Fame in the Time of Social Media

Perspectives

Fame used to be a journey—from obscurity and struggle to getting your big break and then becoming a star. Now you don’t even have to step out of your living room.

Before social media, fame was a different animal.

Aspiring singers booked small gigs at first, maybe singing in college bars, events or weddings. Would-be film stars were background actors on soap operas and independent films. You had to pay your dues before becoming famous.

Today, many aspiring artists and personalities (because that’s a job now) are exploring new and more efficient paths to fame.

Twitter. Snapchat. Instagram. Magic portals that can throw anyone, from any country in the world, from any background, in front of a million pairs of eyes.

Social media has turned fame into an almost instantaneous phenomenon. From Beiber to Chance the Rapper to our very own Maine Mendoza—we’ve seen that those looking for fame can find it right around the corner.

The Pros: Fame was a lot harder when there was no social media.

A huge reason why fame is much easier now is that there are so many platforms. Aside from the old favorites, new social media sites are popping up all the time. There are even some sites for niche audiences, like Twitch (a huge video platform and community for gamers). Every type of creator has a space that they can use to make their mark. YouTube musicians and makeup mavens, Instagram stars and stylists—they can all find an audience.

Social media also makes it easier for amateurs on a budget to show off their talents. New singers can shoot a video in their room and share it online within hours, ready to be consumed. Content creators (ala Buzzfeed) can make simple videos and skits but still get millions of views. Artists can sell things on online stores without having to spend for a gallery showing. And all of them can use social media to drive audiences to their channels and promote their content.

It’s amazing how so many amateur artists can make a living and share their art thanks to social media!

The Cons: Fame was a lot easier when there was no social media.

Flashback to the early 2000s, how long did it to take for a scandal to start?

The paparazzi catch a star kissing a man who isn’t her husband. The pictures are sold to a gossip magazine. The next day the photos come out, along with a sordid article spilling details (truth or fiction, as long as the story sells). A passing woman sees the magazine and buys a copy—by lunch everyone in her office has heard the story and the gossip mill starts churning.

All in all, those pictures would have taken at least two days to get from the photographer’s lens to the public consciousness.

Now how long does it take? One image uploaded to Twitter can go viral in a few hours. As fast as a star can rise, the fall can be much quicker and more painful. Even for ordinary people this is a danger. Imagine this scenario: a woman leaves the house and accidentally trips on something on her way to work. What happens when she comes home? Apparently she’d been captured on someone’s smartphone and her image was being shared to random followers for a laugh.

Memes are made in a moment, and for public figures one headline might have the power to ruin a career!

Aside from the danger of being meme-ed, it’s very hard to keep up with the speed of the news cycle. Fame needs to be maintained. A personality has to keep up a public persona with hardly any breaks or breathers. And if you don’t stay in the news cycle, you’re out! There are so many other people ready to take the spotlight with their own projects. The pressure to be interesting and come up with content is real.

Social media lets you experience pros and cons at high intensity. Once you’re on a platform, you’re exposed to fans and haters alike. You have the freedom to release whatever content you want, but you also have to keep up with a hungry audience. You can talk to your fans and connect with them personally, but you are also open to getting criticized by them too.

Slowly, more people are getting used to managing the double-edged sword of fame in this world overwhelmed with social media. We’ve seen some great artists come through the crowded platforms and be successful (and sane). So look out, the next social media sensation is probably on your feed right now, just waiting to be discovered.

Art by: Kyle Matthew Amor