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Personality Course - How does Social Learning Theory explain our Celebrity-Obsessed Culture?

Social learning approach states that we learn by watching and imitating others. Bandura’s social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors and emotional reactions of others.

The most common examples of social learning situations are television commercials.



Commercials suggest that using a certain product will make us popular and win the admiration of other people. Therefore, people model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised. The fact that viewers are passive recipients of media messages can be explained by the gratification theory, which proposed that people are goal directed in their behavior. In our modern society people are active media users, aware of their needs. They simply select media to gratify those needs.

People also use media relationships to relieve boredom, fight loneliness, or give focus and direction to their lives. They look for understanding, inspiration and identity. They can find these in celebrities life stories.



Celebrities are fascinating because they live in a parallel universe, one that looks and feels just like ours, yet is beyond our reach. We are obsessed with celebrity culture because of our personal motivations. By following the celebrities life stories we can find hope, joy and all other kinds of emotions that we sometimes can’t get from our ordinary lives.

Celebrities inspire us, when we need a little push to chase our dreams, or when we need a motivation to keep fighting.

Celebrities rise to fame and live a dream life, so we like to think that if they can do it, we can do it too. We follow what celebrities do and eat and wear because deep down, part of us wants to think we could reach their level of perfection.

However, the side effects of this celebrity-obsessed culture are alarming, mostly regarding children and adolescents, the way they are being raised and perceive life.



Teenagers are active media users. They immerse themselves in media content, and try to make sense of it from their own individual perspective and experience.

For many adolescents, celebrities are social role models. This proves the validity of social comparison theory, in which people compare themselves to others and strive to achieve social rewards, like attention and popularity, by copying those who have achieved higher social status. Therefore, as teenagers are forming their own identity, their use of celebrities as comparison figures leads them to look to the celebrity for guidance on values, attitudes, and behaviors. Involvement with celebrities in general has been shown to influence adolescents in their purchasing behavior, attitudes, and behavioral choices. However, they put themselves at risk if their star role model is following a destructive pattern of behavior.

Another risk is the increasing of the need of self importance. Everyone, from FaceBook to reality shows seems to look for fame. We live in a “Selfie” culture, which is a very unhealthy way of life. The fascination with feeling important and being at the center of attention continues to rise.



Social media is the closest way to feeling famous by establishing an audience who can feed our ego by assuring us that someone is listening and watching. To be famous is to be followed and heard. Social media creates a need for celebrity, as it gives you a taste of it. You can become famous through social media and the Internet. There is nothing wrong with being famous, but it is wrong to seek fame. Being famous should be a result of an outstanding talent or work achievement.

We can alter this celebrity-obsessed culture by cultivating a growth mind set and believing that success is related to effort level.

We must focus only on positive examples.

We must focus on creation, not on shortcuts to recognition.

Fame is not something that you can work towards it, it is something that others decide for you. You can work at becoming a better artist and this is beneficial for other people, whereas seeking to be a famous artist is just vain and it mostly ends in failure.

In my opinion the fame concept is similar to insanity. You can search for it your whole life and never find it. You are knocking at a door that never opens.

Fame doesn’t overcome insecurities and it can’t bring love and happiness in your life. Having thousands of followers on social media doesn’t make you feel more connected, but more disconnected.

Celebrities are just people, with flaws like everyone. Fame is a fantasy so we must stop obsessing over it and live our lives as people.


This article is part of Personality Course series. If you miss previous articles, you can find them below.

Personality Course

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Carl Jung
Erik Erikson
Gordon Allport
Ivan Pavlov
Dollard and Miller
George Kelly
Albert Bandura
Carl Rogers
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