The cumulative advantage (CA) principle posits that after a social agent acquires a small advantage over other social agents, they are in a better position to gain a larger advantage in the future. The CA principle is sometimes called the Matthew Effect, which is used in explaining the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer” phenomenon. Thus, it is vital to discuss the concept of CA in sociology.
Initially developed by Robert K. Merton to elucidate progress in science careers, the principle of CA has evolved to a general framework used for explaining any process whereby any relatively favorable position is important since it yields additional gains for an individual. Robert Merton described a situation whereby the most renowned scientists receive credit for the work done by a group of people, irrespective of the contributions of the group. Moreover, Merton stressed that in the scientific community, the CA extends beyond reputation to have an effect on the larger communication system to influence the processes of social selection. As a result, CA leads to the concentration of talents and resources. An example relates to the uneven visibility in relation to articles published by prominent authors that are grounded on superior articles published by unknown scientists. Furthermore, Merton asserted that the focused attention on prominent people can boost their self-assurance, which encourages them to undertake research in crucial albeit risky areas.
The key notion in the CA principle is that the advantage of a social agent (group or an individual) accumulates (grows) relative to another agent, which implies that inequality linked to this advantage increases as time passes. The advantage often denotes an important resource in the process of stratification such as health, wealth, income levels, and career advancement, among others. The CA principle partly explains the increasing inequality when the present accumulation levels have a direct influence on future levels. Due to CA, groups or individuals who lag behind face significant difficulties when trying to overtake others who are already ahead.
The CA principle has been used to explain numerous social problems such as the widening stratification of class, power centralization, an increase in corruption and increasing income inequality. Every social agent, be it an individual, family, corporation, or a country, attempts to exploit their competitive advantage. Under the CA principle, a social agent that fails to exploit its advantage risks being outperformed by other agents through the survival of the fittest principle. According to Rigney, the ultimate advantage that a social entity can enjoy is a reinforcing feedback loop, which further enhances and increases their competitive advantage. Moreover, all forms of social interaction are efforts aimed at directly augmenting an agent’s competitive advantage or indirectly enhancing the feedback loop.
CA has been used to explain social problems of increasing poverty levels and authoritarian governance. With regard to widespread poverty, wealth is concentrated among the rich. In authoritarian rules, power is concentrated among the top ruling class taking into account the idea that those who have power continue amassing power, whereas those with less power are at a disadvantage when attempting to gain it.
In conclusion, the CA principle aids in explaining a myriad of social problems by explaining growing inequality over time. The underlying presumption of the CA principle is that being at an advantaged position in terms of important resources increases the chances of accumulating them.
New Social Media and Celebrities
Prior to the proliferation of the social media, people had limited information about their favorable celebrities. The only way of being updated regarding celebrities was through rumors and truths spread by others heard from the latest news. However, with new social media platforms, people access the latest information regarding their idols, including their current activities and their whereabouts, among others. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have played a crucial role in increasing the accessibility of celebrities. These platforms have also increased the opportunities for interaction between stars and their followers. Thus, it is vital to explore how celebrities use new social media platforms.
A person who is fascinated by a certain celebrity may constantly feel the need to know more about them. One of the ways of gaining information is a meeting and interaction with them; however, this is nearly impossible. As a result, celebrities are using new social media platforms to keep their followers updated and create a personal connection with them. In fact stars who are active in social media tend to be more likable due to the perceived closeness to their followers, which can increase the celebrity’s fan base. Apart from enhancing the visibility and accessibility of famous individuals, new social media platforms provide them with an opportunity to promote their activities. The speedy and interactive communication via the social media gives stars an added advantage when compared with the conventional communication media such as television and radio. Apparently, modern day celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga are exploiting the power of new social media platforms to maintain their popularity. Social media platforms do not only help established celebrities but also play a considerable role in the creation of new celebrities. Hereby, the social media platforms have acted as a springboard for a new crop of celebrities. As a result, the scope of celebrity creation is no longer limited to traditional avenues such as film and television. Moreover, new social media platforms such as YouTube are creating their own breed of celebrities. Although YouTube celebrities cannot be considered A-list celebrities, they command a massive following on YouTube.
