How celebrity selfies are increasing media literacy

Tabloid magazine reads "Bachelorette pregnancy shocker"In January, pop queen Taylor Swift shared a photo with her 53.2 million Instagram followers of her and girl/sister-band HAIM grinning while enjoying the sun with “Greetings from Maui!” underneath. The photo gained 1.8 million likes, but was not an original pose by any stretch. Swift later told BBC1 Radio talk show host Nick Grimshaw the real reason behind on the photo in February:

“Basically, on the last day we see a fishing boat a half a mile away. We were like, ‘That’s a little weird. We’re in the middle of the ocean scuba diving.’ My security gets out binoculars and sees that they have a huge long-lens camera. At which point, we go back to the beach and we realize, ‘Okay, so they got pictures of us in our bikinis, like, I don’t want them to make like $100,000 for stalking us.’ So we’re like, ‘Get up on the bow of the boat. We’re taking better bikini shots, so they don’t make as much money on theirs.'”

With 300 million users on Instagram, as well as 316 million Twitter users, the way we inform ourselves is evolving, and celebrities like Swift are using that to their advantage. Celebrities have hopped on the social-media trend, allowing us to follow our idols as easily as following our mothers. Stars such as Justin Bieber (the current most-followed celebrity on Instagram) have photos of their lives posted directly to our newsfeed, allowing us to get the news without the game of telephone we have become so accustomed to in celebrity gossip. Now, the more absurd the headline we see, the faster we are to check social media to see if it is true.

In an anonymous survey, participants were asked to give some details on their social media outlets, as well as their media literacy when it comes to celebrity gossip.

“Why would someone go out and buy a gossip magazine when we can see for ourselves what the celebrity is doing with their lives?” one participant said.

The survey began with two pregnancy announcements: one from Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram profile, and the other from a cover of Life & Style Magazine (right). All of participants agreed that Teigen’s Instagram post was more believable than the tabloid magazine.

With the removal of the middleman and photos being shared directly with viewers, not only do we see it as more plausible, but a connection is made between us and the celebrity, as one participant explains: “Very rarely, I would find myself the need to look up some tabloid magazine to get the answers I wanted when I could go check out said celebrities Instagram or Twitter account. Most post before the news comes out so they can say it first… unless they are hiding something. Plus, Instagram gives more life to your celebrities. Yea, I follow my three best friends on Insta[gram]… oh and Kendall Jenner. Who knows. Maybe she will follow me back.”

The survey also asked why people followed celebrities on social media, and how they determined if the profile belonged to the actual celebrity. Eighty-eight per cent said that they check for the blue verification check given to high-profile names, while 12 per cent assumed that they were following the correct profile.

shows that 92% of people would check social media to confirm rumours

Next, participants were given a hypothetical scenario and asked how they would go about finding out the truth of a statement. When asked to imagine that one of their favourite celebrity couples was rumoured to be engaged, participants had to choose how they would confirm the rumours: through social media or a gossip site. The vast majority — 91.7 per cent — answered that they would check the couple’s social media profiles versus the 8.3 per cent who would rather search information via gossip sites and/or print.

Though it is seen that most people are beginning to search information directly from the source, gossip sites and print are not dying. “…there is always going to be a demand to know more about celebrities than they will reveal themselves. People always want to know more, and the paparazzi provide that for them (true or not),” said a participant.

Jamie Hoholuk

Jamie is a second year Journalism and Communications student. Her writing focus is on celebrity culture and its everyday effect and representation of our society.

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