For the last two decades, mankind has witnessed rapid growth of social media. From the introduction of early chat rooms to webcams, followed by Friendster and MySpace, to the more current medias like Facebook and Instagram, social media has transformed the way people communicate and share information.
Today, a time where some popular media are calling the “Golden Era” of social media (Forbes, 2017), for many, social media has become an essential part of daily life.
A clear implication of this evolution is on the idea of celebrity. Think back! A decade ago, would you ever consider someone who simply post their pictures online as a celebrity? Or can someone who simply talks for hours about their daily problems receive a stable income by the millions? I think not.
In the era of television and broadcasting, the term celebrity refers to something a person was (Marwick 2015). It was a category of people that has certain amount of fame and it is often ascribed to certain occupations.
However, the emergence of internet and social media allowed for this term to evolve. The nature of social media platform and the relationship between a person and their audience within it creates a great deal of change in celebrity practices.
In platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, celebrities are made ordinary by showing intimate and everyday aspects of their life. At the same time, these social media platform gives chance for the “ordinary” to become celebrities (Gamson 2011; Driessens 2012). Because of this, being a celebrity is no longer something a person was, but something a person does (Marwick 2015).
One of the earliest discussions on this matter was by Theresa Senft (2008) in her book Camgirls: Celebrity & Community in the Age of Social Networks, where she coined the term microcelebrity. At the time, she defined microcelebrity as “a new style of online performance in which people employ webcams, video, audio, blogs, and social networking sites to ‘amp up’ their popularity among readers, viewers, and those to whom they are linked online.”
Since then, various scholars began to refine the definition of that term (e.g., Marwick 2015; Marwick and Boyd 2011), including Senft herself. Through various research and refinement, most would agree that microcelebrity practice is something that would involve maintaining an online identity or persona and presenting it for other people’s consumption as a “branded good”.
Though some may consider the practice of microcelebrity in social media as something frivolous (Abidin 2016) or simply an embodiment of vanity, several researches has proven that in reality it requires conscious planning and strategizing. Post or profiles that may seem effortless or spontaneous are very deliberate and involves great deal of work (Mavroudis and Milne 2016).
This realization that there involve an immense amount of strategy and effort places fame on a continuum, no longer considered simply as a “bright line that separates individuals” (Marwick 2013; Marwick and Boyd 2011). Andrejevic (2004) also pointed out that these work of “being watched” gives access for individual to unveil obfuscated reality that seems to be a big part of conventional celebrity practice.
While sociologists call this new-age celebrity practice as a microcelebrity practice, it is more popularly known as social media influencers. The visual nature of many current social media and the ability to access thousands or even millions of audience made this media the perfect ground for this practice.
Technically speaking, anyone with a smartphone that has access to internet can attempt to practice microcelebrity. The practice itself has also been shown to be quite lucrative.
YouTube channels such as “How Much” shows just how much a Youtuber make from their videos and sites such as Forbes (2017) highlights that influencers can make ranging from $3000 to $300,000 per-post. With this being said, it is not surprising that the practice became a topic of discussion in many different fields.
So what does all of this celebrity talk means? Well, first of all, a new job is on the market! Scholars such as Hearn (2008) and Mavroudis and Milne (2016) has argued that the act of producing and maintaining an online identity (which one could argue is the very essence of the practice) is in fact a form of labor.
Ergo, fret not parents! Your kids aren’t just playing on their phones all the time and doing nothing. With the right strategy, perseverance, and luck, they could be making millions by the end of the year, just like many other jobs.
Moreover, this also creates better marketing opportunities for businesses, especially for small, micro, and medium businesses. Back in the days, it might be near impossible for small businesses to afford endorsing conventional celebrities or post advertisements in medias. Nowadays, you can personally contact microcelebrities through their social media account and negotiate prices for exposure.
Now, this article is not saying that the practice has no room for fault. It is simply trying to shine a little light on the familiar novelty, reminding everyone that there are new opportunities one can seize with the click of an app.