Gaining popularity in a click: Is Internet fame real fame?

Devin Daley and Hannah Shumsky

For:

The evolution of the Internet has led to many people gaining a following and even making their living off of doing various things on the Internet. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Vine and YouTube have aided this growth by offering a place for these people to express themselves. The question of whether or not people who are popular on these should really be considered famous has come up quite a bit recently and I wholeheartedly believe that people who have gained their fame through social media should be regarded in the same light as anyone in Hollywood.

Firstly, for someone trying to make it on the Internet, the process can be harder than gaining fame in Hollywood. This is because in Hollywood, you often have people backing you and people who can more easily get what you do out to the masses easily. However, for someone on the Internet, spreading the word about what you do can be difficult. Much like in the acting world, gaining fame from the Internet can be more luck than actual talent, in some instances. The Internet sensation “Alex From Target” is an example of this chance. Alex Lee was just a normal teenager until a girl checking out at his register snapped a picture of him and put it on the Internet, where it proceeded to trend on Twitter. This is an example of how quickly and easily one can gain their fame on the Internet. The unlimited connectivity allows for the most unexpected things to gain instant popularity. The Internet is truly a place where the people decide what’s popular.

This ability for the people to choose what’s popular is what sets the Internet apart from the film and music industry. In the film or music industry, creations often times must be critiqued by production companies before it’s available to the public. However, on the Internet, anyone can post their creations, allowing a much wider array of content.This means there’s a lot more opportunity for competition. This diversity is another reason why people who have gained their popularity through the Internet should be respected as much as the celebrities and musicians that are considered famous by everyone’s standards.

Finally, many people who are famous through offline things use the Internet to boost their popularity. An example of this is Psy, whose song, “Gangnam Style,” gained its popularity through its music video on YouTube. This video remains the most viewed video in YouTube history. In addition, Justin Bieber has become very popular and gained his record deal after talent manager Scooter Braun discovered his YouTube channel. The song, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” by Rick Astley, hit a giant wave of popularity in 2008, when the song was the subject of a trend called “Rickrolling,” where the songs music video would play after a few seconds of some other footage. This would be paired with a deceiving title to trick people into watching the video. This Internet trend revived Astley’s career for a short period. These instances of the Internet starting and enhancing the careers of musical artists are just another reason that Internet fame should be respected.

Overall, people should respect the work that people put toward their career or hobby in order to gain their fame, whether it be online or offline.

Against:

In recent years, social media and other popular websites have taken over the Internet. People are getting connected by posting creative content online. While this online content has gained plenty of attention, I believe that most Internet fame isn’t real fame.

First of all, the audience is only limited to online viewers. This means that, unless the person works or got attention through various platforms, they’ll only be able to gain viewers through online promotions. If the person is lucky enough to gain a following and is creative and dedicated enough to keep posting content, then they’ll be able to, eventually, work outside of online platforms; however, only a small amount of people online will get the chance of gaining fame offline.

Especially for Internet trends, popularity is short-lived. Through news stories on major broadcasting networks, these trends will gain more attention quickly; however, as soon as the trend becomes popular, people get tired of it and stop talking about it. Eventually, popular video content like “fail” videos, challenges and horribly-produced songs will remain a memory that today’s teens will barely remember in the future. While the overnight trends will have initial popularity, because the “fame” will last for only a small period of time, it isn’t real, genuine fame.

In 2011, Rebecca Black, who was 13 years old at the time, came out with her extremely popular song, “Friday.” The song received plenty of negative attention at the time and, for a long time after the song’s release, parodies and memes of the songs were all over the Internet. Just as quickly as people started to parody and make fun of the song, others got annoyed by the Internet trends that boosted Black’s song to popularity, which ended the initial popularity of Black’s song.

Plus, the “Alex from Target” trend was fairly recent, the relevance of the trend has gone down since its initial popularity. This irrelevance is the beginning of the end for this instantly popular Internet trend.
There are many people who are considered famous and well-known for their hard work. These people include inventors and performers, for example. However, especially with the access of apps like Vine, where a user can produce a video in six seconds, this “hard work” and fame has turned into a way to get attention in an easier way than ever before.

In addition to that point, the people who are working hard (like regularly filming, editing and uploading videos, for example) will have a harder time gaining attention. The biggest amount of attention, unfortunately, goes to people who either did nothing (like Alex from Target, who only gained fame because of a picture of him that was taken while he wasn’t looking) or did something ridiculous for attention. The people online who work hard and should have a following will lose promotion opportunities to people who didn’t work as hard, but have more “fame.”

The Internet has made gaining attention much easier. Through websites and social media, our generation has found several ways to get connected. Unfortunately, this ease of Internet access has led to short-lived attention, not real fame.