Public Infidelity

Examining the fixation with celebrity cheating scandals


Maeva Andriamanamihaja, Editor-in-Chief

In the last two months alone, several celebrity cheating scandals surrounding well-known figures such as singer Adam Levine, Try Guys’ Ned Fulmer, and NBA coach Ime Udoka have come to light. What followed each case was a wave of mass internet attention where users poked fun at and also meticulously analyzed the situations. Regardless of the truth of each scandal, the deep fascination with celebrities’ personal lives that is woven into the fabric of pop culture can open up a wider discussion on the public’s search for escapism and the digital gaze.

Instagram model Sumner Stroh took the internet by storm when she revealed that she had a year-long affair with married Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. Though Levine denied the claim, social media users searched through both Levine and Stroh’s posts with a fine-tooth comb, in search of even a morsel of evidence that proved the allegations were true. After the extensive digging related to the claims, which would later be mirrored in the Ned Fulmer scandal, it seemed like almost everyone online had something to say about the infidelity, extending to Battlefield High School students. Pop culture savvy senior Zilan Saadi, notes, “We only see a small fraction of the truth, so their cheating is not surprising at all.” 

Nowadays, probing through old posts and forming conclusions about public figures is in the name of the game when it comes to the internet. However, psychologists say that the intrigue with celebrities, which only seems to be heightened by social media, speaks to something deeper about human nature.  

One angle suggests that this sort of fascination with scandal makes people feel closer to the celebrity or like they understand the figure, which makes them feel less alone as a result. Social psychologist at the University of Derby, Dr. Ruth Sims, speaks to the underlying empathy of celebrity fixation, saying, “It’s quite complex, some of it is about filling a gap if someone has something missing in their life, then you can kind of latch on.” On the other hand, perhaps the interest with scandal can be attributed to Schadenfreude, a German psychology term for the pleasure one derives from another individual’s misfortune. Consistent with some attitudes of cancel culture, there were social media users who claimed they were looking forward to Ned Fulmer and Adam Levine’s downfall. 

Though the obsession with celebrity scandal long preceded the world of Twitter and Tiktok, the internet has brought out the extremes of this. Being “chronically online” has allowed for some social media users to grow increasingly attached to the lives of public figures and more detached from reality. HuffPost writer Jacqueline Howard writes, “Escapism only becomes a problem when we begin to replace reality with whatever we’re escaping to.” Public perception through the digital lens has made it so that anyone can let themselves be fully absorbed by the personal lives of strangers.