You feel like you know them personally. They retweet the things you tag them in, they post your fan art, they even sometimes reply to direct messages.
Who are “they”? They’re celebrities, and in this age of social media they are so exposed that many fans become immersed in their lives. So what do you do when your favorite celebrity decides to go dark?
Some cry. Some get angry. Some rant and rave and throw insults at the celebrity who has chosen a more private life. But why? Why do we become so obsessed with a public figure as to think that we should have a personal investment in their social media presence?
It could just be the power that social media has these days. Before, fan clubs set up special post office boxes for letters and gifts, and a representative for the celebrity would write or type up a form letter thanking the fan for their support. The celebrity might even personally sign these letters. And it was great. It was an outlet for fans to express their love of a particular person or character without too much invasion of the celebrity’s privacy (I am, for the purposes of simplification, not going into the ever-present paparazzi–that’s a factor that will likely never change).
Now, however, social media is a double-edged sword for celebrities. They can use it to gain a fan base, to connect with fans; they can wield it as a weapon against trolls and naysayers. The sword can cut the celebrity as well, though. Fans begin to develop personal feelings for the celebrity well past the old “posters on the bedroom wall” phenomenon. There is fanfiction, fanart, fan-made short YouTube films…fans are everywhere, often with no end in sight.
Some celebrities embrace this. They connect with fans on a personal level and are more than happy to post selfies and behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram, retweet messages that they are tagged in, even post personal thanks to their fans on Facebook. Some, though, become overwhelmed by the lack of a private life when social media saturation seeps into every crack and crevice, and they have to take time off–sometimes permanently. So what do you, as a fan, do about this?
It is okay to be a little upset. This person that you’ve come to admire has suddenly cut off their most direct line of communication, and that can hurt. I think that it is important to remember something, though: celebrities are people, too. You yourself may enjoy the limelight of social media. You may love that you have thousands of followers on your Twitter account or dozens of Facebook friends that you’ve never met. Keep in mind, though, that celebrities get it from all angles. They don’t get to just sit in obscurity and relax. The bigger the celebrity, the bigger the fan base, and the more incoming media they have to sort through. Granted, some employ assistants to handle that sort of thing. As with the fan clubs of old, they may never actually read the influx of tweets and messages. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their fans; rather, they simply don’t get much time for a life of their own when they have to manage so many accounts, feeds, or outlets.
Have your private time to “grieve,” so-to-speak. Let it out, but remember to let it go. It may upset your favorite celebrity to learn that fans feel hurt or betrayed by their social media blackout. For some it’s an easy choice to make, but for others it may have taken a lot of thought; they may have spent days or even weeks making the decision to cut themselves of the ties that social media so tightly binds.
We live in an age where we can connect to our favorite public figures with the click of a button. But don’t forget: they can disconnect with the click of a button as well….as they have every right to.