On the desire for fame
Today, the biggest pandemic on the planet concerning human psychology is that everybody wants to be famous. We are in a fame-seeking crisis of an immense scale people are already frightened of being anonymous. Somehow, people crave to be well-known and want their name up in lights.
Each person’s reasons for wanting fame are different. Some crave fame to gain attention. Social media feeds our primal desire for this. People enjoy their own smaller version of fame on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The number of likes, followers, and retweets provide what feels like measurable data about one’s social prominence. In some cases, this low-level fame takes off and people build a brand around it and begin to monetize. No doubt, popularity can be a tool to make money.
Society values the rich and the famous. Many consider fame as a way to be valued. Look at how many people tune in to the Kardashians. Look at this family’s net worth. They have billion dollars on their name.
For some, fame is a measure of self-worth. One thing that people like is to achieve something others can’t. It makes them feel admired and respected. This can be graduating with honors, getting the high score in a game, or inventing something. Sometimes there may also be a component of having something to prove, often to a parent or some other key figure in the person’s life who was a naysayer – to prove that they could do it, that they weren’t a reject or a failure.
To be appreciated is another reason people seek to be popular. Famed author and lecturer Dale Carnegie said “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” People want to feel that they are appreciated and being famous satisfies this basic need. The brain is hard wired to seek approval and status, so that makes it pretty basic.
There is nothing inherently wrong in being famous. What is wrong is to desire to be famous for all the wrong reasons. Lady Gaga may have put it best: “When your self-esteem depends on how much the world loves you, or retweets your quips, or likes your Instagram posts, or views your vlog, you’re at its mercy. And once the attention fades, you’ll be left feeling empty – or worse, if there’s no attention at all, you’ll feel like a complete failure.”
If your motivation for wanting fame is anchored on selfish and misguided instincts, then maybe you shouldn’t pursue it. Fame, when it is used merely as attention to validate you and when there is no intention to build relationships with people, is detrimental not just to the person, but everyone he or she affects. It drives people to perform attention-seeking behavior without merit, confusing attention for adoration.
In contrast, if your wish for fame is based on compassionate and selfless instincts, (i.e. to better support a noble cause/advocacy, reach out to people on a bigger platform or make positive changes), then that’s the kind of fame that is good. Likewise, fame based on someone’s skill (i.e. being very good at sports, singing, or solving problems), usually drives inspiration and is worthy of emulation.
Fame is attractive because of its several social benefits such as recognition, superiority, dominance, influence, attention, privilege and others. Even so, our desire for it should not erode our ability to make our own judgments in alignment with our values. The applause you get for being famous is wonderful for the ego and gives you brief gratification. But if you train yourself to be satisfied with the miracles life presents us every day, you’ll be fine as well. Fame is rarely actually a route to genuine happiness. Many people are happy because of reasons not related to fame; reasons that any ordinary person can have: family, relationships, health, contribution, meaning. Ultimately, my sense is that good fame comes not because people seek it but because they seek something else which inadvertently leads to fame.