The disadvantages of social media that celebrities might suffer have also been documented. The swift flow of information via social media poses a risk for celebrities. Since stars are ordinary people who make mistakes, social media amplifies the speed at which the information about these mistakes is conveyed to the world. An example is the domestic violence situation involving Rihanna and Chris Brown. Social media aided in the spread of this news, which had negative ramifications for the celebrity status of Chris Brown as evident by the termination of numerous celebrity endorsements. As a result, companies started severing their links with Chris Brown. The resulting negative publicity perpetuated in social media negatively affected Chris Brown’s celebrity rankings. In addition, celebrities are victims of cyber bullying with the help of social media platforms. When celebrities voice their opinions on social media, it is not guaranteed that they will receive positive responses from their followers. Some fans take advantage of the free speech provided by these platforms and sometimes negatively engage with celebrities.
In sum, whereas new social media platforms have both negative and positive impacts on celebrities, the utilization of them for the purpose of connecting with followers can be helpful in increasing a fan base. Celebrities should exercise caution regarding the information they post in these platforms due to the potential of backlash from the public.
Para-social relationships (PSRs) refer to one-sided relationships characterized by one person extending emotional time and interest to another person who is unaware of the existence of the other person committed to the relationship. PSRs are often shared with television stars, organizations and celebrities. According to Pavlik, PSRs develop the social network since it eliminates the likelihood of rejection. Moreover, PSRs give people the possibility to connect with other individuals who are capable of eliciting an emotional reaction. The media nurtures PSR in a manner akin to face-to-face relationships. Eventually, the experiences shared with the celebrity transform into friendship and relationships, thereby making the media user feel as their favorite celebrity understands them. In the past, PSR was commonly shared with television personalities. Currently, the scope of PSR has expanded and includes gamers, social media personalities, and bloggers, among others. Moreover, the intimacy and nature associated with PSR have also matured. Through reality television and social media, the personal and intimate lives of celebrities are shared. Furthermore, the increase in Internet dependency has caused a rise in PSR. Although PSRs are still one-sided, they have developed and became more interactive, permitting people to initiate communication with their media personalities, which in turn enhances strength and intimacy associated with the PSR.
In fact, PSRs share several similarities with conventional social relationships. The same as traditional relationships, PSRs are voluntary, offer companionship and are determined by social interaction. Moreover, PSRs are characterized by the viewer expressing loyalty, gratitude and affection toward media personalities. Another similarity between PSR and real-life relationships is the role that relational maintenance plays in sustaining the relationship. In PSRs, relational maintenance can take the form of weekly viewing and social media platforms. PSRs are extremely common in online environments, which can be explained by an increased knowledge of the media personality and the perceived lack of rejection and high reward associated with PSRs.
Conventionally, PSRs were perceived as pathological and an indicator of social anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Nevertheless, studies have not reported any correlation between the intensity of viewers’ PSR with television personalities and loneliness. Moreover, the lessened stigma associated with PSRs is thought to increase the social network instead of lessening it. PSRs are crucial to viewers due to the perceived gains. People in PRSs usually convey appreciation toward their valued personalities for assisting them to handle tough experiences. Furthermore, viewers consider the media personalities as the ones who play a significant role in shaping their identity.
In conclusion, PSRs are common in the online environment and share several similarities with real-life relationships. The support offered by PSR is of significant importance to viewers. With the emergence of new media platforms, PSRs are a viable option to expand one’s social networks.
Charisma and Celebrity
Charisma has been perceived as an important attribute associated with well-known people such as political leaders and celebrities. Some of the contemporary celebrities who are considered charismatic include Mick Jagger, Madonna, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian. These celebrities seem to possess a unique gift that keeps people attracted to them, which plays a crucial role in keeping them interesting for the public. Currently, there is debate as to whether celebrities truly attract people because they are charismatic or simply because they lead an interesting, attractive and popular lifestyle. Thus, it is reasonable to discuss the role of charisma in celebrities’ popularity.
