NOLWAZI MNGADI

If you’ve got 1 000 Facebook friends, 4 000 followers on Twitter, hundreds of comments on your blog, and if your circles on Google+ confuse even the smartest Venn diagram expert, then congratulations, you’re internet famous.

Human beings are social creatures. As a result, we all crave attention even if it is on some deep, subconscious level and the internet is the perfect place to let the rest of the world know exactly how cool we are and why we deserve their constant attention. Some people even go so far as to lie about things that have happened to them to make some quick money or to create traffic for their blog or website. An example of this is the numerous “delete immediately” emails that we all get daily, which end up giving a link to any number of random blogs or websites.

NOLWAZI MNGADI

If you’ve got 1 000 Facebook friends, 4 000 followers on Twitter, hundreds of comments on your blog, and if your circles on Google+ confuse even the smartest Venn diagram expert, then congratulations, you’re internet famous.

Human beings are social creatures. As a result, we all crave attention even if it is on some deep, subconscious level and the internet is the perfect place to let the rest of the world know exactly how cool we are and why we deserve their constant attention. Some people even go so far as to lie about things that have happened to them to make some quick money or to create traffic for their blog or website. An example of this is the numerous “delete immediately” emails that we all get daily, which end up giving a link to any number of random blogs or websites.

Quite often, people find that being internet famous is not all it is cracked up to be. People who have opinionated blogs or websites often get traffic from people who only have bad things to say about the content. Christian Lander, creator of the popular blog Stuff White People Like, said, “Every day I’m being told what an awful writer I am and how terrible I am and every time I see them I feel bad. So I had to stop reading the comments. It can make you want to quit sometimes.” YouTube is infamous for the hateful and angry comments that people leave. People go from video to video, finding something to criticise. YouTube users often receive rude comments, racial slurs and sometimes even death threats.

One example of a YouTube user whose innocent video turned into a worldwide hate festival is Rebecca Black. On 1 March this year the video for her song “Friday” suddenly became big on the internet. By the beginning of April the video had over 88 million views with over three million “dislikes”. Within a week of the video going viral there were already dozens of parodies and commentary from bloggers. Rebecca Black had become internet famous and as a result has had interviews with major news networks, newspapers, magazines and talk shows in theUnited States. Unfortunately, she also became one of the most hated people in the world for over a month. People labelled the song as being “bizarre” and “hilariously dreadful”. One of the worst comments was “I hope you cut yourself, and I hope you’ll get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty.” While the teenager was initially shocked and hurt at the critical reaction to her song, she quickly learned to dismiss it.

The internet can also destroy a person’s fame. Nonhle Thema, a South African television personality, is an example of how using social networks to connect with fans may not always be a good idea. The Vuzu presenter goes on regular tirades on Twitter, saying things like “I’m still rich [you] silly haters” and “I made over 10 millions [sic]Rand as the face of Dark and Lovely. Who’s laughing now … BOOM”. The constant references to herself as a brand and her tweets about people being jealous of her life have received a lot of attention from South African online publications, where fans expressed outrage and confusion at the sudden change in her personality. Since her first Twitter tirade, Nonhle has lost her Dark and Lovely sponsorship as well as her position as the face of Vuzu. The reasons for the breakdown in these relationships have not been given but sources such as News24 speculate that her tirades may have been a contributing factor.

Being internet famous is not always a bad thing though. Good stories have also come from people who started blogs or websites purely for their own enjoyment and ended up being well-known and loved by millions. In 2002, Julie Powell began a blog in which she chronicled her attempt to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year. Powell started the blog because of her love for cooking and her admiration of Julia Child. It soon gained a large number of followers and was even noticed by the publisher Little, Brown and Company. Powell was offered a book deal, and in 2009 Julie & Julia (a film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep) was released about her story.

YouTube also has its success stories. The popular teen icon Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube and approached by both Justin Timberlake and Usher to sign to their respective record labels.

The internet game has changed. For a long time it was, and still is, a way to get information quickly and efficiently. For others, it is a popularity contest where any day could be their lucky break. Unfortunately, internet fame can easily go both ways. Whether you become a Rebecca Black or a Julie Powell is entirely up to the unpredictable and often unknown people who comment on, “like” and retweet your life.

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