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The Danger of Pursuing Social Media Fame

Unlike Macaulay Culkin, who starred in the famous Christmas movie Home Alone, his younger brother Kieran turned down multiple opportunities to be a child star. He learned by observation that he didn’t want a life of fame—knowing it could lead to things like substance abuse, court guardianship battles, and the like.

We might be tempted to view the life choices of famous people like the Culkin brothers from a distance. But maybe we’re looking into a collective mirror. Today, fame is not just something that happens to stars, child or otherwise. Thanks to the age of social media, many of us are turning into mini-stars, with the only real difference being the size of our audience.

The leaked “Facebook Files,” which discuss the inner workings of the social media company, include data about the harm Instagram usage inflicts on the self-image of adolescents. Every child or teen faces a fear of judgment from their peers. They also fear being exiled from their social group.

However, the world of social media seems to heighten these dynamics—where almost everyone is followed by a kind of paparazzi, exposing and subjecting us to the approval or disapproval of our peers, acquaintances, and often complete strangers.

Philosopher Alain de Botton writes, “The subconscious argument goes, if I’m famous, I will be free from facing any rejection or judgment. I will have an instant and safe community.” However, de Botton says, the exact opposite is true: “Fame makes people more, not less, vulnerable, because it throws them open to unlimited judgment.”

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