No matter what sort of life you lead, you need a distraction now and then. Whether you’re dealing with worrisome issues in the news or in your own life, it’s not healthy to be immersed in heavy stuff all the time. It’s a good diversion to read about Reese Witherspoon or the royal family in a magazine at the doctor’s office, or to catch up with celebrities’ lives on Twitter when you need a break from work. It’s like eating M&M’s—quick, sweet, and fun. The flip side is being obsessed with somebody famous, which is not healthy. As with M&M’s, you want some but not too much.
When people feel a strong affinity with celebrities, they can be inspired by what those celebrities stand for. A study I did found that a public service announcement starring Chace Crawford of Gossip Girl was more effective than the same ad starring an unknown actor. The closer viewers felt to Crawford, the more they wanted to donate their jeans to homeless teens, as the ad urged. Celebrities can also be role models. When Angelina Jolie publicized her decision to have a preventive mastectomy after test results showed she carried a breast cancer gene, some of her fans became interested in getting tested. Not all celebrities are such positive role models, though, so choose the object of your fascination wisely.
Riva Tukachinsky, PHD, is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California.
3It emboldens you to live your dream.
I’ve been a huge David Bowie fan since I was about 10. To me, he seemed like a really big dork, but he decided to become cool and be an artist. I found that reassuring. Later in his music and acting career, I admired him for continuing to try to do interesting work, for being current, for not being cowed by people who thought he should hang it up. A celebrity can give you the confidence to pursue your own goals. An aspect of the celebrity’s work, attitude, or life can be a north star, guiding you and giving you a focus or something you can adopt or flat-out mimic. It’s human nature to look for idealized versions of the lives we’d like to lead.
Christian Finnegan is a comedian, writer, and retired pop culture commentator. He lives in New York City.
4It can make you feel connected.
During a rocky period with my boyfriend, I discovered that watching Friends made me feel less rejected and alone. Seeing how the Friends stars supported one another made me feel supported too. Inspired to study this, I found I wasn’t alone. Following a favorite character or celebrity can help people—especially those with low self-esteem—feel more socially connected and, as a result, better about themselves. Of course, those who believe their fantasy friendship is real or who use it to avoid developing actual relationships should consider seeking help from a mental health professional. But in general, using a celebrity to feel connected is not inherently wrong.
Jaye Derrick, PhD, is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Houston.
5It can help you pick up great style tips.
Seeing what celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Jamie Chung wear helps me figure out what styles will look good on me. I’m inspired to duplicate their look, search online for a budget-friendly, ethically produced version, or rent a similar dress or accessory from Rent the Runway. If you admire a star’s style, follow her in magazines and on Instagram and Pinterest to learn where she gets her inspiration. Create a vision board—online or on poster board—of the looks you love. Lea Michele wore a necklace on Glee that I had to have. I found out where she got it from a Pinterest photo. Four years later, I still wear mine all the time!