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Simon Han

UWP 001Y-021

Professor Kurzer

15 September 2017

Social Influence of Celebrity Culture through Social Media


Nowadays, personal communication has been pushed towards new heights. With a

smartphone device and a Wi-Fi connection, one can easily log in to social media and spend leisure

time on it. With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube being so prominent in the urban lifestyle, social

media is becoming the new public space to receive newsfeed and express opinions. Social media

provides an open and equal platform to contribute content and the social dynamics in the

community is quite interesting.

Literature Review

Celebrities are “a group that occupy a privileged social position

from the fact of public

attention” (Meyer and Gamson, 1995). Although people have seemed to accept the identity of a

“celebrity” as a cultural phenomenon, the identity itself hasn’t been studied by sociologists only

until recent years. Scholars have been hesitant towards studying the cultural phenomenon for they

see celebrities as “trivial topics, unimportant to a comprehensive understanding of the social world”

(Ferris, 2007). However, as the digital media world is becoming more prevalent than any time in

history, celebrities nowadays have more influence on much more than popular culture. Therefore,

emerging studies in the past decade have addressed relations between celebrity culture and politics

(West, 2005), fashion (McCormick, 2016), success (Schulman, 1999), etc., influencing the roots of

values and behaviors of the younger generation. Celebrities are also suggested as “human brands,”

serving the bigger context of consumerism and modern ideal human beings to the middle-age

population (Centeno and Wang, 2016).

When it comes to digital communication in the age of social media, scholars are

increasingly interested and invested in studying the online literacy of social media discourse

communities. Linguists have looked into factors such as race (Chun and Walter, 2011), age group

(Thurlow and Bell, 2009), native language (Paolillo, 2007), and others that take a stance in online

literacy expressions. Generally, characteristics of this non-face-to-face communication platform

invites users of different backgrounds to short discussions on various topics, and though some claim

social media “interactive,” it does not meet the purpose of effective communication (Barton and

Lee, 2013), for there is more interpretation to be made on individual users’ end than face-to-face

communication (Gaines, 2010).

Despite both celebrity culture and social media being well-investigated by scholars as

separated issues, there is still a lack of literature on the specific literacy pattern celebrities use for

social media to communicate with social media discourse. This literacy pattern is critical to

furthering the understanding of celebrity formation and future branding for celebrities.


This study interviewed young college students from a tier-one research university in a

suburban college town in California. The author collected answers on questions around topics in

(1) social media user interests (2) social media preference and usage (3) attitude towards celebrity

social media posts (4) interaction with other users. The interviews were conducted either through

face-to-face communication or through phone calls. The purpose of these questions was to examine

users’ general experience with social media and their expectations for celebrity activity on social


Results & Discussion

Out of the selected interviews, users (in the 18-21 age group) use social media heavily



Barton, D., & Lee, C. (2013). Language online: investigating digital texts and practices. London: Routledge.

Centeno, D., & Wang, J. J. (2016). Celebrities As Human Brands: An Inquiry On Stakeholder

Actor Co-Creation Of Brand Identities. Journal of Business Research.

Ferris, K. O. (2007). The Sociology of Celebrity. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 371-384.

Gaines, E. (2011). Media literacy and semiotics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mccormick, K. (2016). Celebrity endorsements: Influence of a product-endorser match on

Millennials attitudes and purchase intentions. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services,32, 39-


Meyer, D. S., & Gamson, J. (1995). The Challenge of Cultural Elites: Celebrities and Social

Movements. Sociological Inquiry, 65(2), 181-206.

Paolillo, J. C. (2007). How Much Multilingualism? The Multilingual Internet, 408-430.

Schulman, E. (1999). Can Fame Be Measured Quantitatively? Annals of Improbable Research, 5, 16.

Thurlow, C., & Bell, K. (2009). Against Technologization: Young Peoples New Media Discourse

as Creative Cultural Practice. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(4), 1038-1049.

West, D. (2005). American Politics in the Age of Celebrity. The Hedgehog Review, 7(1): 59– 65.