Taylor Swift fans across the world have mourned the pop star’s breakup with her longtime boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, since the news broke nearly two weeks ago. Heartbroken “Swifties” have been leaving flowers on Cornelia Street, the site of Swift’s former Manhattan residence and the title of a song from her seventh studio album, Lover, which details memories of a budding romance with Alwyn.
After six years together, the couple’s sudden split came as a shock, and fans are taking the news personally. We make the love lives of celebrities our business — are we a little too invested? Admittedly, yes.
Checking in on our favorite celebrity couples has become part of our daily routines and being the first to know about any new development feels all-important. There are thousands of TikToks, YouTube videos and Instagram posts analyzing lyrics from Swift’s songs to deduce more about her love life, and people cannot seem to get enough of the drama. However, Swift and Alwyn are far from the first couple to draw this much attention.
In 2018, nearly 30 million people in the United States marked their calendars and tuned in for the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Since the couple gave up their royal family duties in 2021, their appearance in a televised special with Oprah Winfrey and Harry’s new venture as an author further fed the public’s ever-growing obsession with the couple. During the peak of the drama, almost everyone had opinions on their relationship and scrutiny of the pair became a reliable conversation starter.
Though casually admiring celebrity couples is understandable, it is unhealthy that many fans of our generation have developed an obsession with who is dating who or whether one celebrity is “right” for another. For example, some fans of the iconic “Jelena” pairing, featuring Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, were furious when they found out that Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin (now Hailey Bieber) were engaged. On social media, fans of Gomez are constantly comparing her to Hailey Bieber, creating a toxic environment for both parties. Gomez has begged fans to be kind and consider others’ mental health amid recent rumors of their feud.
Hailey Bieber and Gomez are not the only victims of fans’ over-obsession with celebrity couples. Recently, actress Millie Bobby Brown took to Instagram to announce her engagement to actor Jake Bongiovi, the son of rock star Jon Bon Jovi. Some fans rushed to congratulate the couple while others left disapproving comments, concerned that the two are taking this next step in their relationship too soon due to their young age — Brown is 19 and Bongiovi is 20. Even if they may be getting married at a younger age than is commonplace for our generation, why do we think it is our place to judge their relationship choices?
The source of our obsession may partially be due to the idolization of celebrities, and there may even be an element of jealousy that explains why we are so invested in celebrity couples. We want what our favorite celebrities have, and, as a result, we obsess over what they wear, where they are eating and who they spend their time with. Following their lives is a form of escapism that lets us live vicariously through them.
However, another significant aspect is the role that the internet and social media play in encouraging our obsession. Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are only 3 of the numerous platforms that provide celebrities with the ability to share intimate details of their relationships. Fans can both directly and indirectly interact with celebrity couples by commenting, liking or sharing with others.
Public access to such information makes individuals believe celebrities are closer to us than they actually are, causing us to be as invested in their love lives as we are in those of our close friends. Social media warps our perception of the intimacy between us and our favorite celebrities, leading to the formation of rather concerning parasocial relationships. For example, shows like The Kardashians let viewers in on the lives of the influential American family, but it is their interactions with fans through TikTok and Twitter that make them feel more approachable and relatable.
Though the presence of celebrities in the digital world is prominent, it does not excuse us from the unhealthy obsession with celebrity couples that many of us have. We have every right to be intrigued by our idols’ lives and who is in them, but, at the end of the day, we should remind ourselves that celebrities are still human and deserve a level of privacy and respect.
Jena Yi is a junior from Rye, N.Y. majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Spanish.