Longtime psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell, who has practices in the city and Detroit, Michigan, knows a thing or two about celebrities.
Today, she serves as a psychologist to the stars, but her focus on fame started as a producer for CNN.
“I saw a lot of people become famous, I saw what eyeballs would be like coming at us,” she said.
Fame has changed dramatically since her CNN days. In the era of social media and reality television, millions of eyeballs a day lurk around for content on their favorite stars.
“TV goes into our head,” she said. “If you are watching ‘Roots,’ you learn about slavery. If you sit and watch ‘The Bachelor,’ ‘Big Brother,’ what does that do to a brain? What does that do to our ability to create an enlightened society?”
The Power of a Good Story
With the power of an iPhone, anyone can be famous these days. A study in the U.K. showed that teenagers strongly desire to be social media influencers, with 17 percent of British children stating this desire.
Dr. Rockwell attributes this desire for fame to our love of a good story.
“We as humans are storytellers,” she said. “All throughout history, the human mind was attracted to story.”
Indeed, those seen as celebrities seem to tell the most compelling stories.
“Our society singles out celebrity in stories it tells,” she said. “That is why I think people want to be famous.”
Still, fame can come at a price. In the era of social media, Dr. Rockwell describes how patients today feel more powerless than ever at the mercy of their apps.
“There is nowhere to hide,” she said. “You can turn off your comments and get off social media altogether, but that is getting rid of your calling card.”
However, living life in front of a camera has its upsides.
Britney Spears dominated the early years of celebrity gossip websites and social media. Most of the media attention portrayed her in a negative light.
“It shows we have reached a benchmark in all the efforts to minimize the stigma around mental health and the road to well-being,” said Dr. Rockwell. “All of us are on the same road in our spectrum to life. We are more able to relate to Britney and celebrities that are nothing more than a relationship to our experiences.”