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Celebrity Snapchat accounts promote public voyeurism

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Last week, Buzzfeed posted a story simply titled, “Chris Pratt Joining Snapchat was the Best Thing to Happen All Week.” As a fervent fan of Pratt, I quickly clicked the link and scrolled down the page to the image of Snapchat’s characteristic ghost. From there is was simple; all I had to do was snap a picture of that image using the app and I’d instantly add Pratt to my friends list, gaining access to any and all Snapchats he planned to post on his Story.

Yet, I found myself hesitating to take the picture until I eventually just exited out the page. Throughout this process, one question consistently crossed my mind: Is it weird to follow celebrities on Snapchat?

According to Vanity Fair, we are now living in “The Golden Age of Celebrity Snapchat.” Even though the photo-sharing app has been around since 2011, it is true that currently more and more celebrities are beginning to join. In fact, some celebrities, perhaps most notably Kylie Jenner and DJ Khaled, have used the platform as a means to increase their celebrity status.

The capacity to which celebrities such as Jenner and Khaled utilize the app is slightly different than an average, non-famous user. While anyone with a Snapchat can follow a celebrity, a celebrity will, most likely, not follow that person back. Thus, causal users become privy to the lives of the famous personalities they follow through the pictures and videos that personality posts in an exclusively one-sided manner.

At the surface, celebrities’ use of Snapchat mirrors the use of any other social media platform; celebrities post content meant to inform, entertain and/or converse with their fans. However, there is something innately different about Snapchat – the content celebrities post will, in a way that things posted on the Internet never really can, disappear. Though it is true that users can take screenshots of pictures posted, videos in their entirety cannot be captured. As such, Snapchat as an app grants celebrities a greater sense of freedom than any social media app before it.

While this lack of inhibition may appeal to fans who wish for a special sort of access to the lives of the rich and famous, I believe it is this aspect that gives me pause. Sure, I’ve spent my fair share of time reading up on the activities of my favorite celebrities but there is something that, to me, seems fundamentally different between that and following celebrities on Snapchat.

The celebrities on television shows, in interviews and even on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are, for the most part, carefully constructed entities. Due to the nature of celebrity status, figures in the public eye must always be conscious to put forth content that upholds the persona they create. This pressure to stay on brand, is intensified by the fact that anything a celeb posts online is, essentially, permanent. As such, it is vital that when posting such content, a celeb stays within their construed persona.

This problem is almost non-existent on Snapchat. Again, posts on the app are meant to disappear and though screenshoting is possible, for the most part the posts do actually disappear. Thus, the pressure to maintain a manufactured image is lifted and, through Snapchat, a celeb is better able to be themselves. The videos and images posted showcase these larger than life figures hanging out with non-celebrity friends, spending time with loved ones and, simply put, living their lives.

At its core, Snapchat is providing the ultimate unencumbered avenue for fans’ voyeuristic fantasies, a way for them to see fully into the lives of those whom they idolize. While celebrities themselves do opt to join Snapchat and choose to post content, I can’t help but wonder if this is only due to the evolving nature of what it truly means to be famous.

Social media can work extremely well to provide a connection between celebrities and fans, and in some ways celebrities seem to be expected to foster this connection. Yet, in bringing fan and celeb together through the intimate videos and pictures posted, Snapchat, for better or worse, has brought them even closer together.

While others may be okay with this closeness, ultimately, I do think it is weird to follow celebrities. Of course, I’ll still endlessly watch Chris Pratt goofing around on Parks and Recreation or braiding interns’ hair in interviews. However, in the end, I’d prefer to keep the personal life he may show through Snapchat as just that, his personal life.

Madisen Egan ’16 (eganm@stolaf.edu) is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English and biology with a concentration in film studies.