Why Do We Follow Famous People?

I was on a bus the other day in London and almost went insane listening to two young women who were playing the game “Who Am I?” to pass the time. It usually took them about 5 questions to guess the identity of the other as the famous person chosen was invariably Britney Spears, David Beckham or Kylie Mingogue.

Naturally, their repertoire of celebrities was probably almost entirely sourced from the last fortnight's buzz in the tabloid magazines and television channels. But why did they care? Why could they care less about the private lives of the rich, famous and powerful? It wasn't as if they were ever going to meet the celebrities concerned and the pop stars, football players and models who they idolised certainly had no idea that these two women even existed...

The answer, of course, comes down to natural selection. Way back on the African savanna when we were all running around trying to find something to eat whilst not getting eaten, the health and survival prospects of our tribe depended very much on the head honchos of the time. The chief, the top warriors, maybe even the shaman – their health and personal problems were the gossip of the tribe and for good reason: if the best warrior had a killer case of hemorrhoids then maybe there would be no meat on the table for the next couple of days. Or if the chief was getting a bit old and senile then maybe the tribe would do better with some new blood running things.

In short, our survival prospects depended very much upon following closely and gossiping about the private lives of the prehistoric celebrities of the time. That we still gossip about the latest sex scandal of the rich and famous is simply a leftover genetic strategy from when we ran around in search of roots and tubers.

No surprise then that when it comes to the age of Twitter that the foremost point of interest is on which celebrities and famous people are on Twitter The only difference now being that the masses no longer need to wait for the latest gossip pages of the tabloids to find out what's going on in the lives of their favourite celebrities, they can find out by checking the Twitter account of Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong or Britney Spears directly.

Which only leaves us wondering if Darwin would have had a Twitter account?

Charles Darwin