Stay in Your Lane – The NIMBY of the Internet Age

Disclaimer – This post is not an endorsement of the views expressed in any screenshots or linked articles included below.

You’ve probably seen it.  Or at least heard about it.  You know, that rant Cardi B. went on about the government shutdown.  If you’ve heard about that, then you’ve probably heard about this too:

What you may not have seen is the GQ article (https://www.gq.com/story/cardi-b-invasion-of-privacy-profile) where Cardi B. expresses significantly more off-the-cuff knowledge about American government and its history than I can do.  (Which I probably should not admit, given that I majored in Political Science, but oh well.)  If, at this point, you are asking why any of this matters, I’m (1) concerned that you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, and (2) going to point you towards social media.

With the rise of social media, we are able to become “friends” with our favorite celebrities.  We can follow along in real time as they struggle with very real, and VERY public, break downs (see Shia LeBouf, Amanda Bynes, even Britney Spears).  We can celebrate along with them (see Andy Cohen’s epic Real Housewives baby shower).  We can even go on vacation with them (see Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter and Instagram).  This can be wonderful when it comes to building a celebrity’s brand, and toxic when it comes to the real life issues celebrities face (see too many people to name).

Unfortunately, this accessibility has not actually humanized these celebrities.  An ever louder group of voices refuses to believe that people working in the entertainment industry can add anything of value to the public discourse.  The first instance of this that I truly remember is one that we are all aware of – Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel.  While he is neither the first athlete, nor will he be the last, to speak out regarding the violence affecting African-Americans in this country, he has faced the most public backlash.

Ignore the political aspect of this graph – the sentiments displayed, that most people think athletes should just play, is what is key here.

This is something that we have seen over and over in recent years.  Actors and actresses endorse a political candidate – what do they even know about politics?  It’s clearly just a sign of the liberal decay in Hollywood.  Musicians don’t want their music played at the rallies of politicians they disagree with – they should just shut up and play.  What do they know anyway?  John Legend speaks out in support of criminal justice reform?  Cardi B. speaks out against the shutdown?  Alyssa Milano speaks out in support of #MeToo?  Malcolm Jenkins on the Philadelphia Eagles displayed posters with reasons for criminal justice reform instead of giving a post-game interview? Who do these celebrities think they are?

Us.  That’s who.  They think – correction, they RIGHTLY think that because they live in this country, they can share their thoughts.  It is the “Stay in Your Lane”-ers, the people who have no problem posting their views on any number of issues to any available platform, who feel that because someone is a “celebrity” or has some level of fame, that they have therefore relinquished their right to have a voice.  And that’s not true, or fair.  If Joe Schmoe can come out and voice his opinion, without being told to get back to plumbing or finance or advertising or construction, why should celebrities be forced to keep their opinions limited to their professions? 

I’m not saying that celebrities should use their platforms to talk about anything and everything without taking the time to properly educate themselves on a topic (I’m looking at you, Ja Rule).  Social media has given these individuals massive platforms, and it is imperative they reflect carefully on what views they are sharing with the public at large.  At least one of my classmates, in writing about the role of influencers in the fiasco that was the Fyre Festival, touches on this.  It is also what is so concerning about celebrities who very publicly espouse stances like the belief that vaccines cause autism.

I am saying that their opinions are just as valuable as ours, and there are definitely times when they are more informed than the average person.  When they do choose to speak up, with informed, thoughtful opinions, we should pay attention.  John Legend went to the University of Pennsylvania, for goodness sake!  I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t get into the University of Pennsylvania on a good day.  And unlike Cardi B., I couldn’t recite the presidents of the United States in chronological order if I wanted to.

I love the feeling of accessibility and closeness that social media provides.  There is nothing quite like watching JK Rowling school the people in her Twitter comments, or seeing Ryan Reynolds embody #parentinggoals.  Or watching Chrissy Teigen do literally anything on Twitter or Instagram (Chrissy, please never change).


While we enjoy these glimpses into the lives of our favorite celebrities, we can’t forget that they have real, valuable opinions about what is happening in the world.  They may be breathing slightly more rarified air right now, but they often lived through similar situations, or studied them in college, or have family currently dealing with similar issues.  Just because they’ve made their name in the entertainment world doesn’t mean they can’t add value anywhere else.  Let’s be sure to allow celebrities to actually be human when we decide to humanize them.

