Late last year, most of us were in awe of Selena Gomez’s self-awareness after she took a 90-day break from her phone, cancelled her tour in the wake of depression and anxiety, and used her AMAs speech to cite the importance of mental health awareness.
We applauded her strength, her stamina and her transparency in using her platform to speak on everything from living with lupus to the difficulties of being famous. Most recently, in her April 2017 Vogue profile, she unloaded about the pressure to be authentic, the loneliness of touring and the weirdness of being so widely known.
“I love what I do,” she said. “And I’m aware of how lucky I am, but—how can I say this without sounding weird? I just really can’t wait for people to forget about me.”
Which, cynicism regarding the cult of celebrity aside, makes sense. Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched as the relationship between The Weeknd and Selena has been charted and analyzed, with the duo even recently being chased by fans in Brazil. Which is way too intense and makes us all look bananas. Despite applauding Selena’s honesty, we’ve somehow managed to forget the fact that she’s human and not just an outlet for our fame addiction.
There’s a difference between subscribing to clickbait and infringing on a celebrity’s ability to live. As a person in the spotlight, what Selena Gomez says or does will undoubtedly garner attention because that’s the way even the most basic level of fame works. But even if you’re the biggest Selena fan in the world, infringing on a couple’s physical space is a far cry from acknowledging (and wholeheartedly supporting!) their romantic union.
Related: That Time Selena Gomez Was On the Cover of FLARE!
Admittedly, social media complicates things. By posting the minutiae of their day-to-day, young famouses inevitably invite a type of scrutiny and sense of familiarity that their counterparts in ’00s-era tabloid culture didn’t experience. And in Gomez and The Weeknd’s case specifically, that sense of familiarity (whether stemming from Selena’s Instagram posts or from us having watched her grow up in the spotlight) breeds entitlement: fans feel like they deserve facetime and physical acknowledgement because they’ve known her for so long.
Which isn’t true. Even if a young famous is offering snippets of her life through Snapchat or Instagram, we’re still only getting a filtered and edited version of a complete narrative. By now we should understand that social media is an extension of a brand, not an extra-special intimate glimpse into a celebrity’s essential being—or a piece of a puzzle that we need to take it upon ourselves to solve. Nor is it in any way a suggestion that we own them, or that they owe us.
Because here’s the thing: we don’t know who Selena Gomez actually is. We don’t know who any young celebrities are, because we don’t know them. Period. We know only what they choose to give us: the fleeting glimpses into their day-to-day routines or their highly-edited Instagram photos. We know what we see from third-party cataloguers and from interviews which they’ve had total control over and ample time to prepare. But to hone in on and invade personal lives based on our assumptions and sense of entitlement is wildly unfair. Especially because youth in particular is reserved for rebellion and experimentation and figuring yourself out. And it’s impossible to do any of the aforementioned while being boxed in by grown-ass adults who believe they’ve owed anything other than a decent performance at a concert they paid money to attend.
It speaks volumes that Selena Gomez used a cover story to get real about her discontent with fame—or more specifically, how excited she is to be forgotten one day. But it speaks less about her than it does about our own toxic behaviours that led to her feeling that way. Most of us (I hope) wouldn’t swarm a stranger’s car or demand anything from someone we’d never crossed paths with. (Hell, most of us wouldn’t demand anything from people we know and love—because “demanding” in general is creepy and weird.) Yes, her new romance is exciting, and yes, she’s in the public eye a lot. Selena Gomez may be undeniably unforgettable, but at least let’s take a step back and pretend she can be.