Recently, I have become obsessed with some of Hollywood's most obsessive: The Bling Ring, the now-infamous group of California teens who launched themselves to stardom by burglarizing the homes of the likes of Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom. There's been enough hype surrounding the Louboutin-wearing, Chanel-snatching brigade to produce a box office success, and the rumors run rampant about what, and even more intriguing, how much, the clique stole: About three million dollars worth in cash, drugs, and belongings. But compared to what they were really chasing, that was chump change. The Bling Ring wanted the lives of celebrities, and the wardrobe to match. They were obsessed.
But sitting there in the audience, watching The Bling Ring flaunt their stolen wealth via Facebook and photograph after photograph, I was left with a probing aftertaste presented in the form of a question: Are we all obsessed? With ourselves?
Aside from the carelessness and utter delusional the members of The Bling Ring operated under, I wondered how much their world mirrored the worlds of thousands of young adults across the country, simply on an amped-up, more diabolical scale. That's what stuck with me: Not what they stole, not who they were, but how much they had to say about it. And how they said it.
That, to me, was easily the most disturbing facet of the story. They didn't care if you knew about what they took from Paris'...they cared if you knew about them. Who they were. How they dressed. What they did. What they got away with. What they had to say. Burglaries and heavy drug usage aside, how are we much different?
We often stray from social media use to downright self-advertising, a line that becomes more and more blurred as technology advances. The benefits of the Internet and social media are virtually limitless; there are young artists, writers, athletes, and thinkers around the world who get their start learning the invaluable skill of self-marketing, something that could arguably benefit any future career endeavor. But where oh where is the space where we drift away from showing the best of ourselves to our "followers" and "friends" -- our work, our funniest anecdotes, our best stories -- to merely being obsessed with ourselves, and assuming everyone else is too?
Most would argue that celebrity enthrallment is now a cultural staple, something that fuels us and intrigues us, something we all engage in. That's true. But I would argue back that the standard for being a "celebrity" has sunk lower and lower, to the extent that our culture no longer idolizes celebrities; we act as if we are celebrities.
With the invention of Vine and the rise of the seflie, it is now possible for the formerly-average human being to become a walking, talking, posting version of US Weekly. Vine is essentially offering the opportunity for every user to produce their own 15-second reality show. Instagram lets users publicize a daily "Who Wore What" edition, outlining their every outfit and accessory. Twitter, slowly but surely, has led us to believe that our every thought must be interesting.
It sounds as though I am against social media, or making an argument against the use of it. I am not; you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I am active on all three accounts. But I am curious about how we, as a collective whole, are using it. Some think that we're a population that looks at, and thinks about, ourselves far too much. But I disagree, and I don't think that's the cause of our obsession. I don't think we look at ourselves enough, and I do not mean through a filter on Instagram or in a full-length mirror.
We live in a world of trend and obsession. Not all these trends will be materialistic, just as not all obsessions are negative. Things with power, like social media, are a fascinating blend of virtue and vice: the ability to be an incredible thing or a profoundly bad one. But we live in just that: A world. A world of problems, chaos, and exceptionally bad things. That same world is also full of good, compassion, and notably amazing things. Through social media, we have the power to show who we are to the world. We have the power of our own self-image, but I think we forget to use it. Just as The Bling Ring fell so far down the rabbit hole of glitz and glamour that they seemed to forget their actions were illegal, we've gotten lost between ourselves and our celebrity-selves, the ones we show the world.
It's strange, because you can officially have a record without being arrested. Misunderstandings come and go, celebrity fades away, but social media is forever. And in a sense, so are we. When the whole world is watching... what do you want them to see?