IS YOUR #MCM RU­IN­ING YOUR LOVE LIFE?

it’s time to take a good hard look at your celebrity loves.

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Contents -

It was Jan­uary 2013, and the Twit­ter com­mu­nity was in up­roar—po­si­tioned at the top of the World­wide Trends list was an alarm­ing three-word hash­tag. One click and you were as­saulted by the sight of fore­arms sliced open, posted on­line as proof of some kind of de­mented blood pact. Why were teenagers in nearly ev­ery ma­jor city in the world cut­ting them­selves? It was a bid to get their hero, Justin Bieber, to stop smok­ing mar­i­juana. The hash­tag #Cut­for­bieber started out as a cruel prank by trolls, but by the time they tried to ex­plain, blood had al­ready been shed. This isn’t the first time celebrity ob­ses­sion has driven fans to psy­chotic lengths—from Beatle­ma­nia in the 1960s to Kim Kar­dashian and Kanye West get­ting tack­led to the ground at Paris Fash­ion Week in 2014, diehards will stop at noth­ing to bask in the pres­ence of their idols.

The thing is, fan re­la­tion­ships al­ways start out in­nocu­ously. You no­tice the hype and want to un­der­stand it, em­bark on a quick Google search, and be­fore you know it, you’re neck-deep into what’s re­ferred to as a ‘fan­dom’— a ded­i­cated group of peo­ple who de­vote the same kind

of time, money, and en­ergy one would on an ac­tual sig­nif­i­cant other. Fans shell out thou­sands on tick­ets, mer­chan­dise, and col­lab­o­ra­tions, camp out on the streets to be first in line for ex­clu­sive events, and man­age sep­a­rate so­cial me­dia ac­counts to post up­dates about their idols and in­ter­act with fel­low fans. When the in­tegrity of their beloved is chal­lenged by ri­val fan­doms, they don’t hes­i­tate to de­clare war. There’s a word for this typ­i­cally fe­male-nor­ma­tive ex­cite­ment: lisz

to­ma­nia. Out­siders to this cul­ture might find this level of com­mit­ment ut­terly baf­fling, if not dis­turb­ing. Af­ter all, how could one pos­si­bly give so much to a dis­tant pub­lic fig­ure— some­one who says they love them all the time, but never truly does?

“At its most ex­treme, [ob­ses­sion] is ru­mi­na­tive—it can take on a life of its own,” ex­plains Maria Sher­man, au­thor of Truly, Madly, Deeply: Ex­plor­ing the Re­la­tion­ship Be­tween

Fan­dom and Men­tal Health. “[One can be] ‘love-ob­ses­sional’: [to be­lieve] that there’s a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship that doesn’t re­ally ex­ist. There’s ‘ero­tomanic,’ which is where the fan be­lieves the sub­ject is ac­tu­ally in love with them. ‘In­tense-per­sonal’ is [where you’d hear things like], ‘[He’s] my soul mate.’ The last is per­son­al­ity-dis­or­der level, the bor­der­line patho­log­i­cal: ‘If some­one gave me ten thou­sand pe­sos, I would con­sider spend­ing it on a nap­kin used by [ him].’” Sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to this cul­ture is pre­dom­i­nant among youths, while fans from an older age bracket might view their par­tic­i­pa­tion as a way to feel ‘ young’ and ‘alive’ again ( yes, Direc­tion­ers in their 40s are a thriv­ing de­mo­graphic). How­ever, this pseudo-re­la­tion­ship with celebri­ties runs a very real risk in terms of how young peo­ple view love and mod­ern unions.

All su­per­stars, whether they’re boy bands, ac­tresses, or Bill­board chart­top­ping pop singers, cap­i­tal­ize on the iden­tity that they project onto the pub­lic sphere. Their no-makeup selfies, sup­pos­edly ‘can­did’ videos, and ‘off-the-cuff’ tweets are care­fully cal­cu­lated to give fans the il­lu­sion of close, gen­uine con­nec­tion. No­body is as­sert­ing that celebri­ties don’t ac­tu­ally love and ap­pre­ci­ate their fans—but the only type of love they can re­al­is­ti­cally give is to­wards a col­lec­tive, never to one spe­cific per­son. You might know what Char­lie Puth is al­ler­gic to or what Harry Styles’ fond­est child­hood mem­o­ries are, but in a real re­la­tion­ship, to know and love some­one calls for much more than a mil­i­tant fa­mil­iar­ity with de­tails. Fan­dom cul­ture, at its worst, be­comes prob­lem­atic when the in­di­vid­ual fails to learn how to grap­ple with lov­ing flawed peo­ple. It sets an im­pos­si­ble stan­dard for re­al­life re­la­tion­ships, and it’s un­fair to a part­ner who, by virtue of their reg­u­lar­ness, could never match up to the es­tab­lished per­sona of your not-per­fect-but-prac­ti­cally-per­fect idol.

The neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions be­come more ap­par­ent when one re­al­izes that celebrity ob­ses­sion is of­ten used as a crutch by the lonely or re­cently heart­bro­ken. “Be­long­ing, while a psy­cho­log­i­cal mo­tive for all hu­mans, is par­tic­u­larly ap­par­ent in fan groups,” ex­plains Sarah Sloat of In­verse En­ter­tain­ment. “[It’s a] ‘psy­cho­log­i­cal con­struct’ that in­cludes a feel­ing of in­volve­ment and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.” When the qual­i­ties fans search for and fail to find from the men they date man­i­fest them­selves in celebri­ties, un­healthy pro­jec­tion oc­curs, mak­ing it even harder for a fan to cope with the highs and lows of a typ­i­cal re­la­tion­ship.

So how can one go about lov­ing their fa­vorite celebs with­out go­ing off the deep end? For starters, you can chan­nel ob­ses­sive feel­ings to­wards pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions that help you un­der­stand your­self and so­ci­ety bet­ter... and make it a point to be crit­i­cal of your own idols. “Fans want to make the things they love bet­ter, so they find some­thing that they don’t agree with—a prob­lem­atic rep­re­sen­ta­tion or a so­cial is­sue that could be high­lighted—and they talk about it,” says Paul Booth, au­thor of Play­ing Fans: Ne­go­ti­at­ing Fan­dom and Me­dia in the Dig­i­tal Age.

The key is to un­der­stand that our ob­jects of af­fec­tion are more than just ob­jects; they’re liv­ing, breath­ing hu­man be­ings. And by com­ing to terms with that re­al­ity, one can move on to pur­sue healthy, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships—no hash­tags nec­es­sary.

Ob­ses­sion is ru­mi­na­tive and can take on a life of its own.

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