Internet Famous: A limited and perhaps temporary state of notoriety enjoyed by people, groups, works or feats that are made public exclusively (or nearly so) via the internet. [UrbanDictionary]
Part One: Friendship
A person I work with has recently become ‘Internet Famous.’ Prior to his sudden celebrity, I would have called him a friend without a second thought. In fact, I referred to this person as a ‘friend’ in a previous post, but I now hesitate to do so. Why? Because now I feel like I don’t have a right to that label.
Our association with each other has spanned a period of maybe ten years, over which we’ve spent perhaps a week or two of time together per year. The job we do requires long hours of collaboration, and at the end of each job, everyone on the crew feels close. Close enough to call each other friend.
I’ve met his wife, he knows and has worked with my boyfriend, facts that normally imply friendship.
But for all this, when someone on Facebook made a joke on his page about how many ‘friends’ come out of the woodwork when something good happens to a person, I felt like the comment could be directed at me and the assumption of friendship I made in that previous post.
Was he my really friend before? I think so. Is he now? I’d say no. Not because my feelings towards him have changed. I still think of him exactly as I did before: He is a hard-working, kind-hearted man who is good at his job and a pleasure to be with.
But I can’t call him friend now, because as a celebrity, even a potentially temporary celebrity, the definition of ‘friend’ has changed for him. By necessity, when you have (or are) something that everyone wants a piece of, you have to be very, very careful with how you categorize the swarms of people around you.
While the label for my association with him has changed from ‘friend’ to ‘work associate,’ essentially, nothing else has changed for me at all. I am still reveling in the joy of watching the show from really up close, even if I’m not in the front row.
Here’s the really interesting question: when this is all over, when I see him on a job sometime in the future, if he still has to work like a normal person, will we go back to being friends? I’d like to think so.
Part Two: Money
So, will he have to work like a ‘normal’ person when the nine days’ wonder has ended? Other forms of celebrity have clear links to monetary gain. A stage or screen star is paid per performance. As are sports stars. Writers make money selling books, and artist make money selling their works of art.
But how does an internet celebrity pay the bills?
I watch a lot of YouTube channels, and I see that many of the internet-famous make money selling t-shirts or coffee mugs. When they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, the profit from those little items, along with the per-view pennies the really popular ones get from the Google supplied ad’s that play at the beginning of their videos, can definitely add up.
But does a single, viral-video make money for anyone involved? Even one that has, at this moment, been viewed almost 15 million times? The people I know who know him have discussed almost nothing else since last Tuesday, when this officially became a THING. “Yes, the video is great, but, dude, what will it lead to?” (yes, we all call each other ‘dude.’)
Will Hollywood movie moguls be offering him production jobs? Would one of the bigger channels on YouTube offer him a job? What sort of money would those sort of jobs pay? I can make a pretty good guess as to what he makes now (based on what I make), if someone offered him a job making short videos full-time, for a company like Machinima, or Buzzfeed, but he had to take a pay cut, would he do it? Would he want to turn his hobby into a career?
Back to Part One:
I’d like to send him an email and ask him all the above, but my boyfriend just said, “I don’t think now is the best time.”
Part Three: Vicariously famous
I want to somehow capture all the excitement I’ve felt since this started. But how do I do that without prompting some to say, “but it has nothing to do with you at all?”
My analogy of sitting not quite in the front row applies here as well. No – it has nothing to do with me, I am not up on that stage, but I am close enough to get hit by the occasional drop of sweat. (Did I take that too far?)
I’m close enough to picture myself in that seat, fielding all those questions, trying to tell my story in three-second sound bites, over and over again, until the whole thing starts feeling like something that happened to someone else. I imagine feeling frustrated with the misunderstanding and the misinterpretation, overwhelmed by the buzz of text messages and ping of emails. Frightened by people who don’t really know me at all writing long blog posts about what it must be like to be me, right here, right now.
Creepy, right? Perhaps I don’t want to be any closer.
Oh, who am I kidding?
Bring on that fame, even temporary internet fame, cause, wow, if it’s been this much fun from twenty feet away, the real thing must be awesome!