Andy Warhol once said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes". This quote appeared in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. His words were almost prophetic if we look around right now in 2019. Fame is more attainable than ever before. We all have super computers in our hands that grant us access to every single person in the world. Virality is tangible, everyone has an audience and literally everyone can be famous for more than 15 minutes. Fame is an enticing concept for a lot people. People have wanted to be famous since the first famous person, whoever the fuck that was. Back in the days everyone wanted to be a rockstar because the rockstars got all the girls and had thousands of people screaming their name and loving them. Little girls grew up wanting to be Madonna and then Rihanna. Little boys went from wanting to be Michael Jackson to Drake. Its a concept that’s existed for a long time and it’s not going anywhere. But fame used to be reserved for talent and looks. It used to be a prerequisite. When record labels used to sign women it had to be a girl that girls want to be and men want to be with. Labels manufacture pop stars with no musical skills that get famous due to their looks. But regardless of talent you had to have something. Now you don’t need a record label or anyone to decide if they’re gonna make you famous. Long Neck and Wide Neck got famous earlier this year for having a long neck and a wide neck and ended up launching their own rap careers.
You can get famous all on your own. You can get on camera everyday and have access to 7 billion people. You can sing and be streamed by millions. You have fame at the palm of your hands. And many people have taken advantage of it. A lot of us grew up in the YouTube generation. I was born in 1998 and I vividly remember being in 4th grade when YouTube started making its first few stars and how that shift went in conversations with my friends. We all wanted to be Youtubers after we started watching Ray William Johnson, OwnagePranks, NigaHiga and all these people that were just making videos in their rooms with their friends and making money from it. We stopped wanting to be the rapper with the big chains or the actor on the red carpet, YouTube was more enticing. And then vine came along and it was the same concept. Fame was more attainable than ever before. A lot of us had fanpages and meme pages with thousands of followers in middle school. As we grew the internet grew up with us and we started seeing the long term impact and ramifications of this instant fame culture.
I don’t think we’ve seen the full side effects of this phenomena yet. Social media has not slowed down it’s only grown. This past week Logan Paul and Ksi, 2 YouTubers, managed to sell out the staples center for a boxing match. These aren’t the same YouTubers that were making content in their college dorm rooms and moms basements. These are people with billions of dollars in backing through brand deals that are able to fill up a 20,000 seat arena and bring some of the worlds biggest musicians and celebrities to the event. YouTube has now become A-List. But despite its growth this instant fame era has also brought with it various mental illnesses that have yet to be diagnosed.
The need for attention has driven some people to do things they would have never even conceived had it not been for the incentive of likes and comments. We’ve seen challenges like the smack cam, people drinking bleach, girls eating their own tampon, people sucking on cucumbers, Boonk's existence and various other clout thirsty actions. A lot of our favourite entertainers and various public figures wouldn’t be able to exist if it wasn’t for the internet. Reality show star Donald Trump tweeted and memed his way into the Presidency of the strongest military the world has ever known. In 2013, another Donald, Donald Glover made an album titled “Because the internet” crediting the Internet because the internet gave him the platform necessary to create and follow his dreams. But for every Donald Glover there’s a Tekashi 6ix9ine. 6ix9ine would go around the world teasing gang members and inciting violence and shootings all for the sake of internet clicks. He’s just a macro example of a social issue at its early phases.
We haven’t even seen what this is gonna be in the next few years. Youtuber FouseyTube has already come out and spoken about the toll being an internet celebrity has taken on his mental health. He said that he felt worthless if his views deteriorated. He admitted to abandoning his morals, values and well-being to get the likes and feel validated. He already suffered from bipolar and spending his 20s in front of a camera accentuated his symptoms and made him suicidal. Mental health is a conversation that’s being had more than ever before now. Whether it’s because more people are suffering from it or more people feel comfortable speaking about it, there’s clear proof that social media isn’t helping the situation. People go through depression and seeing other people’s highlights on Instagram makes them disdain their own lives. Or the unspoken anxiety that develops from being shown traumatic footage such as people getting killed by the police often, but just scrolling past it.
The likes you get on Instagram are designed to flood dopamine into your brain. When you post a new picture on Instagram then get a notification you rush to your phone to open it like a Christmas gift and find the red notification symbol popping up as the feel good chemical is released in your brain to make you feel like you did something substantial. That’s the same thing you get when you do drugs, eat food and have sex. All of these things are madly addictive so obviously it would be enticing. And just like every drug there’s withdrawals if you try to leave, which is why you’ll check your phone instinctively every hour. You’re itching to see if you have any new notifications . Everyone is addicted to the internet. People are addicted to internet clout. That’s why you’ll see all these people with face tattoos starting beefs and drinking bong water on the internet. They are addicts. We all retweet and share a lot of fuckery that’s posted because it gets clicks. That’s what people wanna see because its rare. It used to be only crackheads that did certain stuff but now you can turn on a NoJumper interview and see somebody’s favourite rapper and functional drug addicts like Boonk almost throwing up on Adam22, or you’d see a bunch of people pointing guns at their front camera threatening each other over Instagram live. These are truly insane, amazing times we live in but nonetheless, it’s a mental illness.
