, singing their songs or watching them on the screen but they’re still people. Technology can work for both but remember common courtesy!

(Many intersections with agriculture here but that’s for another post!)

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