7 comments

  1. Wow. I could not agree more. Twitter was created for any public or private figure to tweet their opinions and thoughts. This should not be limited solely to political figures or well-respected CEOs. Celebrities are in the same bucket and should not be required to “stay in their lane”. We all have the right to freedom of speech and press in this state and could have in fact had a similar upbringing or been exposed to similar matters that these “others” have faced.

  2. First off – the Andy Cohen baby shower was totally epic, definitely a party I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall at. I believe that celebrities should use their platforms to speak out about social issues and its when they don’t that it becomes a problem. It shows that they are human and they care about more than the amount of followers they have or views they got on their last Instagram live. Placing celebrities in bubbles, solely to entertain us, completely derails the reason we felt they were important enough to be given a voice in the first place.

  3. I completely agree celebrities should not be pressured to “stay in their lane” when they have insights that are just as valuable (sometimes more valuable when their connections allow them to be privy to insider information that the rest of us don’t have access to) as those of everyone else. However, I would stress your point that social media has given celebrities massive platforms, and it is imperative they reflect carefully on what views they are sharing with the public. I think “reflect carefully” and “properly educate themselves on a topic” is what people sometimes question. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hold celebrities to a slightly higher standard of education and reflection precisely because they do have massive platforms. As much as we would like to think that we’ll one day be the author of a viral tweet, it’s genuine possibility for celebrities every time they write something publicly, and I think it’s important that they remember the responsibility that represents. As such, I believe they should try to hold themselves to a higher standard than Joe Schmoe. I love Cardi B. as an artists and a person, and I know she is smart enough to realize that saying “I will dog walk you” to someone she disagrees with doesn’t do anything for her otherwise intelligent argument. Cardi B. doesn’t care about that kind of thing, but I think it would harder for people to question the legitimacy of celebrities’ opinions if they were presented in a way more appropriate for a legitimate political opinion.

  4. I absolutely loved your take on celebrities’ opinions and how people often do not take them seriously because we see them as people who provide entertainment. I think your topic also relates to the fact that people post hate comments on celebrities’ pictures, thinking they do not care or won’t see them, when in reality many have spoken out about the bullying they have endured. Celebrities have the access to a much larger platform than most people do, so I agree that as long as they make informed arguments, they have every right to express their opinions and be taken seriously.

  5. This was a great (and entertaining) read. I totally agree that we all have the same right to our opinions and sharing them no matter who we are – accountants or actresses. Part of the beauty of social media, and our country’s founding principles, are that we all have freedom of speech and press. What else is social media other than our very own personal publication?
    I personally think these discussions make both celebrities and politics a little bit more human. It shows that celebrities, despite their wealth and status, still have the same hopes and fears that we do. And it creates conversations about politics in which politicians aren’t the only ones with the microphones. Often these celebrity posts inspire heated debates among “normal” people in the comments, and even those who don’t want to get involved are at least now thinking about current events (whether they agree with the celeb or not).

  6. I couldn’t agree more. It’s unfair for the general public to assume someone is completely uneducated or uninformed simply due to their fame. If anything, we should be rallying behind these celebrities who rightly and appropriately use their platforms to speak up for those who may not have a voice. This reminds me of an article I read about Rihanna expressing that she didn’t want to have her music played at any of Trump’s “tragic rallies,” but the artist didn’t seem to have much of a say beyond that. It’s a shame… Just as much as we want to have the liberty to openly express ourselves, we shouldn’t deny that liberty to others.

  7. While I totally agree with your premise (celebrities and athletes are citizens, and they should be able to express their thoughts and opinions as such), I think that some people have issues due to the difference in scale. I have 41 followers, and there’s an incredibly high probability that anything I tweet will never even reach all 41 people. However, Cardi B has almost 5 million followers while Lebron James has a staggering 42 million followers. Each opinion they express will reach an audience far bigger than most people will ever reach across their whole lives. I keep thinking of the classic Spiderman quote: “With great power comes great responsibility”. These celebs need to look at what they post through the lens of how many impressionable people will be affected by what they tweet. I definitely don’t think they need to quiet or censor themselves, but I do think they need to be extra diligent and careful.

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