They’re everywhere. They’re on your smartphones, your tablets, and your computers. They’re scattered throughout the pages of all magazines and featured on every television and movie screen in the world. It sounds like a riddle about the government or about some nasty bacteria that has yet to plague us all, but rather it’s about something far less threatening. The “they” in this riddle is referring to celebrities. They are our entertainment on all platforms and by staying updated with them, we are always bearing witness to their actions.
Though celebrities may be incredibly easy to find through social media, movies, television shows, or magazines, they are not as easily encountered in real life – but if and when they are, it is an important moment. Seeing a celebrity out on the streets or in a restaurant usually calls for some type of documentation. People will take pictures on whatever device they can get ahold of the fastest and will do so indiscreetly or not. They will take to social media and share with all of their followers that they just encountered a celebrity. It doesn’t matter if they’ve met the star or merely just walked by them on the street, people make every encounter completely public.
People post pictures, statuses, and tweets of their celebrity sightings because they believe it will give them a sense of status. Their followers and friends will likely believe them, especially if it is a picture, and then they will receive a lot of positive feedback, whether it be likes, comments, or retweets. Many people who take photos of the celebrities they see or are with often do so because of the mentality they possess. They believe that they need to prove themselves to people – that only texting a friend saying, “I saw Justin Bieber” doesn’t lend itself enough credibility, but instead, they need to prove it. Those who do not take a picture or couldn’t take one for whatever reason, state their encounter publically via a simple tweet, for example, hoping that people will just believe them because they were willing to make themselves vulnerable by posting something that is not necessarily backed by evidence. There are always people who believe the words of someone else, but then there are of course others who need the actual evidence before showing any kind of excited or jealous reaction.
There are also celebrity sightings that are rather a shared experience by the public, as opposed to an individual’s encounter or witness. This is something much more common, as we are acting as the regular, everyday people (or plebeians, to be dramatic) we’re supposed to be and just admiring these celebrities from afar. Together, we bear witness to celebrities doing “celebrity things” nearly everyday. We do this by purchasing tabloid magazines, following celebrities on Twitter, following magazine publications on Twitter, watching entertainment talk shows, and even watching popular awards shows. We discuss all aspects of the celebrities and their lives – from the latest crazy or shocking stunt they’ve pulled to even the trivial things, like what they’re wearing or their new haircut. It’s like we are all so obsessed with those who are famous, yet they have never and most likely will never think about us. We talk about celebrities like we know them, but in reality, we do not know them at all. We only know the things that the magazines share with us and the little bits of info that are revealed in an interview. And yet, despite not knowing who these people really are, we make them a part of our everyday lives somehow. We actually take interest in the things that they do and often make them a topic of conversation.
One popular example where we have all collectively “experienced” a celebrity event is Ellen Degeneres’s epic selfie from this year’s 2014 Academy Awards ceremony. The selfie was posted on Ellen’s Twitter on the night of the event and quickly spread throughout Twitter, reaching over one million retweets and favorites. The photo includes Ellen, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Lawrence, Jared Leto, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Lupita and Peter Nyong’o, and Bradley Cooper who is taking the selfie. The tweet has now reached 3,429,259 retweets and 2,020,148 favorites, which breaks the record for “most popular tweet of all time” after Obama’s photo of he and Michelle Obama after he was reelected for another four years. Ellen’s star-studded selfie did not only make waves on social media, but it held the attention of many conversations for days to follow the ceremony. People could be found talking about the picture in the office, at school, to their friend, in class, or on the train: “Did you watch the Oscars last night?” “Did you see Ellen’s selfie?” “Do you know who’s in the selfie?” “How many retweets did it get?” Even if we didn’t watch the Oscars for ourselves, we know about the selfie, who was in it, and just how much feedback it received.
In addition to the Oscar selfie, we find ourselves sharing experiences over other events that are meant for celebrities-only. We may not be able to attend, but we make sure to watch from the comfort of our homes and share all the important moments together over social media, text, or in person. The most recent celebrity event that we all bared witness to was the MTV Movie Awards when Zac Efron took his shirt off after receiving the award for “best shirtless performance.” Yes, that is an actual award and with the help of his acceptance speech, we understand why he won it. Immediately following the event, people took to Twitter to express their obsessions and profuse excitement. Again, it became another situation where it was significant enough to gain the attention of even those who did not witness it for themselves. If you happen to be among those who missed the show, you can see Zac Efron’s shirtless self on YouTube, Twitter, or even with a simple Google search – and you can watch it over and over again, as you wish.
While annual celebrity gatherings and award shows always turn out the most interesting events, we still maintain a steady update with our favorite A-listers in other ways. A popular person to follow is Kate Middleton. She’s considered a style icon and many fashion publications are always posting images and articles of her latest outfits, where she wore it to, and maybe where Kate found the fashion inspiration. Magazines will often caption a tweet with something like, “Find out what Kate Middleton wore on her royal tour!” or “Did you hear what the Duke and Duchess did in New Zealand?!” The magazines use these headlines because they are sure they will attract people’s attention because they want to keep up with the celebrity’s latest happenings and remain “in the know.” It’s another way for us to feel like we’re right there with them, although we’re thousands of miles away, essentially stalking their lives behind our computer screens.
We may never meet a celebrity or take a trip with them on their tour around the world, but we will always know what’s going on. With the ability to look up their name on any social media platform, we can discover the “who, what, when, where, and why” of just about anything we could want to know. If something epic happens, we’ll hear about it – and we’ll talk about it like we were there, too. Our interest (and sometimes, obsession) with following celebrities has brought us to another level of bearing witness. We can witness anything they’re up to, no matter where we are. We’ll post it, share it, like it, and talk about it, forever remembering it and making it a part of our lives.