We’ve all been there: you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, and the rack of magazines catches your eye. You’re mesmerized by photos of celebrities in bikinis, [WHO HAS THE BEST BIKINI BOD? GUESS THE CELEBRITY BIKINI BEHIND!] celebrity couples, [BRANGELINA! BENNIFER! JOHNIFFER!] and the latest scandals surrounding young Hollywood starlets [IS SHE A LESBIAN? STARLET CHECKS INTO REHAB! ACTRESS SPENDS 3 MINUTES IN JAIL!].

The emerging question is: is celebrity gossip a new addiction? The answer, claims author James Halpern, is YES. In his new book, Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction,  Halpern suggests that millions of people – specifically, adolescent females – are absolutely addicted to celebrity gossip.

“We become addicted to things that have a mood-altering affect,” Halpern says, whether it be “drinking, pornography, or chocolate.” Does celebrity gossip really fall into this same category? And does keeping up with the daily malfunctions of Hollywood’s biggest names really produce a “mood-altering affect” comparable to a Long Island Iced Tea or a bowl of Death By Chocolate ice cream?

The answer to this question may be found in the numbers. Consider, for example, the popular TMZ.com. This website features up-to-the-minute celebrity news, and often features a live streaming video of celebrity-related events, such as the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline custody trial. TMZ is not only on the Internet – they have their very own television station. TMZ also operates a mobile site, so those with a Blackberry or similar device can get the latest news wherever they are, 24 hours a day. If you are familiar with SEO [Search Engine Optimization – for more information, check out SEOMoz] you might know that TMZ.com has a Page Rank of 8 – in layman’s terms, this means that there are a plethora of other websites that link to TMZ’s site, and, if you do a Google search for “celebrity gossip,” TMZ is included in the top five results [the infamous Perez Hilton is the second result for the same search – his site is equally informative, but with a twist].

So – what’s the harm in indulging in a daily celebrity gossip session, you might ask? Fame Junkies author Halpern surveyed a group of 653 middle school students and asked questions like “Would you rather be famous, stronger, beautiful, or smarter?” The overwhelming majority of females, Halpern states, wanted to be famous. In addition, Halpern discovered that teens who regularly tuned in to TV shows that featured celebrity gossip [“Talk Soup” on E! and “Best Week Ever” on VH1 are two examples] or visited related websites were more likely to buy into the notion that they themselves would one day be famous.

Overall, Halpern does not condemn celebrity gossip as a regular practice, but he asserts that, like the other “mood-altering” indulgences, such as chocolate or pornography, that “the key is moderation.”

For your own daily dose of hot Hollywood news, check out the sites mentioned in this article. Related article courtesy of USAToday.com.

Nicolette Kuff has a daily blog, The Daily Kuff.  She indulges in celebrity gossip on a daily basis, often while eating chocolate and savoring a glass of wine.

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