Leon’s Existential Cafe

Fame and Fortune in the Isolated Age of Social Media

“One thing we all adore, something worth dying for, nothing but pain, stuck in this game, searching for fortune and fame” -2Pac

Searching for Fame

It’s said that ideas rule the world, that they lie behind everything we do and are. And since childhood, in this country, we’re taught about the significance of excellence. Our parents, and generations before them, passed on the ideal of greatness. To them, striving and achieving encompassed the total sum of a well-lived life, beyond which was nothing of importance. Family, friends, children: these were all nice things to have. But not at the expense of one’s goals or, as they would have put it, one’s individuality.

So, in our extravagant and materialistically lustful culture, we compete with our friends, our family members, and sometimes our own children for glory. And, for some reason, this is acceptable. But what are we really looking for? Do we really want to be excellent, great, the best?! And if we do, then why? Why does that ideal mean so much to us? And at what cost?

The Loneliness of the Instagram Star

In the past decade, social media created a boom of influencers, models, musicians, and internet celebrities, people who spend the majority of their time gaining followers and spreading the good news of their talents. The search for internet fame becomes an all-consuming way of life, which often arrives at the cost of deep relationships with people who want to love them. The so-called clout-chasers live a relatively impoverished life outside of their profiles. Their self-worth and emotional well-being are tied in with how many likes and comments they receive. Their talent, which is often reduced to their appearance, is what makes them feel good about themselves. In each of their minds, this thing that the world seems to worship them for is the only thing that maintains their sanity. Essentially, their superiority is what sustains them.

What Do The Famous Have to Say?

The rocky lifestyles of famous people is so well-known that it seems pointless to discuss them. But despite the clichés and never-ending scandals, I think it’s important for us to continue to revisit their lives in an attempt to understand how and why they failed at attaining happiness. Tupac Shakur was one of the most famous musicians of all-time and his struggles with mental illness are well-documented. Despite all of the success he achieved, Pac struggled mightily with depression and suicidal ideations.

For him, fortune didn’t entail what he thought it would, as it doesn’t for most. In his music, he spoke of feeling stuck in its cycle, experiencing a severe level of suffering while trying to grasp it and hold on. Success, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. But, it corrodes a man’s soul if it’s the only thing. Pac found it difficult to trust others, thus most of his time was spent perfecting his craft. He expressed what appeared to have been a deep regret about his pursuits, vocalizing the downside of fame and how a life bereft of intimacy can cause the star-chaser to feel entrapped, and suffocated, by his own stardom.

Why Doesn’t Fame Make Us Happy?

If Pac was great but still unhappy, why was fame still so significant to him? Unfortunately, I can’t speak for him, but I can speak for others in saying that the quest for globalized love stems from a deep-seated sense of unlovability. Fame, in moderation, balanced with healthy relationships and other pursuits (such as unrelated hobbies) can be a wonderful addition to a person’s sense of self. But when taken to its extreme, fame constitutes a deceptive veil, which masks a perpetual inner-turmoil that can only be cured by authentic love. For fame is a mask in the sense that it allows its seeker to search for love in a detached and disingenuous way. It causes her to feel the momentary exhilaration of mass adoration, yet leaves her empty in its recurrent passing.

The philosopher, Boethius, noted that fortune existed on a wheel that continually turns as we move through life. Sometimes, fortune favors us, leaving us destitute at others. But, it never fills the void we need it to. All of those fallen stars who crumbled under the intensity of its brilliance eventually learned that the obsession with fame was nothing but fool’s gold.

Our persistent search for fame amounts to a search for love, for which fame is a poor substitute. Instagram stars neglect their interpersonal lives, leaving themselves wondering why their likes and comments leave them so unfulfilled. Simply put: they aren’t real, not in the sense of being able to care for them in the way needed. Achievements don’t hold you when your parent dies. Your likes don’t actually make you like, or even love, yourself. And your fame will never be more than a temporary fuel.

A Better Replacement

Fame isn’t real; intimacy is.

Authentic love loves you when your album flops. Authentic love adores your imperfections. It loves you when you’re up and when you’re down, and couldn’t care about amount of your social media followers. What we’re looking for when we look for fame is genuine exposure, and to be loved in return. The problem with stardom is how shallow and capricious it is. And those who succumb to its toxicity come to realize that their followers don’t really know them; thus, can never fully love them. Luckily for Pac, he had a big group of people who loved him. And I’m sure that they were the ones who kept him sane. Repeatedly, he warned us to be wary of fame, its malevolence and its frailty. Pac knew that, by itself, fame would never fill his void. And, it never did. So, while fame is a great addition to a life full of love, it can never replace it.

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