Do You Wish You Were Someone Else?


Focusing on the trivial pursuits of celebrities has become a national pastime—the more banal the information, the better. So what's wrong with a little fantasy?

Have you noticed a trend in our culture, especially over the last fifteen years? Let me illustrate it with a few current news stories.

Have you heard of the film, “The Bling Ring?” It’s another story of a girl, played by Emma Watson, who’s so obsessed with celebrities she breaks into their homes and steals from them. The result? She lands her own reality TV show. It’s a picture of a growing obsession with celebrities and their scandalous lives.

Second, high school students were surveyed and asked the question: What would you most like to do in your career? Their top answers may surprise you:

  • 9.5% – Chose a chief of a major Company
  • 9.8% – Chose a Navy SEAL.
  • 13.6% – Chose a United States Senator
  • 43.4% – Chose the personal assistant to a famous singer or movie star

Becoming an assistant to a celeb was their top answer. They don’t want the pressure of being famous; just to be close to someone who lives that fairy tale lifestyle.

Third, online games like “Second Life” continue to attract attention among young people. These games allow a user to pose as someone else; living another life, with other homes, cars and possessions. Most choose some celebrity they admire. They get to live vicariously through an avatar. It’s a preoccupation with pretending to be someone else, perhaps a famous person, and live through them.

None of these realities are earth shattering. But they illustrate our growing obsession with fame, with being someone else who seems to have a better life. I am not sure if this expanding consumption is due to the fact that we’ve overdosed on other people’s Facebook pages, Instagrams, or Tweets and become envious of their lifestyle—but we seem to believe our life is boring when compared to other people. We want fame and intrigue, so we fixate on a person who seems to have it.

Why is this a growing trend? Social anthropologist Jamie Tehrani says it gives people a piece of what they want and feel they lack. Jamie likens it to “junk food for the mind.” Quick. Convenient, but not necessarily nutritious. Gorging ourselves on images of wealth and success appeal to our appetite for prestige. Bumble Ward, a long-time publicist, says, “It makes people feel better about their own lives. Focusing on the trivial pursuits of celebrities has become a national pastime. The more banal the information the better. They (celebrities) are more like us.”

What’s wrong with this?

It’s an irony, but in a day of bloating self-esteem—we don’t like our own lives enough to be content with them. They’re not glitzy enough. Many young people have bought into the notion that anything boring is bad. Routines are blue collar. We want our life to sparkle. My belief is—our lives can sparkle plenty, without being famous, if we choose to invest our time and energy well. But we have to shift our compass from the one the media in our culture has given us.

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