Death Hoaxes a Symptom of Modern Society

A guest blog entry by Brett Wallace (student, world citizen)

We clearly live in a celebrity society.

A lot of people follow major celebrities throughout their daily lives, relishing the pictures they get of their favorite movie star walking down the street in sweatpants and a stained t-shirt.  Nowadays, it seems that people even act like celebrities, getting celebrity egos just for having a managerial position or scoring on the basketball court.  This can even be seen with such sites as Facebook and MySpace.  Kids and adults love publishing pictures, interests, hobbies, news about their lives, etc, for all users of the Internet to see, even If just friends and family.  Some use these sites in an attempt to make everyone a celebrity, that is exist somewhat in the public eye.

A recent article published by the Chicago Tribune dealt with celebrity death hoaxes after the death of three celebrities in recent news (http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-talk-celebrity-death-hoaxesjul01,0,3603807.story).  It seems that people get a kick out of sending falsified information and making a big (or little) splash in the Internet blogs or tabloid newspapers.

According to Sociologist C. Wright Mills (200), in order to determine why people, individuals, are doing this we must look at society in general.  The very basic structure of this society creates a reciprocal situation where the more powerful people are more well known, and the more well known people are more powerful.  They may not be legislatively powerful, but pop culture celebrities hold a lot of sway over people’s opinions.  For instance, if Oprah backs a product or person on her show, much of America tends to follow suit.

However, this system of a few well known people in power and many less well known people with less power is pervasive throughout all of society.  In business, the CEO has the most power and is subsequently the most well known person in the company, whereas a desk clerk has very little power and is not very well known to everyone even in the clerk’s own office.   In government, the president, congress, and supreme court are supposed to be equal in power, but looking at the coverage the recent elections have had it can clearly be seen that, at least in terms of being able to sway public opinion, the president has the most power by far.  This is how pretty much every large scale national government is set up right now.

I cannot think of any truly egalitarian governments or societies.  Even hippies had heroes.

In human history, this society is right now the globally dominating norm, or at least it is quickly becoming it.  The spread of the West has brought its qualities of capitalism, democracy, and subtle imperialism to many countries.  In fact, it can safely be said that Western culture rules the majority of the world.  A person would be hard pressed to find a place without a McDonalds anywhere in the world.

Most of all, the West has brought consumerism to the world.  People no longer subsist on only what they need, they consume more of what they want simply for fashion’s sake.

Looking at this modern societal world gives a good idea of the motives behind the spread of false celebrity rumors.  For one, this makes the person a celebrity.  If they tell their group of close friends that they started the rumor, and then someone hears the rumor from an outside source, the one who started the rumor turns into a small scale celebrity.  They gain some recognition and power within their circle.  It is also possible that these people just like entertainment information of any sort.  In this age of universal information superhighways, information gets spread around fast, making it easy for a small town Joe, or at least his gossip, to quickly reach Internet fame, which is easily seen by small town Joe, his friends, and even the rest of the world.  The actions of these rumor-leakers is a symptom of the society already discussed.

Reference

Mills, C. Wright.  1959 (2000).  The Sociological Imagination, 40th Anniversary Edition.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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11 thoughts on “Death Hoaxes a Symptom of Modern Society

  1. The society we live, is heavily influenced by celebrities and starlets. The choices they make influence what we wear, and what activities we pursue. In the sociological Imagination impersonal incidents that happen can be related to ones life. Though celebrities do not have political power they have power to change opinions, and to buy certain products. The celebrities have status, that all the people that hang on there every word, or pick up every tabloid with there picture on the front cover, try to acheive

  2. I agree with Shauna that celebrities and starlets influence the choices we make in fashion or behavior. Although, in reality, these celebrities are just regular people just like us. These sponsors, make-up artists, hair stylists, producers and creators are the whole reason behind these stars. We believe they are just that beautiful, skinny or perfect. No. The media portrays these stars exactly the way they want to get our attention. So those that publishes death hoaxes and rumors just want that popularity and money from you. Everything is almost like an advertisement. They use beautiful people or role models to sell. For example, they choose skinny white individuals for ads in fashion so we believe that is how we are supposed to look. What if they used darker skinned curvy girls? Would we want to change our image into that? I think so.

