So a friend of mine tweeted in the early hours of the morning, musing about the internet. The tweets are as follows [to be read from bottom to top]:
Before I can really begin addressing this, I think it’d be good for me to have a good definition of the word “celebrity.” Dictionary.com tells me that as far as people go, a celebrity is a “famous or well-known person.”
So are there capital letters CELEBRITIES, or are there just people, again, referencing the tweets, with fame? And, if they’re one and the same, do they equate with people outside the internet?
The 21st century is a place where being “outside the internet” is a basic impossibility. That being said, there is a distinction between being general fame and internet fame. Brad Pitt is a well-known movie star. wheezywaiter is a popular YouTuber with 382,628 subscribers. If both walked around the streets of any major city in America they’d be recognized, but only one would create a stampede of screaming fans leaving several dead.
On the other hand, some celebrities have supplemented their fame with their internet presence. Ashton Kutcher was the first twitter user to reach a million followers, and currently has almost ten times that. Comparing that to his work in film and television, it actually dwarfs his presence “outside the internet.”
The thing with being internet famous is how quickly it spills into the offline
world. High school pole vaulter Allison Stokke had her picture submitted to With Leather, a sports blog, where it appeared in this post [as far as I can tell, the images connected to the specific post have since been removed]. These images quickly spread around the internet, however, and Stokke became the target of a large amount of unwanted attention, a lot of it very sexual. It got to the point where her high school began receiving requests for photo shoots of the athlete. The Washington Post has more to say about it here.
To be fair, that wasn’t Stokke garnering internet fame for herself, but was instead unwittingly swept into it by a blogger named Matt Ufford. She’s not the only one who runs the very real risk of being recognized in public. Webcomic artist Jeph Jacques bumped into fans while vacationing in New Zealand, less of a surprise when you take into account the fact that his strip has thousands and thousands of viewers.
The internet is a “peer-to-peer” place where anyone can post anything and have an audience of anywhere from one to millions. I have 71 followers on twitter [with only a few spambots], meaning that anything I tweet [which I rarely do anymore] is instantaneously communicated to a several dozen people all over the world. That’s an amazing thing. Audience does matter, though.
If you have a blog, and there are millions, what are the chances that anyone is going to read it? You could tag it with words like “Dakota Fanning” and “Playboy,” and that might help, but your readers won’t be consistent and probably won’t be coming back. We may all be in the same place, but we write or draw or play instruments because we hope that others might be audience to our work, and when that audience gets large enough it will inevitably change our lives outside the internet.