Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's not you, it's Harry Styles

Elvis kissing a fan in 1976 vs. country singer Carrie Underwood kissing a fan in 2012

Since Nicoline Petersen became a of fan of singer-songwriter Jacob Whitesides in 2015, no boy she’s dated has seemed ‘good enough’ in comparison to him. “I’m always thinking that they’re not Jacob,” says the 20-year-old from Denmark. “I just can’t help it.”
Who, among frequent entertainment consumers, has not longed to be kissed passionately in the rain or stopped from getting on a plane by a confession of love at the airport? Driven by the fantasy of books, television and movies, people have long held illusions of romance. Now that social media allows fans to engage them with unprecedented reciprocity, celebrities have become the benchmarks by which many evaluate their ideal spouse.

Attaching emotionally to a famous person, says psychiatrist and dating and relationship expert Jeremy Nicholson, does indeed make “regular” partners seem less appealing in contrast. Feelings of virtual intimacy have drastically intensified the one-sided celebrity-fan dynamic, making it easier than ever to form these unhealthy bonds. Most recently, livestreaming features have forged the falsest sense of proximity yet via a ‘fly on the wall’ effect. Forthcoming app updates – like Instagram Live soon letting content older than 24 hours be uploaded and Snapchat’s introduction of verified users – will only further enable such manufacturing of authenticity through filters, story ads and the curation of a branded reality.
“Like a photoshopped picture of a supermodel, we are falling for an unrealistic, edited, image when we fall for a celebrity,” argues Nicholson, resulting in a set of impossibly high standards the said famous person would likely fall short of too. Though they feel more attainable as actual people rather than fictional characters, he explains, there is no difference between wanting to date Harry Styles because you “know” him from following his career and longing to experience The Notebook love story. “When someone loses sight of the difference [between fantasy and reality,] they become jealous, over-invested and make unfair comparisons to real relationships with people in their lives.”
A normal and common ‘celebrity crush’ becomes problematic when one misunderstands the connection as romantic involvement, entering states of mental illness like celebrity worship syndrome or erotomania. It can get confusing when a celebrity routinely interacts with fans online or in-person, making their relationship – at least in part – actual over parasocial. In the case of Petersen, who has met Whitesides numerous times and is known to the musician by name, kissing him at a meet and greet in February was a turning point in her dating life. “He made me realize that I deserve the best [in a boyfriend,]” she says.

Though celebrities are human too, reasons Nicholson, they will always be nurturing a business affair. It is vital to remember we see them at their best moments, “not on an average Tuesday rolling out of bed for work.”
“If we live too much in fantasy, we miss the opportunity to find real, satisfying, loving partners.”
© Julianna Garofalo. All rights reserved.
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