Celebrity Syndrome

We live in a society where every day people become famous. All the time. Sometimes for no reason.

You don’t have to have a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

You don’t have to be ridiculously wealthy.

You don’t have to be an inventor or a pioneer or a world-changer.

You really just need social media. And possibly an element of attractiveness. Or uniqueness.

Look at Justin Bieber. He became Forbes’ 3rd most powerful celebrity in 2012, 5 years after being discovered by his YouTube channel.

Or Shawn Mendes. His album is currently #1 on iTunes. You’ve probably never even heard of him, but his 6-second Vine videos (totally less than 40 minutes) have launched him into a full-fledged music career.

Or, dialing it back a bit, a “chiweenie” named Tuna that has nearly 900k Instagram followers.

Yes, him.

We’re in an over-famed culture. Way too many celebrities.

Adults remember a time before everyone was “famous” for something or another, right? When there were like 12 movie stars and the rest of us were just normal people?

I’m starting to think our teens don’t.

In a 2010 survey in the UK, over half (54%) of the teens surveyed answered that their preferred career choice was to “become a celebrity”.

Because that’s normal these days. Everyone can be “famous”.

Especially with the help of social media.

I am famous, hear me tweet.

We’ve talked before about the danger of numbers on social media. “Celebrity” status is measured by these very numbers.

We’ve also talked about the narcissistic nature of social media. It’s a real problem. Not just for 13 year olds, but for everyone. (This 26 year old mom of two included.)

We operate under the assumption that, because we have the capabilities to post whenever we want about whatever we want, people always want to listen. The world at large is hanging on our every tweet. Or Instagram picture. Or Facebook status.

“Time to tweet”, you guys. I have nothing to say, but I know you’re all waiting on a word from me so here it is.

We think we owe the world…ourselves.

Follow me. Retweet me. Revine this. Comment here. Like this.

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

I see this all the time with our teens (and adults, if we’re being honest) and it makes me cringe.

When our teens begin thinking they are the stars of the show…the kings and queens of the universe…the ones everyone else want to follow…it’s an identity nightmare. It can get really unhealthy really fast.

So how do you know if your teen is struggling with Celebrity Syndrome?

Here are two fame-seeking signs to watch for:

1. Follower-to-Following ratio

The most basic definition of social media is making connections. For anyone under the age of 18, I would be very wary of accounts where the follower-to-following ratio is skewed.

If they are truly on social media just to hang out with their friends and follow a handful of celebs accounts, the ratio should be pretty equal.


If it’s skewed by a huge margin, take a closer look.

If your teens are following a lot more people than are following them, there is usually a reason.


Are they following hundreds of strangers? (Not good.)

Are people not following them back because…they post too often? Post an abundance of undesirable/spammy content? (Also not good.)

On the flip side, if the ratio is skewed the other way – your teen has an exorbitant about of followers compared to the number he or she follows – pay. attention.

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It generally means one of a few things:

  • They are posting inappropriate/risky content that generates buzz. (Hello, nudies. Better yet, hello kid who SET HIMSELF ON FIRE last week to amp up his views.)
  • They have purchased or weaseled their way into getting followers. This can happen by following someone, waiting for a follow-back, and then unfollowing that person to fabricate a high follower-to-following ratio OR by using hashtags such as #follow4follow to find other teens also looking for followers. (Confusing, I know.)
  • They grew their audience naturally because of likability, engaging content, personality, etc. They have real, actual social media fans.

The first option gets them attention, but probably not the kind they truly want.

The second screams of low self-esteem.

The third can be a great thing – your child has a platform to influence others! But it can also be dangerous. Can you imagine being a teenager and making teenage decisions in front of an audience of 9 million people? Sweet mercy.


Pay attention to the numbers. They can give you insight into what type of conversations you should be having with your kids.

2. “Follow For _____” Posts

These are the death of me. I’m dying as I type this. (Maybe not, but close.)

Because of our over-famed, narcissistic culture, we think people not only want to listen to us, but that a follow/tag/like from us is God’s gift to the world.

“Follow me and I’ll ________ (follow you back, comment on your picture, send you a direct message, like one of your pics).”

I see it all over Instagram and Twitter.

And Vine.

First by social media “celebs”:

Alex Holtti, 2.3M followers

And then by “regular” teens. Because Alex did it and now he’s famous. 

Jacob, 72 followers


Impressionable youngsters.

Ashley, 90 followers

“Thanks for getting me to 50 followers. Let’s bump it up a lot. I’m doing a follow spree so follow me.”


Honestly, you guys.

This is not healthy. Not healthy at all.

So, watch out, parents/teachers/mentors.

Watch for Celebrity Syndrome.

Watch for “following sprees”. Keep your eyes open for “like this for ____ (a follow back/comment/shoutout?)” posts.

Behind each of those posts is a teen looking for something from others. Validation? Belonging? Fame? Friends?

Maybe it’s simply innocent connection with peers. But more often than not, it’s a deeper issue.

Don’t use the examples above to trap your kids; rather, use them as conversation starters. Use them to uncover and identify the hidden emotions behind posts.

Our teens are so much more valuable 10 seconds of internet “fame”. They aren’t defined by follower count.

It’s our job to help them recognize and embrace that.

[Now go forth and SHARE, LIKE, TWEET, RETWEET, REVINE, AND FACETIME THIS BLOG WITH ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS. The person who shares this post the most gets a t-shirt WITH MY FACE ON IT.]

Just kidding.

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