At the end of 2011, Barbara Walters aired her annual, ’10 Most Fascinating People,’ a program that showcases, as the title suggests, the 10 most fascinating people of the year. Among those interviewed were members of the Kardashian family. Their reality series was mentioned, Kim’s leaked sex tape was discussed, and then Walters asked a question that sums up the age of the Internet well. She asked, “You don’t really act; you don’t sing; you don’t dance. You don’t have any — forgive me — any talent.” Walters was not so subtly hinting at the fact that the Kardashian’s are famous for being famous, and Kim’s celebrity did not resonate with the viewing public until her sex tape hit the Internet in 2007. This launched her into becoming a household name and sparking the following she has today. The idea of being famous for nothing is a growing trend in the new media culture, and everyday, individuals are finding their own 15-minutes of fame within the 2-dimensional world of the Internet. Society is no longer interested in just the idea of celebrity, but rather they are more interested in how to become the celebrity. We now have the ability to connect with each other in countless, instantaneous ways, thanks to the technology in the palm of our hands. Fame and celebrity is just an upload away and the lines between our real lives and our reel lives have begun to blur. The intersection of these two lives leading to some form of fame is the result of the time we live in, but the idea of fame being accessible to everyone is a product of the Internet and the communication methods we can access.
In today’s world, consumers are no longer fine with just being a passive participant in the media and information they watch. Today, it is commonplace to participate in the creation of the very media we consume. In his book, Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide, Henry Jenkins refers to this concept as participatory culture, “a culture in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content.”
This relationship has extended into the entertainment we create and consume, and has come full circle from what we experienced during Reagan’s time in office. Fame obsession is not a new concept and certainly not limited to the Internet. Lifestyles of the Rich and famous aired from 1984 to 1995, and featured the lives of the rich and famous, propelling what was out of reach, in reach. Today social media allows us the same opportunity, but now we get a glimpse at everyone. June of 2013 saw the first reality show produced by and for social media called “Summer Break.” This will be the first time that social media will drive the creation of a series, and will follow a group of high school seniors during their summer break between high school and college, to immerse the audience in the story by using various social media platforms at one time. This new format takes what we are already experiencing with our own social media habits and turns the tables for profit and entertainment. It will take the 24/7 online platforms we already use, to stream material with daily YouTube webisodes, and weekly wrap-ups for audience consumption. We are starting to see that fame is no longer just found within the realm of television or film screens, but instead has become synonymous with our online world and online habits.
Whether the content is as scandalous as a sex tape or innocuous as a health food blog, the line between who creates and who consumes have blurred. The elite creators are turning to the very consumers they market towards, to help create the content they are producing, because we are using available media more than ever before. We participate with one another online, communicate with celebrities, and use our own social media lives as entertainment, allowing for celebrity status to seem in reach. This occurs because we now “know” and can virtually “touch” those normally out of reach, and can place ourselves at the center of attention with the click of a button.