Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus are over, but why are we so obsessed with celebrity break-ups?

Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus are over, but why are we so obsessed with celebrity break-ups?

In the uncertain world of celebrity relationships, one thing is for sure; if any of our favourites break up, the public outpouring of grief is going to be intense. Just look at the split of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth – announced this weekend, the news was met with widespread devastation on social media.

If you look at the emotional tweets and Instagrams, you’d be forgiven for assuming thousands of people had known the couple personally.

It was confirmed the couple had split up less than a year after getting married, with a rep for Cyrus saying: “Ever-evolving, changing as partners and individuals, they have decided this is what’s best while they both focus on themselves and careers. They still remain dedicated parents to all of their animals they share, while lovingly taking this time apart. Please respect their process and privacy.”

Neither Cyrus nor Hemsworth have publicly addressed the break-up, but Cyrus has posted a cryptic Instagram talking about “evolution” and how “change is inevitable”. In just 15 hours this racked up 2.3m likes and 14.7k comments from people speculating on their relationship and bemoaning the fact it’s over.

Perhaps thanks to social media, it’s become weirdly normal to treat celeb relationships like they’re more important than anyone you actually know. Think about it – have you been posting about your friends’ relationships on Twitter? Nope, those tweets are reserved for the likes of Brangelina and Bennifer.

But why is it that we’re all so collectively obsessed with these high-profile relationships, and then absolutely gutted when they break down? We speak to psychologist Dr Meg Arroll to find out more…

We put celebs on a pedestal…

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan announced their separation in 2018 (Ian West/PA)
Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan announced their separation in 2018 (Ian West/PA)

Ever since the pre-Instagram age, society has elevated celebrities to almost godlike proportions. It’s become almost impossible to see movie stars and singers as normal people who have become famous.

“We idolise celebrities – they are quite literally our idols and models who we admire and, in some cases, feel extreme emotions towards,” says Arroll.

This is why watching our favourite celeb couples crash and burn can be hard, Arroll explains. “It can feel more upsetting than seeing our good friends part ways.” Because we view them as shiny perfect examples of people, it can be tough to watch your heroes fall.

Even before the age of social media, we were devastated when our favourites broke up – like Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, who split in 2006 (Andy Butterton/PA)
Even before the age of social media, we were devastated when our favourites broke up – like Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, who split in 2006 (Andy Butterton/PA)

It also buys into society’s obsession with couples and relationships. Most break-ups happen for a reason, but huge outpourings of grief can send a message which sugests staying in a relationship – regardless of the circumstances – is better than calling it quits.

Social media gives us an inside look…

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston – a couple we’re still obsessed with (Branimir Kvartuc/PA)
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston – a couple we’re still obsessed with (Branimir Kvartuc/PA)

Thanks to social media, we can ‘get to know’ celebrities better than ever. Through constant tweets and Instagram stories, we feel like they’re our friends – we think we know their skincare routines, favourite food, and yes – their relationships. However, it’s important to remember this is a carefully curated view of their lives – it’s not the real deal, but rather a shiny veneer of perfection.

And because we have so much access, many people are led to believe they’re close to the stars they follow – after all, you know more about them than you do your actual friends, right? “With the introduction of social media, it’s been much easier to get an ‘insider’s view’ of our favourite celebs, bringing us much closer to these individuals than was possible in past,” Arroll explains. “Hollywood stars’ private lives used to be kept secret, adding to their allure. But now we are in their homes, watching their relationships play out and feeling very much part of their worlds.”

Heidi Klum and Seal (Yui Mok/PA)
Heidi Klum and Seal (Yui Mok/PA)

It also means celebrities aren’t allowed the same level of privacy as ‘normal’ people. Because they live in the public eye, there’s a perception their private lives are fair game. While you might not comment on the relationships of acquaintances, it feels altogether too easy to air your opinions about famous faces – many argue that’s ‘part of the deal’ if you enter the public eye.

We’re not upset for them, but rather what they represent

View this post on Instagram

My love ❤️

A post shared by Liam Hemsworth (@liamhemsworth) on

Social media makes it easy to believe these celebs have perfect lives – after all, they’re rich, famous and beautiful, and we tend to only see the good stuff happening in their lives.

“When it all comes crashing down, the sense of loss can be overwhelming for some,” says Arroll. “Because we want to believe in the fairy tale – that people meet, fall in love and live happily-ever-after. But the truth is that these people are just that – people.”

For some, following these perfect relationships helps us believe in love. Arroll says: “We’re upset not just ‘for’ them as we would be with friends, but because they represent an ideal life. Basically, the underlying feeling is that if celebs can’t make it work, who can?”

Because we elevate them as bastions of perfection – with all the money, beauty and talent in the world – it can make us feel harder on ourselves and our own relationships. However, Arroll notes that it is this public pressure which can harm relationships: “Sometimes because of these very expectations – that they must look, sound and act perfectly, indeed ‘be’ perfect – it can be very hard to maintain a relationship.”

Let’s just hope Chrissy Teigen and John Legend stay solid. We don’t think the world is quite ready for that one to end.

- Press Association

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