What We Can Learn From Celebrities on Social Media

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

Thanks to social media, fans and critics alike have access to celebrities’ lives -- or at least, the version of their lives that celebrities choose to curate online. It’s an insider’s viewpoint that before the advent of social media was simply not possible. Today’s celebrities post on Instagram, share on Facebook and tweet all kinds of insight and intrigue. As a parent or grandparent, you may not want your child or grandchild to follow the likes of a Kardashian, the escapades of Justin Beiber, the philosophical rantings of Kanye West, the applause and struggles of Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez, the perfection of Taylor Swift or the biting humor of Chrissy Teigen and Pink. Yet, despite your objections, they are.  And even if you banned them from following celebrities from their devices, they would still see it in a browser search, on a blog or on friend’s device.

And before you dig your heels in, take a step back and imagine if you could have had this kind of intimate and detailed access to your teenager celebrity crushes and obsessions. Be honest, wouldn’t you have clicked, followed, liked and commented? Alright then, let’s talk about what we can we learn from celebrities on social media: how they curate, how they respond to haters and most importantly, how and why they decide to take breaks from social media. This might be a classic ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ point of view. But if your kids are following celebrities and important life lessons can be gleaned from these accounts, then use it to your advantage. Getting involved in your kid’s digital lives can start by discussing the celebrities they adore on social media.

First and foremost, let’s start here: Most celebrities do not manage their own social media accounts.

Agencies and consultants may define the overarching strategy, professional photographers may be on-call to capture the ‘it’ shot and low-level employees may manage the day to day content, even responding to messages. It takes a team, sometimes a very large team, to craft a professional social media presence. The ordinary person attempting to replicate what celebrities do online would be sacrificing a huge investment of time, at the expense of, um, actually living life. The perfection that many celebrities craft, it’s not real. You cannot replicate in real life what is essentially a fiction. Understanding this should help young people on social media temper their attempts to replicate what their favorite celebrities do online. Understanding this should also offer some words of caution. You may think you are getting a response from a celebrity (and some do respond to fans) but you could also be responding to a staffer with suspect motives. Remind your kids, you may follow celebrities but if you don't know them in real life, they should not be following you!

Some celebrities get ‘the special sauce,’ they know how to be authentic without over-sharing.

These celebrities understand what fans want to see online and create an intimate space without revealing too much about themselves. Over-sharing is likely one of the greatest offenses on your social media feeds right now. While we may disagree about what is too private to share as an adult on social media, we certainly want to cultivate a sense of privacy in our kids’ social media profiles. But our kids want to be liked and they want to be followed. Talking to your child about admired celebrity accounts (Rihanna, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have been applauded for their captivating but tightly controlled social media presences) and diving into what makes them interesting to your child, may help them understand how those observations can translate into what they present about themselves online. Help them to see that celebrities value their privacy. Rumor has it (OK, Ed Sheeran spilled the beans) that Beyoncé changes her email address weekly!

Celebrities stop and think before they post too.

A recent article in Cosmopolitan said “No celebrity is ever too big or famous for professional social media assistance. Scooter Braun, who manages your faves like the Biebs [and formerly Ariana Grande] and as of this year, Kanye West, says he often get calls from them checking to see if certain messages or photos are kosher.” This means that your child, even if they are not asking you for your opinion before they post, should at the very least pause and ask themselves, ‘what would Mom or Grannie think about this post?’ SIDE NOTE: Just a day before writing this blog, Kanye reportedly fired his entire management team, including Scooter Braun via a truly epic twitter rant (as of press time, it has not ended yet). Point being, celebrities may not always follow sound advice and they can fire and rehire their management teams at will. Parents and grandparents can’t be fired. And the internet has an excellent memory. Celebrities can weather social media missteps better than you or I can. And as you know, if you are a celebrity, even bad news is good publicity.

Celebrities are not role models.

Word has it that Kim Kardashian manages all of her social media accounts herself. And, if you have not noticed, many of her posts lack what you assume will ALWAYS be featured on your child’s posts…clothes. Kids need to understand that they are not celebrities and that their choices online can come back and bite them in the A$$. Emily Tatajkowski, a Victoria Secrets’ model, is also well-known for her minimal attire online. She and Kim may defend their pride in their bodies but the reality is that they are earning money from their online presences. It’s not a philosophical debate that they are engaging in by getting naked online. It's a brand and they are making money off their online choices. Tatajkowski recently told Vanity Fair, "I'm making money via social. That's a huge part of my income, and if that wasn't there, then I would be taking every movie that was offered to me. My career could be in a much different place." Their posts are often endorsements for brands or a method of staying relevant for future projects. So, unless you are celebrity making six figures and more for an oft-colored post, keep it clean.

Celebrities feel the love but they really feel the hate on social media.

 With enough followers to populate a large metropolitan city, celebrities feel the sting - more like a missile attack - of negative feedback from haters on a regular basis. And things can get personal, fast. From the truly offensive to the bigoted and abusive, celebrities on social media must endure an onslaught of unfiltered negativity. Sure, followers who behave this way can be blocked -- and that’s likely what we would encourage our kids to do if faced with this type of negativity (right?). But some celebrities seem to have a little more freedom than you or I have to respond to haters (with a bit of dark humor). Seeing how these celebrities fight back is downright inspirational. It’s worth mentioning that celebrities who have struggled with anxiety and other mental health issues -- from Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato -- have publicly made the connection between their health issues and their relationships with social media. Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling unhappy? Ask yourself how social media plays a role in your well-being.

 Celebrities take social media breaks.

Sometimes it’s a forever break. Often though, it's a temporary reprieve. When asked why, celebrities will share that they made a mistake online and need to keep a lower profile. Or social media feedback upset them and they didn’t like how they responded, or didn’t like how they wanted to respond or didn't like how the exchanges made them feel. Others just sometimes find keeping up with this alternate version of reality a little exhausting. Some celebrities temporarily take themselves off social media when they have other things going on in their lives that demand focused attention. The point is that its ok to take a break. Your life, your friendships and your work all go on.

Here’s the thing about social media. An obsession with it leads to basing your self-esteem on the number of likes you receive for a post or the number of followers you have. Our young people center their needs for an emotional connection in social media - where zero emotional connections are actually made. You can find yourself feeling lonely yet ‘surrounded’ by friends and followers. For celebrities, this cycle is only magnified. After all, their careers and financial stability seem linked to their social media profiles. So, when a celebrity announces their struggles with social media, it’s their humanity that’s showing - not their superhuman strength, talents or good looks that made them a celebrity. It’s in this most authentic moment, where we can truly say, celebrities are just like us. And it’s an excellent moment to learn from them.

Talk to your kids or grandkids about social media balance. Maybe slow it down as a family. See how you lead your life without documenting everything on social media and then ask yourself if ‘social media light’ is more authentic and which version makes you happier. Don't let social media create a version of you based on others. Live for you, keep it real and live without comparison.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.