It’s an addiction trapped out by large corporations and we’re all fiends. None of us can go a whole day without the internet. If you wanna do a social experiment just unplug the wifi and see everyone in your house go completely apeshit. Everyone is gonna lose their shit and come flocking to the living room ready to murder each other. Everyone has to post and get likes because everyone is micro-famous. Everyone has their followers and a little fan base. Most of us have more followers than Jesus. Jesus had 12 disciples and my WWE memes page from 7th grade has over 6,000 followers. We are not yet aware of what we’re dealing with here but Pandora’s box has already been opened.
I’m not gonna sit here and act like it’s all bad. There’s a lot of good that’s come from social media. A bunch of world revolutions like the Arab spring or protests in Sudan couldn’t have happened without the internet. The world finds out about various injustices and there’s millions of people who show their support and send money to help. Various outlets like Wikileaks wouldn’t have been able to exist without the internet. We’re able to find out about issues around the globe in an instant. There are more millionaires than ever before and the number is only going to keep going up. The internet has brought with it true entrepreneurial, self sufficient creativity. The amount of creatives on the internet has basically created a new renaissance period for independent artists. Artists are able to monetize their own creativity without a middle man. People don’t need record labels, publishers or any large corporation. You can make cool stuff in your room and directly share it with millions of people. Artists like Odd Future and Donald Glover only exist because they were able to create content for the internet and build fanbases before they ever got famous. You can meet like minded people that live on a different continent and make friends from around the world from the comfort of your bedroom. Instagram has created multimillion dollar brands like Shaderoom and DJ Akademiks. Companies like Fashion Nova understand the power of Instagram influencers and have used them to market their brands. If leveraged right, this internet thing could be used for beauty, unity, financial stability and connection.
But through gaining our audience we’ve also lost our privacy. We lost privacy for the sake of likes and comments. The internet knows your birthday, social security number, daily habits, thoughts and opinions. Internet notoriety is now a currency and the more you acquire the more privacy you give up. And for a lot of people that’s an even trade. In 2013 Edward Snowden was a CIA employee and subcontractor. He went on to become a whistleblower fugitive because he revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA. He proved that World governments and multiple other corporations spy on us through our devices, which is why you get ads about everything you talk about. And a lot of people know but nobody cares. We just make new memes about the FBI watching us and go through our day. Some people put duct tape on their laptop camera but for the most part the world continued and social media continues to grow in size as Apple continues to release the latest iPhone with the additional cameras.
This internet thing is magic and it can be whatever you want it to be but large corporations have made it a fame agency. You can literally be Neo in that Matrix scene where he’s plugged in and downloads kung fu into his brain and suddenly becomes a master of kung fu. Every skill is literally one YouTube video away yet you’re slaving away at acquiring likes and followers as a form of social currency. So instead you download a photo editing app and put your butt on the bathroom sink to make it look bigger. And I get it. I’ve been there. I am there. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to leave social media cause you physically feel the itch to get back on it or else you feel like you’re missing out. I doubt FOMO existed before the internet.
For a lot of introverted people social media actually seemed like a cure. For introverted people it’s a dream to be able to socialize without actually socializing. The internet became a remedy for social anxiety. But sometimes introverted people get famous and it makes life harder for them. R&B Singer Summer Walker recently cancelled her tour because she was uncomfortable with touring because she suffers from social anxiety. For a person like that fame has become a reality and now she has to walk outside and be recognized by millions of people when in reality all she wanted to do was make songs in her room. We’re going to be hearing a lot more of those stories in the near future, of people that didn’t really want fame but have been plagued with it because they were being creative in their bedroom.
The internet is a double edged sword. You could start a business from your phone but you could also get stuck in the race for internet clout. For a person like me fame sounds gross. My social battery runs out very quickly. I rarely wanna see my friends let alone strangers coming up to me in public, but I also want to create. I want to write, direct music videos, make movies and music and I want it to be seen by multiple people and the internet gives me a platform to release my work. It felt like the internet was created for people like me, but the internet has now moulded in with real life celebrity culture. YouTubers and Instagram models have the same social equity as regular celebrities. Pewdiepie gets more views than all of your favourite rappers, actors and even presidents but he doesn’t get a secret service to protect him and it all started in his bedroom. And even if that fame sounds gross to me there’s people out there that know how tangible it is and would do anything to achieve that level of fame. And as we’ve seen, people have already started doing everything to achieve that fame. Celebrity is becoming its own class and the currency of likes and followers is becoming more valuable by the day. I honestly wonder what’s next to come for our fame culture. The internet is like the sauce, you need the sauce and can use it for good, but you can also get lost in the sauce.