Divya Venkattu dissects the case of parasocial crushes on celebrities.
There is a certain solace that comes with imagining yourself in an unattainable romance. No – I am not talking about your real-life crush who you have not yet confessed your feelings to; I am referring to the latest celebrity you’ve been shamelessly thirsting over. Whether you have been drooling over Timothée Chalamet’s droopy-eyed stills, or you cannot stop crushing on Penn Badgley’s famously attractive character – Joe Goldberg – despite him being a carnival of red flags (for starters, he is a murderous stalker), know that you are not alone. You are among the legions of fans on the internet who are star-struck and sending out thirst tweets like little prayers (except they’re kinky).
“There is a certain solace that comes with imagining yourself in an unattainable romance.”
For the unaware, thirst tweets are amusingly horny tweets shared by fans about their favourite celebrities that have led to loads of hilarious videos of the celebrities themselves reading these tweets. While most celeb crushes are based on appearances, there are also those based on personality quirks or talents. All of these, however, represent a larger social issue of the tendency towards forming parasocial relationships with celebrities.
Celebrity crushes have exponentially risen and changed in form with the advent of social media. Since celebrities use social media to engage with fans by posting pictures, videos, and going live, fans have more access than ever to get to know their idols and be fascinated by them. However, with increased access and chances of engagement comes the question of whether fantasising over our favourite celebs can become unhealthy if a boundary isn’t drawn. In various instances, celebrities have grown uncomfortable with the excessive amount of attention they receive. Despite all the intimate knowledge a fan may possess, the fan and the celebrity do not know each other, and would never. In one of comedian Bo Burnham’s live shows, a woman yells out “I love you” to which he immediately responds “no, you fucking don’t” in classic Burnham style.
“With increased access and chances of engagement comes the question of whether fantasising over our favourite celebs can become unhealthy if a boundary isn’t drawn.”
From the celebrities’ perspective, it is important to participate on social media to publicise their work, and to connect with followers to increase engagement rates; ultimately, this is a way for them to stay relevant and rake in the bucks. However, at times, some fans can go overboard and start idolising their favourite celebrities to the point of obsession. This comes across as problematic behaviour online, and is often intrusive, stealing both celebrities’ privacy and respect for their personhood. Even those celebrities who do not have any social media presence are not spared from the social media circus.
It is quite important to see celeb crushes purely for their entertainment value, as an amusing, imaginary love interest, but to never engage with them to the point where you start prioritising their life and activities over your own. Social media might offer picture-perfect snippets of their lives, but every person, celebrity or not, has several unglamorous aspects to themselves and their lives that will never see the light of the day, or make the headlines. It is time we recognise that by putting stars on a pedestal, we risk hero-worshipping them which, despite being the polar opposite of dehumanising someone, can be just as bad.