It used to be when one had a celebrity they admired, they got a poster and placed it on their bedroom wall. I know for me, as a teen, Martina Navratilova was the be-all-end-all. In 1983, the year I was totally suicidal, Martina won 86 out of 87 matches. My own parents used to prohibit me from watching her on TV because she “was really a man”. In those days, tennis was not televised as much as it is today, so not being able to see her play was a total blow to the team. But I used to sit on my bed and stare at her poster and find reason after reason to keep going; to not end it all. “Look at Martina (I used to think) no one gives a rat’s ass about her. She has no friends and everyone thinks she’s a cheater.”
Somewhere, I still have that poster; crumpled, dogeared and torn. I have packed it away, and every time I move, it is reviewed again, does not get “get granted parole” and is tucked safely away in my “special box”.
Today access to celebrities is much easier. If they are on Facebook or Twitter, all of us have a chance to tell them how much they inspired or helped us, to thank them, and if you are lucky, to even banter back and forth with them. Even I have succumbed to following on Twitter my two most favorite famous people in the world, Martina and k.d. lang. I have had the chance to tell each of them how much they have helped and inspired me. And I know that I am one of probably hundreds of such Tweets they get every year, but somehow, it matters to me that I had the chance to tell them. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, because in each case, I have verification my message was heard. In my email box, saved forever, are 2 alerts “k.d. lang replied to your Tweet’ and “Martina replied to your Tweet”. In fact, both of them have replied to me more than once, but I have saved those initial emails because I am so grateful that I had the chance to express to them how much they each have influenced my life.
What I have noticed in the year or so that I have been following each of them, is that people seem to expect more from celebrities. I find this odd because the majority of people on Twitter “hide” behind a handle and a picture. No one ever knows who they really are. They insist on anonymity, on their “privacy” and yet seem to expect some kind of personal relationship with Martina or k.d. lang.
This fact has forced me to think about what Social Media has done for the life of “the Big Self”, the self that is completely focused on a temporary life, a false ego. The self that takes offense so easily when someone “unfollows or unfriends” them. To me, there is a strange thing happening here. There is the juxtaposition between demanding privacy and demanding attention to a particular self. Celebrities do not have this option (at least not for their public account with their celebrity name. And assuming the real celebrity is writing and not their agent). Their “ego” has a Twitter or Facebook account. And it seems that no matter what they do or don’t do, myriads of “anonymous egos” are offended in some way.
The irony seems to be that back in the day, all we had was a poster and our ego was our own private experience. Today, our ego is “pseudo public” (for those with an opaque handle and avatar); this means that the public reads the thought of an anonymous ego; an ego who is caught between its own self, and the Other (yes, capital O). I think that the lesson Social Media has for the ego is that there are many of them out there. So many that our particular ego can easily be passed over, “ignored” and unreplied to by celebrities. But many are missing the chance to see the Truth in this. An ego is just that; ONE ego. It is what you have today, now, in this moment. It is one of likely many in an entire process of past and future lives. So, if a celebrity “ignores” us, the appropriate response is not to take offense, but to be thankful that social media make our smallness and impermanence so easy to see.
Egos are a strange animal. Everyone has to have one, but everyone also has to realize that it is “just a rental car”. Use it to get around in life, but when you drop it off, its place in your existence is over. Social Media teaches us that lesson more than anything in human history. Take advantage of this fact and see “you” for what you are, one blip, one instant, one of billions of ways to exist.