  3. I think that celebrities attract and influence the youth in our society. We all have our certain celebrities that we adore. Whether it be a actor, sports player or musician, they impact our life in someway. Not only do we admire their talents but many also admire and are influenced by different clothing and styles that are created throughout Hollywood. I think the older generation in our society has their celebrities that they like, But I dont think they are influenced as much as we, the youth are.

  4. We are living in a modern society. And as we know we all are highly influenced by the film stars and starlets. People tend to have their hairstyle, their dress style, their bags, and their phones. People tend to think that that is the reality of the world and that is how their world always looks like. But people are ignoring the fact that they are just like us and they are doing it because they are public figures. So they do have sponsors for that. Their normal life would be just like our life. People wish to live in the world of glamorous. We should be realistic. Instead just do not judge by the outside appearance because that would not the truth of matter. And after all we should not blindly follow someone, we should have our on identity and our own individuality. I completely agree with this article.

  5. I think the celebrity lifestyle is a bad influence on young adults and young teens. It is amazing how my 9 year old niece thinks she’s fat. She thinks she’s fat because of these models and actresses on T.V. In reality, she is definitely not fat, and should not be thinking about that, she should be outside playing with her friends. The celebrities influence the way people dress, the reason why women have to have the designer purses, jewelry and clothes. There are many people I used to work with that would buy all these fancy expensive clothes and then be broke before their next pay check. Did i notice if their clothes were Guess vs Target? No.

    People need to stop viewing celebrities as these perfect icons. They are just normal people. Name brand clothes, are just clothes. Most people do not understand that you pay for the name, not the quality.

    It seems like everyone follows the celebrities and what they are doing, instead of being original. This is reality, not the movies.

  6. I don’t see a problem with people trying to emulate the appearance of celebrities. If someone can afford to wear the same clothes and drive the same cars as celebrities then they should be able to make those decisions. The problem is when people try to make these celebrities into role models. There are a lot of temptations for celebrities and many of them cannot resist. After all the deaths from drug and alcohol related incidents and sex scandals that are so common among celebrities it is time for society to find some new role models. Maybe towns should recognize a local citizen with some sort of “citizen of the year” award, someone who can be a real role model.

  7. I do agree with some celebrities not being role models. Such as Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. If people want to dress like them that’s fine, but only if they can afford it. I see people who can not afford it buying these fancy clothes and it’s ridiclous to go into debt just to make yourself look better, when you can probably go to Target and get the same kind of outfit.

    1. I agree, it is a shame to see people go into debt just to uphold their image. As always, our society is always trying to better the individual self rather than focus on the good of the society. If any celebrities really want to be role models, they should start giving money back to their fans through a celebrity stimulus package.

  8. I completely agree with this article. Celebrities influence peoples lives way too much. On twitter, you see many trending topics such as, Justin Bieber broke up with Selena Gomez, or One direction and The Wanted got in a fight. Its terrible how many people care about their lives. Also many people have so much to say about the trending topic. I cant stress it enough how our generation just keeps getting worse and worse. Don’t get me wrong, Justin Bieber is a great role model, but caring about his relationship status isn’t important. Many people look up to many celebrities that aren’t even role models, such as Kim Kardashian. I don’t understand how she can be a role model when she does nothing beneficial in her life. Its nice to have someone to look up to but make sure its someone who actually has a purpose in their life.

  9. I really agree with this article. It seems that nowadays more and more people feel the need “be known” and be relevant in our society. It seems that just simply existing and living ones life isn’t enough for people anymore. They must always be the topic of conversation. As we can see, celebrities will create death hoaxes so they once again will be the hot topic that everyone is talking about. And it’s not just celebrities, people will spread rumors and gossip about themselves so that they too can be of importance. Like the article said to be relevant and known is to have power, and to have power is to be known. I find it sad to know that people would go to extreme lengths,spreading rumors about themselves or creating death hoaxes, to feel important.

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