For better or worse, social media increases the effect of celebrities on students

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Three hundred and six thousand. That’s the number of tweets per minute Miley Cyrus garnered during her controversial performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 26.

Regardless of what side of the fence Cyrus’s followers were on, her antics generated a huge social media buzz, and for junior Sarah Kalthoff, who follows many celebrities online, it is this new social media presence that has such influence on people today.
Kalthoff uses Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram and said she used to have Twitter and Vine, but she deleted them due to the amount of negative comments there were.

“I know recently Miley Cyrus’s whole spiel was a bit much for some people, and I have watched some of her videos and seen some of the comments people leave. There’s quite a mixture of reactions, and I think it kind of reflects how people view music in general or even movies and actors,” Kalthoff said.
Social media websites have gained widespread popularity and seem to be a way for celebrities to communicate to their loyal fans. According to statistics from Socialbakers, the most influential celebrities on Twitter include Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.
While some celebrities have a bad influence on students, others can be good role models.

Sociology teacher Dan Bates said, “It depends on the celebrity that you have. You have the Miley Cyrus and you have the Amy Grant. That’s probably the best example I can give of the extremes of influence.”

Amy Grant, a singer-songwriter known for performing Christian music, has been a supporter of many good causes including Children’s Health Fund, Red Cross and Soles4Souls.

According to Bates, celebrities have the ability to affect those that look up to them because students are seeking attention and they notice the massive amount of attention that celebrities get. Social media allows celebrities to be even more accessible.
Kalthoff agrees. “Celebrities have a lot of power over social media and their fans because they’re really well known in general. But also, once they get onto social media sites, hundreds of thousands of people flock to them,” she said. “Their fans care about what their favorite celebrity is saying and posting, so I think they almost have a stronger influence on social media than they do in what they’re saying in interviews.”
Even before the first movie of the “Hunger Games” trilogy came out, Kalthoff said she was a huge fan of Josh Hutcherson. After the release of the first “Hunger Games” movie, she became “obsessed” with him. She followed him on Twitter and Instagram and found many fan pages on Facebook, so she would be up-to-date with information about the actor.

“I remember if I would see anything in the newspaper, I would just grab it and read it. I would have people filling me in on what was going on in his life. I remember, it was just fun for me,” Kalthoff said. “It was just something to do because I really admired him. But one day, I was on a website and there was an article about how he had gotten drunk at a party and it kind of shattered my vision of him. It was an eye-opener.”
Looking back on it now, Kalthoff says it was a bad idea for her to become so involved and dependent on a celebrity. Even though she wasn’t modeling her life after Hutcherson, she said it took up quite a bit of time.

To prevent this from happening, Bates said people need to look away from all the celebrity news and see what’s going on among their own friends.
“Students use (celebrities), unfortunately, as role models. Since they see the adulation that goes in the direction of those individuals, they feel the need to participate in it somehow, so they take on some of those characteristics,” Bates said. “It’s not quite at the level of hero worship, but it’s pretty close to it.”

On the other hand, as long as students take out the good attributes of a celebrity, Kalthoff said she doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to look up to a celebrity.

“It’s good to look up to someone, to have a role model, because there are a lot of really positive celebrities out there,” Kalthoff said. “Students just need to keep an open mind and know that everything that is on social media is not necessarily true and the lies that they maybe seeing of these celebrities aren’t really the big picture.”

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