Do you know Magibon, Angie Varona and Laina Walker? How about Psy, Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black?
All of the above, instantly recognizable or not, constitute a new breed of celebrity superstar created by becoming an Internet meme, a powerful and spontaneous eruption of fame that can strike anyone at any time on the Net.
No longer are all celebrities inaccessible, available only through approved pathways, and created by third parties. Now, because the barrier to entry is non-existent, the next big thing could be the person next door. They may even have their personal mobile and email readily available and welcome interaction with their fans. Unfortunately, as the late Mae West noted, goodness has nothing to do with it, and most often, memes are created because it’s hard to believe something could be that bad, that stupid, that sexy, or that ridiculous.
A meme is a shorter version of the word mimeme, which was first used to describe a principle of evolution that talks about how ideas are spread in the same way biological traits arise. The most successful creatures in biology spawn and, in some cases, mutate. The others die off. In Internet terms, that means Psy may get a second album, while Laina Walker – the wildly grinning person popularly known as “Overly Attached Girlfriend” – has a brief flare of attention, and then fades away.
The key to the success of Magibon, Psy and the rest is that they were “discovered” through video posted on YouTube and various other Internet sites and became world-wide famous thanks to the power of sharing. Interactive communications between friends on the latest video discovery can cause millions of people around the world to check out a recommendation and tune in for a look. It’s the same phenomenon that causes any band, TV show or movie to become successful – word of mouth is your best friend.
NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE
There is no way to predict what will catch fire and what will not. Similarly, there’s no way to figure out which instant fameballs will go on to greater success and which will go back to civilian life.
One of the most famous examples of Internet fame that became something larger thanks to a professional connection is Justin Bieber. The Canadian started out with a few videos of local music performances in his native Canada that were posted online by his mother. In the grand tradition of stage mothers everywhere, she secretly hoped that her cute son with a decent voice might have a career in music.
Her hunch soon paid off. Bieber’s videos were discovered by professional artist manager Scooter Braun. Impressed by what he saw and particularly by the number of views the music videos had already garnered, Braun soon introduced Bieber to entertainment mogul Usher. That led to a major label record deal and access to a marketing machine that helped make Bieber into the mainstream teen idol he is today.
In some cases, Internet fame just means that you are a spark erupting from the fire and will quickly die out, another one-hit wonder in a world that is always restless for the newest thrill. Witness some of the Net’s early memes, including David “Elsewhere” Bernal, whose contorted dancing in a video led to commercials for Heineken and Pepsi. He soon slipped back to anonymity, just another victim of the prediction by pop culture artist Andy Warhol that, in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.
Sometimes it’s not even necessary to have talent to capitalize on the Internet. Magibon, aka Margaret Adams of Florida, became an Internet sensation simply by staring into her webcam. The enigmatic, large-eyed Magibon soon became the subject of a feeding frenzy among Japanese fans, and the uproar then expanded to other countries. Magibon herself added to the intrigue by speaking a few Japanese words in several videos. She soon was garnering millions of page-views, which led to her being flown to Japan and appearing on television.
A few things to keep in mind if you wish to become Internet famous: the world population is largely Asian and Indian. Appeal to those cultures, which are also very Internet savvy, and you’ll be more likely to quickly reach page-view critical mass. It also helps if you’re attractive, even if it’s in a weird sort of way. And certainly doing something so silly (even unintentionally) that it begs to be mocked can help you take off.
Of course, fame has its price. While you may pile up the page views, you’re also likely to receive comments and hate mail from the trolls who love to attack anything that’s popular. Respond to them at your peril. And keep in mind that your instant celebrity means that everyone will have access to your past Tweets, public postings and other materials previously shared only between you and your small circle of friends. You may even become the subject of parody memes that mock your original concept. Just be prepared for the backlash and remember that the only bad publicity is your obituary.
If you’re already out there generating page views, keep it up. Remember that there are any number of professionals looking for the next big thing. And it just might be you.