Twitter Celebrity Worship: The Modern Day Idolatry

Bob Leggitt | Thursday, 30 January 2014
Fan photographing a musician at a live event
Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash.

People tend to associate the most shocking behaviour on Twitter and other social networking sites with anger. They think of the trolling, the group-driven hate. However, I find some of the most shocking behaviour to be founded not on anger, but on an obsequious idolatry in which celebrities or TV personalities are literally worshipped. This is harmless, though, right? If people want to award God-like status to personalities they’ve seen on television or in movies, that’s fair enough, isn’t it?…

"... If these influential facilitators put in a good word, via Direct Message, your favourite celeb might just follow you too!"

It’s not harmless for the celebrities. They’re relentlessly machine-gunned with desperate and often highly manipulative tweets from fans, whose main ambition in life is to be “noticed” by their idol(s). If the fans are not “noticed”, they may accuse the celebrity of ruining their lives, and they may even threaten self-harm. That kind of emotional blackmail is distressing to, and unfair on anyone – no matter how rich and famous they are… “Notice me, or else…

But what almost every single one of these hardcore fans overlooks, is that there’s really nothing to notice. And this hints at the harm that the celebritisation of culture does to the fans themselves. So preoccupied are the idolators with their dream of being noticed by people who clearly aren’t going to notice them, that their lives are consumed, and there’s no time left for contribution or achievement.

Crazed fan Tweets
This kind of repetititive ‘shotgun’ begging is rife in fan tweets, and some of these repetitions run into the thousands. Can the fans really wonder why stars would be reluctant to follow them after behaviour like this?


In the past, when older generations have accused younger generations of wasting their time, it’s often been very subjective and based on personal taste. Collecting rap records, for example, would be deemed a “waste of time”, because the person making the assertion doesn’t like rap.

But chasing the affections of celebrities, as a fan, and expecting some kind of "result", is delusional. And that makes it categorically a waste of time. You have one individual, with nothing to offer beyond crazed adoration, trying to compete for attention with ten to fifteen million other followers doing exactly the same, on a faceless networking platform.

They're hopelessly destined to spend limitless amounts of time not getting what they want, and the only way that can be seen, is as a waste. Even if their idol eventually does happen to follow them on Twitter, it's just a gesture, and it may last as little as an hour. Dedicating your entire life to netting a celebrity button click on Twitter is the ultimate in futility.

But it gets worse… It turns out that a whole ‘industry’ has sprung up around the practice of begging celebrities for attention. It’s not just the blindly hopeful fans who are wasting their lives. There are facilitators too – people who have managed to get a celebrity or two to follow them on Twitter, and now spend much of their time posing as influential ‘gateways’ to the stars.

If these influential facilitators put in a good word, via Direct Message, your favourite celeb might just follow you too! To a limited extent, the ‘facilitators’ can acquire the kind of control the celebs themselves have. It’s lunacy. Fans treating another fan like royalty because he or she is considered (wrongly, I should stress) able to influence the star into paying them a split second of attention.


"... They expect some of the busiest, most admired and most inaccessible people in the world to respond to them – for no other reason than that it’s what THEY want."

I’m puzzled by the mentality of the most dedicated Twitter idolators. Not so much because they have a wish to connect with someone who’s massively impressed them. That’s kind of understandable. But more because they have no concept of value, and what creates it. They don’t get that desire is a product of substance. You can’t simply beg to be liked, and through that action become likeable. In fact if you keep begging you’re infinitely more likely to be disliked.

But this mentality – the notion that other people should like and appreciate on demand – is hugely prevalent within today's fan culture. It’s common to see people within that environment begging for Twitter Followers and Retweets without ever posting anything other than “Follow me!”, “Retweet this!”. It's staggeringly lacking in empathy.

And it’s common to see the same people begging for Likes and Follows on their ‘blogs’ or ‘video channels’ before they’ve uploaded any content. I genuinely find this – the expectation that someone can be liked purely because they exist and want to be liked – absolutely shocking. It’s also prevalent on talent shows like X Factor - another haven for deluded, desperate idolators…
“Oh please! I want this more than anything!!!”
“Yes, but… you’re crap.”
“Oh God, please… You HAVE to put me through to the next round! NO ONE wants this more than me!!!”
“You are literally painful to listen to. Have you considered that causing people pain might not be in their best interests?”
“This is just WRONG!!! You have no idea how much I WANT this!!!”
It’s a very warped way of seeing the world. Imagine applying for a job as a dentist and saying: "I don't care about teeth and I never bothered with medical studies but I really WANT this!"...

And what makes it even harder to stomach is that ‘professional fans’ are invariably intolerant of anything in which they see no value. They don’t notice people in whom they have no interest. They won’t do anything for anyone who doesn’t appeal to them or offer them something of value in return. And yet they expect some of the busiest, most admired and most inaccessible people in the world to respond to them – for no other reason than that it’s what they want. It’s a jawdropping level of selfishness. A mind-bogglingly distorted vision of reality.


I used to think that hero-worship was a product of low self-esteem. But it really isn’t. It’s the opposite of that. Hero-worshipping fans are people who see themselves as important enough to be noticed and paid attention by the world’s most influential people, without doing anything at all beyond existing.

That’s a frighteningly ill-considered self-vision, and I find it hard to see where it’s come from. It obviously doesn't help that social media is awash with quote bots chanting "NEVER GIVE UP!" and "DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU YOU'RE WRONG!" I mean, if you're doing something pointless, DO GIVE UP! Give up immediately, and find something useful to do instead. But "quote bot wisdom" still doesn't explain where the delusion comes from in the first place. It appears to be born purely out of blind optimism.

The more this unhinged notion of zero-investment entitlement is allowed to proliferate, the more danger there is that progress will become a thing of the past. If the whole world becomes consumed with the idea that it should be rewarded purely for existing, who's going to bother learning anything?

We can't expect celebrities to put their careers at risk by telling their fans they’re all deluded idiots, and that they need to stop wasting their time and do something useful. But if the celebs don’t do it, I’m really not sure who can – not with any authority or impact, anyway.

Something has to change, though, because human beings are not born to enslave themselves to the pursuit of people they’ve never met, will never connect with, and who don’t even know they exist. Appreciation has to be earned, and the way to earn it is to contribute. Imagine where we’d be if from the beginning of creation, humankind had simply begged to be liked. No transport, no gas, no electricity, no telephones, no computers, no music, no movies. Just a load of expectant losers sitting around with absolutely nothing, saying: “Oh please appreciate me… PLEASE!… It’s what I WANT!!!

[Updated November 2020.]