Research Proposal

With the growth of the Internet and a surge in social media pages, it seems that we are constantly updating our lives online and developing our ‘online identity’ as a representation of ourselves. Through its popularity and the amount of data it contains, social media is a large contributor to the modern economy, dealing with a whole new platform of information and commerce. Businesses have taken advantage of this and utilised it on a professional level to develop their presence and increase profits.

Also using social media for business is a large sector of the entertainment industry; celebrities.  Society is well-versed on why celebrities use social media platforms. They increase their fan base, and therefore their social status and influence, to gain profit. The benefits for celebrities are evident, but what about the benefits of the people following them?

My research project will focus on this topic, in particular what individuals on social media accounts gain from following celebrities. The modern communication system has introduced a huge array of both problems and solutions to society, changing the ways we interact, think and feel. If you have a social problem, you no longer leave it when you get home. It’s with you when you’re on your phone or computer having twenty-four hour access to communication with people around the globe and access to their personal information. Our contemporary society has grown so familiar with having this access that it seems normal to know so much about other people’s lives.

The issue of breeching privacy is extremely prevalent in the celebrity world, with many cases and the pursuit of legal action centring on it. Well-known among them was the case of the ‘Bling Ring’, which became popularised when Nancy Jo Sales published her article ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’ in Vanity Fair in 2010. The case involved a teenage gang in Los Angeles who coveted the clothes of particular celebrities and used the Internet to track the location of their houses and when their particular victims would be out in order to burglarise their homes on celebrity websites such as TMZ. The Sales’ article explores the motivation of these teenagers, posing the question “Were teenagers too enthralled by stars?” and continuing on with the following statement “…(he) was also struck by the ‘stalkerish’ aspect of the crimes.”

Whilst the case of the Bling Ring is an extreme example of celebrity obsession, it reflects the fascination of society with the rich and famous. No longer being revered for just talent, Berger and Choi make the point of the circular nature of the idolised in Ethics of Celebrities and Their Increasing Influence in 21st Century Society (2010); celebrities simply being known for being known. “The global internet has dramatically magnified the global quest for fame and celebrity, which in turn has increased the global influence of “celebrities”, who in turn are people who are famous for being famous. The impact of the global internet is especially felt by the younger generation…” (Berger & Choi, 2010).

Even after being able to access so much more information about their lives, society still seems dissatisfied with not knowing enough and take to social media in an attempt to find out more.  With social media being majority utilised by the younger generation, this research will attempt to answer the following question: What are the motivations of and benefits for the younger generation following celebrities on social media platforms?

This issue is relevant to contemporary society, so I intend to carry out research through connecting with individuals and interviewing to gain insight into their opinions on the topic and emotional reactions. This will be accompanied along with academic research to provide statistics and compare my findings, as well as provide ideas for concise questions. The project will continue to develop as I begin the research process, and trial and error with ideas and topics will reveal if the question or research methods need to be adjusted.

As technology has introduced so many new issues and topics, there are a number of possible findings and new thesis’ to be discovered in the modern realm of media and communication.

References:

R Berger & C J Choi 2010, ‘Ethics of Celebrities and Their Increasing Influence in 21st Century Society’, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 91, No. 3, pp. 313-318

Sales, N J 2010, The Suspects Wore Louboutins, Vanity Fair