You can’t really be my role model unless I don’t know you.
If I know you, it’s possible I admire you and want to be like you in some ways. But if I know you, I also know what I don’t like about you, and I don’t want to emulate those things. If I know you well enough to discern what I like and dislike about you, you probably know me too, and what we have is a relationship, not the role model kind.
I never really had actual role models until I started using social media. I look up to my mom and some of my friends, but like I said, those relationships are deeper than role model relationships. I have something to offer in those relationships, while role models are more one-sided. I look at and admire my role models, but they get nothing from me, because they don’t know I exist.
Social media is the reason I consider some celebrities role models. When I started watching Jane the Virgin, I looked up Gina Rodriguez and started following her on Insta and Twitter. I like the majority of what I see there — she’s smart, she’s supportive of minorities, and she’s a proponent of self-care as it pertains to mental health. I don’t actually know her, obviously. I’ve never met her, and though I have a somewhat-intimate look at her thoughts through social media, all that is still filtered to the public, and she doesn’t know I exist and admire her. Therefore, she is a role model to me. The same thing happened with Emma Watson — she loves books and learning and is a huge supporter of womens’ education, and I love that. I know all of that from Twitter and Insta. Both of these ladies are currently supporting the #Time’sUp movement against sexual harrassment in Hollywood — that’s one more thing I admire.
Social media is also the reason some people fall from role model status, too. When you can tweet all your thoughts to the world immediately, you’re bound to make a mistake somewhere. The beauty of social media is that it breaks down barriers between celebrities and their fans, but that’s also its downfall. Social media allows us to know celebrities almost too well — we’re reminded that we’re people, and it’s a lot harder to put them on pedestals. For example, Gina recently tweeted this:
In the thread that followed, tons of people called her out, saying that they try and want to take care of themselves but can’t due to depression or other mental issues. In responses, Gina stated that the tweet was meant to be a statement to herself, and she left the tweet up rather than deleting it. I like that she left it up, because even though it could be seen as a PR mistake, it was still a true thought she had, and she chose to accept the backlash rather than hiding it by deletion. However, because she used a very public platform to tweet a personal thought, in many people’s eyes she fell from role model status.
Role models — celebrities — are expected to be perfect. We have to know them just enough to admire them and aspire to be like them, but not well enough to see their flaws and be reminded that they are human. Before social media, this balance wasn’t that hard to maintain, since news and statements were filtered through editors and publicists before they were published. Now, we can think a thought and put it out there for feedback in less than a minute. That definitely skews the way we choose our role models.
Because of this, though, I think finding role models through social media can make us more empathetic. Since celebrities are more likely to trip up with social media, we see it more often, and we have to forgive some of this if we want them to stay at role model status. If we can consider a celebrity a role model through their mistakes and slip-ups, it’s possible we’re more likely to do that with our friends and family. Social media reminds us that everyone is human, and that everyone deserves a little forgiveness now and then.
Does any of this make sense to you? Do you have any celebrity role models, or do you prefer to admire those closer to you? Do you think social media can make us more empathetic?