According to Facebook’s own announcement of News Feed tweaks meant to deliver higher quality content, celebrity idolization will not be relegated to garden-variety tabloid foodstuff, unless it’s a meme.
The company says it will be “doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo…” And that, “People use Facebook to share and connect, including staying current on the latest news, whether it’s about their favorite celebrity or what’s happening in the world.”
Facebook wants users to spend more time talking about things in the news, but it’s also banking on celebrity worship to drive user engagement and bring in advertising dollars.
“[Facebook] is wooing celebrities, many of whom are curious about how best to use the platform. The offshoot may be a subtle redefinition of our relationship with celebrities,” reported Mashable in September. The company’s efforts can be seen in the exclusive launch of Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail” video, Gisele Bundchen’s first baby pic, and Channing Tatum and his wife’s first baby pic.
Celebrity content has wide emotional appeal, consumers feel in emotional proximity to celebrities even if they’ve never met them. Celebrities become part of their lives and conversations.
In reference to Paul Walker’s death, Dr. Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, told U.S. News & World Report, “When a celebrity passes, the loss is personal — not because we knew the celebrity, but because they were with us as we grew up and as we had our own special moments.”
Courting celebrities, introducing verified accounts, trending topics, and now a heightened focus on informational content quells any doubts about Facebook’s Twitter-like aspirations.
But its strategy going forward remains unclear and contradictory.
The company’s no-meme filter might protect celebrities from being parodied on Facebook, but it doesn’t protect its more sophisticated users from celebrity worship syndrome, especially considering that shared content from friends of friends ranks higher in one’s feed.