Celebrity is such a bizarre thing when you think about it. These individuals are often very gifted in one particular niche, whether it is their athleticism, acting abilities, political prowess, or even sometimes technical acumen. The world watches them, enthralled with their lives because of their skill set in one field. Honestly, I find this voyeurism pretty weird, but the most intriguing part is when they share their opinions, and the ripple effects are felt throughout culture.
We’ve seen Elon Musk cause cryptocurrency to both rise and tank more than once, just by tweeting. Headlines recently stated that soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo, caused Coca-Cola stock to drop $4 billion because he shunned coke product placement and told people to drink water. While stock prices are more complicated than that, the sensation that followed the interview is undebatable.
So what does this relationship between celebrities and the rest of the world look like? And on a more practical level, how do we navigate the waters in the wake of their influence? The first step is trying to get a grasp on what that influence means and what it entails.
Knowing the weight of their opinions
During a recent episode of podcast Armchair Expert, with Dax Shephard and Monica Padman, Prince Harry criticized popular podcast host Joe Rogan for his comments about vaccinations saying, “The issue is in today’s world with misinformation endemic, you’ve got to be careful about what comes out of your mouth.” The host of the podcast The Joe Rogan Experience has said he’s entitled to share his opinions. Well, sure… but also that’s tricky. The huge difference is that he is sharing those opinions on his Spotify platform. That is a lot of influence and power. There is no “just” about it, and he cannot lessen personal responsibility for the influence he has on his listeners. With every episode, he is actively shaping the lens through which they see the world. It is the same for well-known basketball star’s tweet or a television host expressing his opinion of the trustworthiness of a celebrity. People are ingesting this narrative when it is being shared on an extensive scale.
This is why it is very different from the average older man at the barber shop saying that Coke is poison for your body. He does not have the platform that Ronaldo or Rogan has. Celebrities need to accept responsibility for their circle of influence. Yes, each of us is entitled to our own opinion, but we are also culpable for the fallout as soon as we share it. For celebrities, that fallout ranges from shaping the opinions of others to accepting the backlash when they share an unpopular opinion. That being said, we, as the public, need to keep our heads as well.
Acknowledging their right to speak
When the public says, “Do your job and shut up,” it strips a celebrity of their personhood and should not be accepted. They are still human and are more than their niche. Are they experts on everything? Nope. Should we wholeheartedly accept everything they have to say? Big no. BUT — they have the right to speak. Can you imagine suddenly being censored and only being allowed to share about your work in public settings or online? As long as they are willing to shoulder their responsibility, they have the right to say what they please. It is our job to respond rationally and respectfully.
Avoiding the pendulum reaction
So let’s address the role of the average person by stepping away from these extremes. Just because a celebrity opened their mouth or tweeted does not mean that we all need to lose our ever-loving minds. We can pause, do our own research to become more educated on the topic, and assess the situation for ourselves. Take a step back from having an immediate response with unwavering support or vile hatred. Celebrities are still real, fallible, inconsistent human beings. They might be right or wrong. They sometimes even say things that are straight-up stupid. Pause: a human said something stupid. Yes, this is worth freaking out over… oh wait… maybe not.
Recently, I saw an example of this negative pendulum when Kierra Knightly received backlash for being “out of touch.” She shared how she would wear formal gowns with her daughter during the pandemic. Sure lots of people spent their lockdown not even wearing pants. Good for them. That doesn’t make her experience less. She looked at her arsenal available to her and decided a little Chanel and bright colored dresses were what they needed to help create a vibrant, stable atmosphere for their daughter. Friends, this isolation thing lasted about a year. I am sure if we all got together and compared notes on how we spent our time, we each could find things that were unrelatable and could be considered “out of touch.” So let’s all take a step back from the ledge and decide if someone is actually hurting us before we start throwing stones.
So, final thoughts for the day? Celebrities are neither deity nor the devil incarnate. Also, they are not the ones who decide whether or not you buy cryptocurrency. They can speak without causing us to act. They are entitled to have their own opinions, and good news, so are we!
Jacquelyn Adams is a storyteller and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, vlogging about the future of work… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of IEEE-USA or IEEE.