You know who Peter Andre is, don’t you? And his wife (though are currently separated) Katie Price formerly known as Jordan, don’t you? And you also know of the recently deceased Jade Goody, don’t you? And what about Jack Tweed, her husband, who is currently partying, fighting and raising hi jinx wherever he goes?

Why on earth do we know these people? In what way has hearing the intimate details about Katie and Peters divorce made any of our lives more any more interesting or fulfilling?

Though many think we live in an age of celebrity infatuation, and have many debatable reasons for why that seems to be so, I wanted to explore one particular train of thought today… Aided by the soial networkings of macaque monkeys!

Many believe that interest in gossip about the rich and famous is a universal human quality, though I’d like to point out, that it is not just a human one. Oh no.

According to this piece of research, some fellow primates that we share the planet with are similarly obsessed with the lifestyles of top tribe members. The research shows that male macaque monkeys found that they were prepared to sacrifice lots of really yummy treats just to look at pictures of high-status males; the only other images similarly worth paying for were of female bottoms… So there are some major parallels between the macaques and humans, eh?  😉

it also states that monkeys who can’t tune in to the local social structure are going to miss out, not just on the gossip, but on the chance to survive and reproduce. Hmmm….

So in our human world, when the media tells us that somebody is hot (or rich, or influential) we almost always have to respond…. We want to know what’s going on, perhaps because we need to feel connected to power in this, our global tribe. It is a train of thought…

The main issue with celebrity and the ensuing gossip born out of celebrity though, is that it is a one-way relationship… In this piece of research, it was found when looking into the social networks of primates and found that there is a firm upper limit to the number of other individuals one can know as individuals – and for humans, that limit is around 150. It’s the size of most people’s Christmas card lists, except maybe the Queen, or the number of Facebook friends who really are friends… According to the research, beyond 150, new acquaintances just shade off into the mass – we don’t really know them.

This means that the more attention you pay to Katie and Peter, or Amy Whinehouse or Susan Boyle…. The more likely they are to take up one of those 150 places – and the less likely that place is to be occupied by a potential real friend who would also know you.

So this train of thought would suggest that celebrity hijacks our social instinct, designed for getting along in small groups, and ties it to essentially empty imaginings of a fictitious relationship…. Do you know people seemingly obsessed with celebrities or a particular celebrity? It is a powerfully hypnotic relationship they are creating within their own mind!

Modern media allows us to know so much about the rich, famous and glamourous, and the not-so-glamourous and the outrageous, that many people end up imagining themselves rubbing shoulders and interacting with them – which can make real life seem unsatisfactory by comparison… And that is a shame.

Our partners, our relatives, our neighbours and workmates may not be glamourous or wealthy, but they can offer something that Cristiano Ronaldo or Cheryl Cole never can: they actually care about us.  They actually know who we are. Surely that is truly worth celebrating.

Snap out of the celebrity thing today…