The classical discussion relating to charisma was done by Max Weber, a German sociologist, who focused on the charismatic attributes of leaders. Weber was of the view that during times of need, an individual having special attributes can emerge from the group. Apparently, these special qualities make people be captivated by the individual; as a result, they willingly follow the individual. From Weber’s perspective, the special attributes denote charisma, whereas the captivation of followers denotes the celebrity construct.
Various authors agree that celebrity and charisma are different constructs, albeit usually confused. Nevertheless, some authors have noted that celebrity and charisma correlate stating that charisma contributes to the rise of the celebrity status. It is essential to denote that celebrity is an instance of social construction since it represents what the followers create for the charismatic leader. Moreover, it is the public that plays a role in creating celebrities; however, not all celebrities possess charisma. According to Gibson, the special attributes associated with truly charismatic individuals comprise complex emotional and social skills that the individual needs to engage with other people in a meaningful and deep manner. When a person makes contact with an individual who is truly charismatic like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton, they feel the establishment of a special connection with that person. Some of the special attributes linked to charisma include the ability to genuinely express experienced emotions to other people, read emotional signals and react to them, control the emotional tone of a social interaction, and have a deep understanding of social situations.
It is also essential to emphasize that charisma is not a reserve only for politicians and celebrities. Ordinary people can also have charismatic qualities. There are several famous celebrities who have not been branded charismatic, while the ones with charisma have an added advantage. Hence, the primary difference between truly charismatic individuals and celebrities is that when a person establishes contact with non-charismatic celebrities, there appears a feeling of disappointment following the realization that there is nothing special about the celebrity.
Thus, it is evident that although charisma is not a prerequisite for the celebrity status, it is an added advantage. Charismatic celebrities are able to create a special connection with their audience.
Celebrity culture denotes the tendency of society to popularize people having particular qualities that are deemed exceptional. It is a form of a reciprocal business relationship characterized by celebrities obtaining social and economic capital and audiences gaining from relations with their celebrities. When celebrity is perceived as a form of culture, it has its institutions such as celebrity-creating machinery like film, television, and sport, among others; public relations firms focusing on popularization of celebrities; and the taste for celebrities. Therefore, it is vital to analyze various aspects associated with the celebrity culture.
The celebrity culture has also developed beyond being limited to mythical/biblical and royalty figures and includes business persons, academia, and scientists, among others. In fact, almost every individual who does something remarkable can transform into a celebrity status. For instance, people who accomplished significant scientific discoveries are now perceived as celebrities, primarily for their contribution to humankind. However, the contemporary celebrity culture does not require a person to exhibit significant achievements, discoveries and talents as was the case in the past. Apparently, this is evident from the fact that until the 1970s, great celebrities were often referred to as “stars,” which was used to denote celebrated individuals in politics, sports, and entertainment field among other professions. Moreover, highly successful athletes were referred to as “super stars.” Currently, celebrities are referred to as “icons”. The changes in the names indicate the superficial nature of contemporary celebrities. In the past, sports personalities, dancers, artists, producers, authors, singers, and actors were celebrities because they possessed certain virtue and talents. Presently, people try to achieve celebrity status without making unique contributions to mankind. The creation of current celebrities is based on hype, which is facilitated by the mass media and public relations. The mass media has also played a significant role in facilitating the exposure of celebrities and the celebrity culture. Due to the mass media, contemporary celebrities have more social capital when compared to their earlier counterparts.Thus, owing to the subsequent glorification of the celebrities, the celebrity culture is based on notoriety rather than fame.
Another important feature of the celebrity culture is that each cultural community has developed its own unique celebrity system, although it is gradually reducing due to the globalization of celebrity. Celebrity culture is also characterized by celebrity worship. Van Krieken compares contemporary celebrities to living gods for people to worship. The public is obsessed with the consumption of information related to celebrities as evident by the endless follow-up of celebrities’ life by paparazzi. Some celebrities are taking advantage of celebrity worship to take part in reality TV in order to satisfy the public’s need to observe their lives. Other aspects of the celebrity culture include glamor and wealth.
In conclusion, the celebrity culture is characterized by numerous aspects, including celebrity worship, glamor, and wealth. Trends in celebrity culture show that the scope of celebrity has expanded beyond the conventional film, television and sport stars and includes academicians, writers, and even businessmen.