If you’ve been on the Internet at all this week, you’ll have heard the sad news that David Bowie and Alan Rickman have passed away. Although I’m not very familiar with their work, I have been reading a lot of Facebook posts and tweets and news stories about them and their time on the planet. One article I read (forwarded to me by my mom) started with the line “I didn’t even know he was sick”.
Neither Mr. Bowie nor Mr. Rickman told anyone they had cancer. That’s fair, it’s a personal thing to go through. But for some reason, people are surprised that they didn’t know. There’s this ridiculous idea that just because someone exists on the world stage, we should know everything about them. We obsess over celebrities’ personal lives, we stalk them to get photos of them doing regular human things (like riding bikes or selling lemonade with their kids). We violate their privacy on a daily basis to get these photos.
And yet we guard our own privacy so fiercely.
I have my Facebook privacy set so that I have to approve every post I’m tagged in. I limit my presence on the Internet to the best of my ability, because I don’t think that everyone in the world needs to know everything about me. I like to have some semblance of control over what the public sees. This is a normal thing for normal people to do. I would be hurt and angry if someone started following me around and documenting my every move.
I’m also a sucker for tabloids and I regularly tweet about my roommates, classmates, and profs, which makes me an enormous hypocrite. I’m lucky, though – I haven’t done anything worth global attention and I don’t lead an interesting enough life to warrant it. Outside of my family, I don’t think there’s anyone that cares enough to know every detail of my life (there might not be anyone who cares enough inside my family either, to be honest). Because of that it’s really difficult to predict how I would react to a life in the spotlight. I’m an attention seeker, but have really specific times about when I want people to notice me. I can only assume that I wouldn’t want the world following my battle with disease, and can definitely understand why someone in the public eye would choose to keep that private.
Why are we (myself included) so obsessed with celebrities’ personal lives? What gives us the right to feel entitled to information about their day-to-day? What makes them, specifically, so fascinating to us?
Even after writing this, I doubt that I’ll change my media consumption habits. It’s just too much fun.
My condolences go out to the families of Mr. Bowie and Mr. Rickman. The world is short two incredible artists.