Celebrification and Blogosphere. A Narrative of Social Media Portrayal of Celebrities

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Celebrification and Blogosphere. A Narrative of Social Media Portrayal of Celebrities

Abstract

This study is on Nigerian audience perception of social media portrayal of celebrities using Funke Akindele as a case study. A concurrent mixed research methods were used to execute the work. Survey and textual analysis were used under these methods. Questionnaire was designed to obtain quantitative data from the survey and thematic code sheet was used to obtain data for textual analysis. The study population stood at 9,113,605 with 340 as sample size obtained through stratified sampling method for the survey and 50 articles were analyzed for the textual analysis, out of 135 articles posted on the blog from April 2009 to April 2017. Findings showed that the representation of celebrity on gossip blog affect the perception of Nigerian audience about them in this case, Funke Akindele. Again, the representation of Funke Akindele’s persona on gossip blog was mostly positive and 58% of the audience perceive Funke Akindele in a positive light based on her portrayal on the media. 38.8% of the audience perception of Funke Akindele is influenced majorly by their religion amidst other factors when creating meaning to articles written about her on blogs. Also, there is a strong relationship between media portrayal of Funke Akindele and the perception of the Nigerian audience about her. From the findings of this research work and the review done, the researchers concluded that there is a significant positive relationship between social media portrayal of celebrities and audience perception and recommended that social media users (bloggers) should be objective in their posts about celebrities so that they would not mislead the audience on who a celebrity really is or is not and also suggested that, future researches should look at how celebrification is coded in Nigerian mainstream media.

INTRODUCTION

The media, a product of technological advancement on communication, can be described as a force that has not only come into existence for a life time but has come to stay for an indefinite period. It is a force that most people of all ages and walks of life have become accessible to, and become exposed to its content, thereby having a sense of attachment to it. This implies that media platforms are carriers of information to the public at large and have become social influencers. The functions they perform – informing, educating, persuading and entertaining – are core components that appeal to the human society making media messages of great importance to the public.
The proliferation of media has aided the formation of the audience thought process and perception towards products, events and personalities portrayed on the media which eventually births a decision of the audience after being exposed to ‘media-reality’. Media-reality can be understood as the scenery portrayed by the media with an intention to make the audience attribute authenticity and realness to media products.
Continuous use of the media and exposure to its generated programmes have an effect on the audience and as explained by Anderson et al (2003) “media use affects behaviour through priming cognitions and eliciting effect on a short term basis”; while a long term exposure to the media affects “beliefs, perceptions, behavioural scripts and affective traits, bringing about lasting changes in personality” ( Huesmann & Kirwil, 2007).
Changes incited by the media on its audience can be said to extend to the psychographics level of the audience as the mass media have a considerable level of influence and impact on the perception of audience exposed to its content while also holding some level of psychological power on its audience thinking process.
Although television is the pioneer media outlet to enjoy thorough research on its influence on the audience (which was majorly children as at that time) due to its powerful effect, which is strengthened by its audio-visual characteristics; the advent of the new media in this new age of technological advancement has opened doors of research to be conducted on the effect the messages disseminated on this platform has on its users.
New media Technology is a term describing the revolution that is and will continue to affect the information and communication technology, but in this century, new media refers to communication and information software that are internet based. They include Social networking sites such as acebook and Twitter, blogs, websites etc.
Blogs have become a common trend amidst media audience because of its ease of access both by the blogger and the audience. A blog started off as a web log (Online diary) but has now become a great source for news, even celebrity news. It allows for interaction between the sender and receiver of media messages making it easier for media audience to get addicted to media products.
The media is able to have effects on the audience because of the craze to get and consume more information from the media and the media has been driven by this craze to create more and more media platforms as assisted by the technology developers who have come up with blogs (gossip blogs, Political blogs, fashion blogs, general purpose blogs and so on), instant messaging, I-report corners and so on.
The insatiable need for media products and the appeal it has to the audience due to the variety of programmes on the media (including movies, music, news etc.) targeting various categories of the media audience make the mass media audience become ‘media-cannibals’. This term explains the process of transformation of the media audience from the state of consuming media messages sparingly to consuming them as a whole and in surplus and in some cases, addictively.
The media-reality is then given the power to define what set of individuals would bask in the spotlight of the media. The media messages are able to blur, bend and blend the opinion making process of her audience. The perception of reality perceived by the audience is greatly affected by the media.
 
Individuals that serve as highlights in the mass media reality are known as celebrities. “Celebrity” is an encompassing term defining a person widely recognized due to the degree of public and media attention the person commands and the persona they exhibit or represent.
Celebrification is a term used to describe the process of conferring a normal individual with the status of a celebrity due to an action exhibited by a person or the person’s talent and the change from being just a public figure to being a celebrity, and the ability to affect and command a large number of the audience socially, culturally and so on. The media plays the role of conferring this status to an individual, person, place etc., through the frequency and direction of coverage, prominence and volume of story reported, and the coverage of stories about the celebrity’s personal life which is totally outside what they are popularly known for.
Funke Akindele, who has been in the picture of the media over time is used as the case study for this work. She is an actress, producer, script-writer who started off with a sit com programme “I need to know”. She has since then been visible in not just Yoruba movies but also English Nigerian movies and has even appeared in Ghanaian movies. She has been able to create a brand for herself as “Jenifa”. Due to her skills and talent, her private life has become a commodity sold by the media to the public.
Therefore, the basis for this study is to examine the effect the media portrayal of Funke Akindelehas on the perception of Nigerian audience.

Statement of the Problem

It has been argued that media-reality is the power that defines what set of individuals would bask in the spotlight of the media. The media messages are able to blur, bend and blend the opinion making process of the audience and the perception of reality of the audience is said to be greatly affected by the media. The audience members are believed to see even the media icon as larger than life, hence celebrities are constructed in the minds of the media audience. These celebrities exert certain influence on the audience based on media portrayal. They also tend to win support of the audience for what they stand for. However, some scholars argue that media messages are not sufficient to promote personalities beyond what individual audience members know about the celebrities. It is in the light of the contradictory view that this study is anchored as it seeks to find out audience perception of media portrayal of celebrities: a study of Funke Akindele.,

Research Questions

  1. To what extent are Nigerian audience exposed to media reports on Funke Akindele?
  2. How is Funke Akindele portrayed in the Nigerian media?
  3. What is the perception of Nigerian audience about Funke Akindele based on how she is portrayed in the media?
  4. What other factors apart from the media influence audience perception of Funke Akindele?

Research Hypothesis

In respect of the above research questions, the following hypotheses were drafted to be tested:  H1There is a significant relationship between media portrayal of celebrities and the perception of the Nigerian audience about these celebrities.
H0There is no significant relationship between media portrayal of celebrities and the perception of the Nigerian audience about these celebrities.

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