I’ll admit, I’m getting old. I grew up in a time where fan mail or a front row seat at a concert was probably the closest an average fan would get to their favorite artist. If Drake was around in 2007, I would have had to use my imagination to get creative about what his mama and his bed looked like. But alas, it’s 2018 and if I want to know what Drake’s mama, his bed and all of the girls he’s had in it and apologized to look like, my thirst for knowledge will be quenched with only a few scrolls down his Instagram page. We live in an Instagram Live/Snapchat kind of world, where you don’t need a monthly subscription to VIBE and an inquisitive journalist to get to know you favorite social figures a little bit better. The benefit actually goes both ways: Fans get to feel more closely connected to celebrities and hold real conversations with them, whether they’re singing their praises for the their work with repeated “praying hands” emojis or getting a vigorous GIF search on to find the perfect complement to their trolling comment. Celebs on the other hand have pretty much eliminated the need for a public relations consultant and instead of following the contrived and calculated formula that was once believed to be necessary for success, instead get to be their true authentic selves. On their best days this means making true connections with fans who now see perfection is an illusion and even Beyonce’ carries goldfish for her preschooler just like the rest of us regular moms. Social media also gives celebs the opportunity to put their put their flaws out in the open before the press does.
However, on worse days all of this access allows us to see the celebs behind the work we’ve come to know and love might actually be walking, talking dumpster fires. I mean in just a matter of months we’ve learned that the “leader” of our nation likes to be spanked with magazines by sex workers. Just this week we’ve seen Kanye West, a man who at one point could be credited with being the most creative man in hip-hop tweet that he wants to help “Make America Great Again.” Yes, the man who once rapped, “We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom,” is aligning himself with arguably the Cheeto-colored face of evil making all of us question his lyrics and his legacy. That’s beginning to be my issue with all of this access to the thoughts and opinions of public figures outside of the work they are known for. From Kanye to Bill Cosby, learning what my faves are like after the credits roll is shattering my romanticism for them entirely.
I’m not getting my Laura Ingram on and saying we should treat celebrities as mere puppets for our enjoyment like when she suggested NBA star Lebron James keep his lips closed on politics and “shut up and play basketball.” These are people with spouses, family, thoughts and feelings behind our favorite songs, movies and shows and it’s nice to see they live their lives much like we do except with a crap load of money and fame. But social media has eliminated many of the boundaries that allowed fans to be star struck. The magic and novelty of it all is gone. It’s understandable why many celebs choose to not participate in social media much. Honestly, mush of what makes a tweet from J. Cole so celebrated or a rare appearance from Jay-Z on social media so anticipated is because they aren’t on my timeline every five seconds telling me what they had for dinner, what clothes they bought today or their thoughts on latest Trump firing.
A recent Instagram post from “Motorsport” rapper Cardi B also shed some light on how this lack of distance between celebs and fans can be detrimental both ways. Cardi took to Instagram to express that when it comes to trolling and negativity, some forget that celebs have feelings too:
Cardi shares that social media has become a petri dish for negativity, hate and drama, Views, likes and follows have become a sort of social currency for users’ egos. While I agree that Cardi has a point that people need to check their humanity and not allow themselves to be desensitized since every social interaction now occurs via wi-fi, I want to repeat: I grew up in a time where Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson both had huge careers with nary a follower, story or tweet. Social media is not food, air or water. If trolls and negativity are destroying your self-esteem, well-being and sense of self, it’s time to log the hell off. Many celebs today have built their whole careers on Instagram and it’s naïve to believe that the same platform that allowed you to gain fame won’t at some point be a way for those who aren’t fans to express how much they believe you, your work, and your mama too collectively suck. Is it right? No, but people have agendas. While you’re busy promoting your new single, GetItRightTasha215 is creating chaos in your comments because she wants followers and blog hits too, and while it’s a jerk move, she won’t be the first and she damn sure won’t be the last.
The thing is whether you’re a reality show star or a realtor, and whether your friends nave been right by your side since middle school or you’re a mere video chat from stranger in Singapore away, when you eliminate barriers and give people all-access to your life, thoughts and feelings, not everyone who comes through is going to be your biggest fan. As much as I can appreciate the raw, real moments that some celebs choose to share that make them human, I’m all about distinguishing between the moments that are meant to be shared with the world and the moments when my privacy needs to be protected. So as great as it is that Tyrese in tears over the tumultuous relationship with his daughter starts a conversation about the commitment of fatherhood and the importance of mental health, we all need to remind ourselves that when we hit the record button, every viewer isn’t coming with support and understanding.
I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as much as anyone else. Although it drains me of my productivity regularly, it’s allowed me to connect with other writers, entertainers and fellow hardcore Drake fans in a way that never was possible. But in all honesty, I’d probably be just as good with well-written GQ interview and a dope ass album release every year or so. Social media has given many folks a platform to display their work, talent and life stories in way we haven’t witnessed before, but we have to be mindful of the walls we let down between ourselves and the rest of the world. Y’all out here cancelling whole lives and legacies off of one tweet or status update. Not every moment that occurs in our lives should be shared with an audience, especially when social media has a way of allowing one comment or a moment to define a total person. We also need to be mindful of the triggers we may impose on those scrolling through our timelines, and the immense disappointment we set ourselves up for when we seek therapy and empathy in the comments’ section. Self-care includes removing ourselves from toxicity, and I don’t think that’s anyone’s responsibility but our own. Maybe we need to recognize the value in the elusiveness that comes with our favorite celebrity’s personal lives and stop becoming so involved in their struggles that it triggers our own battles. I guarantee you’ll still enjoy “God’s Plan” just as much without knowing exactly what Drake’s bed or his mama looks like.