People who are obsessed with celebrities are more likely to engage in addictive use of social media, according to new research from Eötvös Loránd University and Pázmány Péter Catholic University. The findings have been published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media.
“In the past few decades, a celebrity-fan relationship has been considered a one-sided, delusional emotional bond. Recently, social networking sites opened an avenue for a more direct, reciprocal communication between celebrities and their fans,” the authors of the study told PsyPost.
“Previous research suggests that individuals who admire celebrities have poor social skills and are at a greater risk of engaging in compulsive behaviors. Drawing on these findings, we were interested in exploring the connection between celebrity worship and social networking sites use habits. We assumed that celebrity worshippers may be more prone to become addicted to social media and pursue adverse friending practices (e.g., promiscuous friending) on social networking sites.”
The researchers surveyed 437 Hungarian adolescents and adults between 14 and 63 years of age regarding their social media habits, celebrity worship, and other factors. As expected, they found a link between celebrity worship and problematic social media use. In other words, participants who agreed with statements such as “I often feel compelled to learn the personal habits of my favorite celebrity” also tended to agree with statements such as “I have become restless or troubled if I have been prohibited from using social media.”
“Our findings suggest that individuals with an excessive admiration towards a celebrity are more likely to experience symptoms of problematic social networking sites use than those who are not so dedicated fans of their favorite celebrity. This result might indicate that some fans embed their favorite celebrity in their virtual social network in an attempt to bridge the gap between the desired fame, celebrity life and their own lives, hence reducing the discrepancy between the admired celebrity and their own selves,” the authors of the study explained.
“This process might maintain the psychological absorption with the favorite celebrity and can enhance the risk of addiction, according to the Absorption-Addiction Model proposed by McCutcheon and colleagues (2002). Our findings highlight the importance of identifying risky social networking sites use patterns in individuals with a tendency to become fascinated by celebrities in order to prevent them from developing an obsessive, deleterious admiration towards a celebrity.”
But the findings indicate that problematic and addictive social media use — not social media use in general — is associated with celebrity worship. The amount of time spent on social media sites, active use of multiple social media platforms, and social media friending practices were not predictive of high levels of celebrity worship. “This result might indicate that online interactions can compensate for loneliness or deteriorated social relationships for celebrity worshippers,” the researchers said.
The causal relationship between problematic social media use and celebrity worship is unclear.
“Longitudinal research would be needed to explore the direction of association between celebrity worship and problematic social networking sites use. Our study used a cross-sectional research design, which does not make it possible to ascertain directionality,” the researchers said.
“Therefore, it is possible that admiration towards a celebrity leads to addictive use of social media as fans search for additional details of the personal life of their favorite celebrity, but it is also plausible that addictive tendencies elevate the risk of developing compulsive feelings towards a famous person. Future research is needed to gain a more nuanced picture of the mechanism underlying this association.”
The study, “A New Avenue to Reach Out for the Stars: The Association of Celebrity Worship With Problematic and Nonproblematic Social Media Use“, was authored by Ágnes Zsila, Róbert Urbán, Lynn E. McCutcheon, and Zsolt Demetrovics.