What Social Media Did to Charlie Sheen

What Social Media Did to Charlie Sheen

When We Get A Little Too Close

Crazy as it may seem, I feel bad for Charlie Sheen. Not because I think there is some crazy "agenda" against his awesomeness. No. I just feel sad that he is a victim of today's social networking & media addiction. Even I am to blame.

Fifty years ago stars craziness was kept under wraps, lest their names be tarnished with their peccadillo's, anti-Semites, and hooker addictions. That meant that people were interested in getting to know the "real" person because you were not allowed to look in. All fans were given a carefully crafted facade of who the actors were. They were dressed to fit an image and if their publicists and managers didn't like what they said in interviews it was kept under wraps. If actors had charges filed against them they either went away or were buried so people forgot about them. Not the best practice, but it was the way it was done.

Fast forward to now where people find out news via the Internet faster then the nightly news or even a newspaper could ever deliver it. To a time where many people "break" news via Facebook or twitter, two social networking sites meant to bring people together and interconnect. Now, actors are able to use 140 characters to tell their fans who they are and what they are doing. And they are telling people, at an alarming rate! Ashton Kutcher, the king of Twitter posts links to causes he cares about or even pics of his wife getting dressed. He talks about how he is feeling and what his thoughts are about general things, like movies and television shows. The truly crazy thing is people are listening. They want to know that their favorite stars are just like them, even I have tweeted back and forth with one of my idols Bill Lawrence. I must admit getting a response about what his favorite drink is was kind of cool and I felt connected to him a little more. It's like I got to see a bit more behind the curtain and it made me feel a little special.

Everyone wants to know what its like to be a celebrity. Celebrities seem so close and attainable, why can't an average person have that too? Reality television tells people they can have a form of celebrity. They can be a version of themselves and go to award shows and get all that attention and admiration. The problem with this mentality is that, truthfully, most people will never be able to attain those dreams. They won't be adored by millions or get noticed as someone special on the street. They will continue to be who they are despite higher aspirations. What this means is that people love to hate on the people they can't be. They love to tear down those around them that have attained something they covet. It happens in every day life as well, someone else has the house you always wanted, so when you see them you can't wait to tear them down. You want them to have a hard time or be fat or for their lawn to be infested with grubs. After thinking these crazy things you feel a little better like now you two are even. Heck, if the opportunity arises you may even tell another neighbor about the time you saw the lady from your dream house picking her nose. Why? Cause jealously is an ugly thing.

In this digital age, with our celebrity obsessions and the ability to pass information to large numbers of people, we-as a society-can not wait to break news about celebrities. We also can't wait to tell everyone our own opinion because if you post your opinion, people may read it! They might also "like" it or comment on it. Then you will talk back and forth about your opinion and it will make you feel important. I feel that way too when I make a particularly clever observation, people like it or comment on it, and I feel oddly gratified.

OK, back to how Charlie Sheen fits in to this: He is crazy. He may have shot Kelly Preston in the early 90's. He has been married a lot. He is addicted to hookers, drugs, etc, but that is not what is important. What is? The fact he is a celebrity. People want to hear what he has to say, even if they disagree. He is on a nationally televised show that has fantastic ratings, so a lot of people want to be able to see and hear more about him. While, fifty years ago (or, even in the early 90's) this would have meant that people would have seen the version of him his publicist wanted the world to see, now we see who he is.

What do we see? A train wreck. A crazy guy that obviously has done too many drugs for his own good. What else do we see? A chance to tear a celebrity apart. To share links to videos of his madness on Twitter and Facebook. To post pithy diatribes for or against him. To show such an interest in what he had to say, so in turn allowing him to be booked for more and more interviews. To hash tag winning and make fun of his obvious problems. We saw a chance to make ourselves feel self important by blowing up the crazy things he said into bigger and bigger proportions. By making ourselves feel self important, we made him feel important again, so he was allowed to go on a tour around the country. He was able to sell t-shirts and make tons of money off of the interest everyone drummed up for him. He actually made MORE money because of the fact we wanted to push him off his celebrity pedestal.

Everyone was so wrapped up in interacting-via social media- about the subject of his "tiger blood" and the fact he called himself a "ninja assassin, that they forgot to ask themselves an important question: "Why do I care what he has to say?"  Here was a man that was famous for playing a version of himself on television who said some wild & crazy things in an interview. He was also someone who had just been accused of abusing his wife and holing himself up in a hotel room with prostitutes and cocaine. He was a man whose most infamous quote up to that point was "You don't pay a prostitute for sex. You pay her to leave." I am just guessing most people realized he was not a rational person. The best course of action for someone that is just spouting crazy ramblings is to just ignore them. Just let that person say whatever they want to and not give them the satisfaction of getting a reaction. If you give them attention then they will feed off it and keep going.

When Charlie Sheen started making no sense we should have just ignored him, instead we exploited the topic of the minute for some attention. We allowed him to make even more money because we couldn't just turn off the channel or ignore comments about him on Facebook or stop following him on Twitter. I feel bad for him because I took advantage of it too. I did what everyone else did and hash tagged winning and tiger blood in order to get an extra follower or two. I liked that his publicist was not allowed to hide who he really was from the public anymore. I was allowed to see that a celebrity was just as crazy as every one else. But, may be what I should have done is treat him like everyone else. I should have just ignored all the media attention and not watched the recaps of his videos on YouTube. Maybe, just maybe, if I had just ignore the Charlie Sheen train wreck other people would have too. If he received no attention from his actions may be he would have realized there might be something wrong and that he should seek some form of treatment. Or, may be he would have just fell in to obscurity, and I would have been okay with that too.