In a recent interview with Kajol for her upcoming movie ‘Helicopter Eela’, we spoke to her about how social media changes celebrity image.
She believes: “There’s a certain mystery, there is a certain mystique about the [older] film industry where you’re always looking at it like oh my god, they’re stars, literally from a different galaxy. So yes, that’s not there anymore, I don’t believe that’s there anymore, but today’s a different world, and today the more touchable you are, the more identifiable you are, the more relatable you are.”
Kajol’s statement holds true to an extent. Celebrities are more touchable but perhaps not more relatable. Times have changed and with that, new methods of scrutiny, and unfortunately, judgement have developed. And not every celebrity works to show the everyday, boring aspects of their life.
Connectivity has become misplaced in favour of perfecting the façade of a ‘Instaworthy’ life. For celebrities, image-focused apps present an opportunity to reinforce their brand, using PR contracts and product recommendation posts to promote partnerships. But those not living the ‘celebrity lifestyle’ end up perpetuating the cycle of image enforcement. Seeing celebrities ‘live their best life’ generates a need to post about gifts received, beautiful places travelled or experienced enjoyed. After all, these are the people we see live our fantasy lives in movies, and real life, through these very platforms of Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.
While cultivating celebrity image, social media works to also make people aware of their own online persona. Are my tweets the right mix of funny and witty? How will this photo fit into my feed? Which filter do I look best in? We’ve all thought it and we’ve all read the scary articles about social media addiction and, according to the stats, we’ve all happily continued to check our phones every 12 minutes.
Because the fact of the matter is that we want to please. We want our social media presence to show how exciting, hilarious and spontaneous our lives are compared to the mundanity of those who surround us. We strive to be the best of the ‘everyday’.
The grass isn’t quite greener on the other side however. Initially created to help people connect, these platforms can become toxic, filled with cyber bullying, online abuse and judgement. Being any kind of media influencer means being invested in the industry because your livelihood depends on it. This in turn means developing a thick skin, not just an ability to tweet or Instagram whatever will please the masses.
Social media and screen addiction are consistently discussed in the news, but often to the extent of being a ‘millennial problem’. The associated words in such shock articles are ‘toxic’, ‘harmful’ and ‘negatively impacting’ but it’s not as though people over the age of 37 don’t care about public image. Amitabh Bachchan’s Instagram anyone? For those who don’t know, we’ve been seeing Big B in a series of questionable, hipster beanie and hoodie combinations.
There is surely a bigger debate to be explored. What does it even mean to have a media image? To what lengths do we go to portray the best version of ourselves online? Does knowing the ins and outs of celebrity lifestyle really make our favourite stars more accessible?
Rather than bridging the gap between us and them, it might be that we are distanced more by the unobtainability of that lifestyle. Is being the best of the ‘everyday’ really all that it’s cut out to be?
By Riya Rana