Fame Junkies

Had dinner with Michelle Friday night, went back to my place, and she left on Sunday. Awesome weekend.

I’m

reading a book called “Fame Junkies” which was recommended by the similar Drew Pinsky book I recently read about narcissism. It’s a super-depressing account of people who are obsessed with celebrities and/or becoming celebrities (Low point: kids who pay $10,000 to go to conventions to meet talent agents). I got to chapter 5, “The Desire to Belong,” and I had a light bulb moment. Two recurring themes suddenly came together in a way for me that is so obvious now but I didn’t make the connection till I read this book.

My first running theme is that I hate celebrity culture. I really despite reality TV (except shows based on true talent) because it’s just a bunch of narcissists trying to get undeserved attention. The desire to be famous without accomplishing anything fame-worthy is one of the worst ills in society today.

My second theme is the basis for this entire blog, my desire to connect with people. To make real friends, real relationships, and to stop being so isolated and lonely. Perhaps it’s obvious where these themes intersect, but “Fame Junkies” really made it quite clear.

The author, Jake Halpern, describes the psychological concept of a “para-social” relationship where television gives viewers “the illusion of a face-to-face relationship with the performer.” Because of the explosion of celebrity culture, Twitter, Us Weekly, etc., people have developed far more of these relationships than they used to. But the key here is that the relationships are illusions. You don’t really know Paris Hilton.

This increase in pretend relationships paralleled another change in American society. People are lonelier than ever. The number of people who describe themselves as lonely quadrupled in the last few decades. People remain unmarried longer these days and most significantly, the number of people who live alone has gone from 9.3% in 1950 to 26.4% in 2004.

The collision happened when psychologists asked subjects who felt lonely questions about celebrities. The lonelier the subject, the more obsessed he or she was with celebrities. I guess if you’re lonely, your innate desire to belong makes you pursue the only type of relationship you can, a fake one with a celebrity. And I don’t think it’s much of a leap that some of these lonely people see becoming a celebrity themselves as the cure to their problems. Thus, what they’re really hoping to do is to trade one fake relationship with others.

I never got into the celebrity culture because to me it just seemed so obviously fake and unfulfilling. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. But, and here’s the rub, I was still lonely, isolated, and depressed, like a lot of people my age, living alone in a big city without a support network of friends and family. So I did the only thing I could think of… I came up with a plan to talk to strangers. Some connections were brief, others have been lasting. But they’re all real.

My usual caveat: I’m not genius, I don’t have it all figured out, I have a lot of work to do, I wish I had more friends, etc., but the point is, I’m trying. I’m out there in the real world talking to real people. If everyone stopped watching Jersey Shore and knocked on their neighbor’s door instead… well, think about it.

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3 Responses to Fame Junkies

  1. NoAmbition says:

    No quarrels with your conclusions above, Fletcher, but just a minor addition: blogging is much like “reality” television in a lot of ways, though it’s definitely more real than the crap we see on the tube … the degree to which that is true is harder to pin down, but since the blogosphere is geometrically larger than the number of reality TV shows, it just stands to reason that more people are being their true selves when the blog. However, you still have no idea who the person is who’s typing, regardless of how much they choose to share over the ‘Net. Your project is great (look at the results! The object of your quest, EG, is, at least for the time being, with you) and inspiring, but we don’t really know what you do at work, or what you say to EG (not that I really want to know), or how you vote (if you even do) … all your regular readers feel closer to you than they do to probably the vast majority of the folks we interact with on a daily basis, but I wouldn’t know to speak to you if we bumped into each other on the street (primarily b/c I’m too much of a wussy to follow your advice and speak to those around me), and if we did somehow have a conversation I would only feel comfortable rehashing the things you bring up here.

    This isn’t a complaint, mind you, just an attempt to draw a slight parallel.

    Keep up the good work, and please keep us in the loop on EG … though I guess if the blog just stops we’ll know you’re either deliriously happy or stuffed in a dumpster somewhere near her apartment.

  2. PlayneJayne says:

    I searched “talk to strangers” on google just to see what would show up and found your blog. i read it from the begining all at once, and i thought it was awesome. I have been wanting to be a “people person” and just be able to talk to people but im kind of shy and have trouble striking a conversation with people. Like you when you started, I dont have many friends and I dont see them much. I hope that i can muster up the courage to talk to a few strangers and maybe make some new friends. Your blog is realy inspiring and i hope you dont give up on it.
    ps. I LOVE your blog

    • Thank you so much for writing in. I found that starting with “low stakes” people was a LOT easier. Talking to the dry cleaner was a good start because it didn’t matter if it worked out or not. I’m not trying to denigrate his status, just that I didn’t NEED him to respond favorably. Frankly, I think it was that attitude that eventually set in–that I’m honestly just trying to be friendly and that I don’t want or need anything from you–that put people at ease.

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