The impact of celebrities on social culture

Sarah Sheathelm


On Dec. 31, 2022, actress and known animal welfare activist Betty White died at the age of 99, mere days before her 100th birthday.  Immediately, social media was up in flames over her passing and in seemingly minutes, the entire world had found out.

Twitter erupted with Tweets that read something similar to, “imagine you die at 99 and a whole country agreeing it was not long enough.” Others read, “you inspired generations, what will we do without you.”

Seeing the unrest over Betty White’s passing, and then short after the sudden passing of classic television dad, Bob Saget, how much of an impact, either positive or negative, do celebrities have on our everyday life as college students and beyond.

As one who has found writing this as a moment of reflection on my own behavior, it is easy to see how celebrities work themselves into our everyday lives.

Similarly, students share their opinions on how our generation views celebrities.  “Celebrities have a very impactful influence on our lives by influencing what we either agree or disagree with, what we wear, or even how we spend our free time,” said Emma Neyer (‘24).

It is the societal norm to want to look up to those who are in the public eye, either positively or negatively. “Many people look up to different celebrities and want to be like them, shaping them to personally adapt what they do,” said Neyer.

This year, after White passed, social media was flooded with information regarding the ‘Betty White Challenge.’  Of that, entailed the donating of a minimum amount of five dollars to a local animal shelter.  According to an article published by CBS, donations to American Human have quadrupled since her passing in late December and local shelters were grateful to receive thousands of dollars in donations to help animals in need.

However, the impacts that celebrities have on us may be causing issues as to which person in the public eye we choose to attach to.  While White may have stood for strong, positive ideas, not all celebrities will lead us in the direction of selflessness. 

Some students thought on why we should not be so attached to our favorite celebrities. “People have such high hopes for celebrities and put them at a God-like status and I just do not understand it,” said Allyson Ehlert (‘24). “They are never going to do everything you want [or] be everything you want them to be.”

As one who has found herself in multiple different types of fanbases, I do my best to not put these people on a pedestal, because they are simply just that: people. It should not take the passing of a well-known animal welfare activist to motivate us to donate money to a charity for the same reason that celebrities, or their managers, go out of their way to make it known when they do something positive in order to dig for a positive reaction from fans.

This is not to say that many celebrities do make charitable donations out of the goodness of their hearts, but it goes without saying that many do so to recieve positive feedback from fans. This is where we find the problem.

“They are creeps, addicts, they are deceitful, they are human.  Hold them accountable and just do not be surprised when you find out they are not perfect,” said Ehlert.

When it comes to the impact and hold that celebrities have on us, it is completely up to us as individuals to decide how large the impact or strong the hold. No matter what, we have to remember that they are people too, and they should be held responsible for their actions.

While it is nothing short of normal to have a role-model figure to look up to, it should always be the goal to stay true to yourself.

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