For decades, people worldwide have dreamed about being famous. What would it be like to live like a celebrity? To have even a glimpse of celebrity life?
Well, as technology has been democratized, so has fame and the many trappings that come with it. People flock to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube to share their random thoughts, uninformed opinions, dance moves, animal photos, children’s names, and much more.
The masses want to feel special. They want to be celebrated. They seek out an R.O.E. — return on ego — which comes with digital likes, comments and a hit of dopamine, instead of an R.O.I. — return on investment — which allows you to pay your mortgage.
Now that we all can be celebritized, we get to enjoy the same experiences that celebrities have for years. Instead of being chased by flashing cameras, influencers who make it ‘big’ are hounded by the internet paparazzi who hunt for something salacious in their digital footprint. These stalkers, who are just as desperate for clout, might start by digging up old posts or photos from your teenage years to spin an unflattering narrative about your personal life. It doesn’t matter if they don’t actually know you or if their sleuthing is incorrect — they control you and your online image. Besides, you asked for it by becoming a public figure.
They might expose you by capturing you at your very worst moment on video. We all have those moments where your entire day has gone wrong and you say or do something you don’t mean just to lash out. Now, those moments can be captured on film — often devoid of any context — and broadcast to the world so they’re memorialized forever. This allows you to take your fame to the next level. Digital snoops figure out who you are, where you live, and where you work. Your employer receives phone call after phone call demanding they fire you. If you’re really lucky, Twitter will throw a party for your professional and personal demise, causing you to trend with the hashtag #NameisOverParty.
It’s not really about you, of course. The whole thing is blood sport. The only thing that people love more than building people up is tearing them down.
You may complain that these online gossipers that share the lies, half-truths and brutal human moments are invading your privacy. Celebrities have done the same for years as photographers followed them to exotic locales to snap salacious pictures or as gossip rags ran suspect rumors or outright lies. But that’s just a part of the deal now because you traded privacy for digital celebrity, whether intentional or not. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
While everyone wanted to be celebrated in the past, privacy will be the ultimate luxury of the future. Fame and celebrity may seem fantastic and exotic, but when everyone has a microphone, it is downright terrifying.