In the last blog, I have mentioned “exceptionalism” and “everydayness”, two qualities of internet celebrity introduced by the author of the book. She reinforced that these qualities could pave way to successful stardom on the internet. Gamson (2007) and Turner (2006) also supported that one has to undergo a certain process of “celebrification” to become a celebrity. Although it seems like that having these qualities increases the possibility to become famous in the virtual world, we might question whether they are the most proper ways for an internet celebrity. To probe into this, I would look into “exclusivity” and “exoticism”, the other two qualities put forward by the author, in the following sections.
“The Rich Kids of Instagram” is a particular phenomenon brought up in the book to illustrate how “exclusivity” could benefit an internet celebrity. Many internet celebrities ascend to fame by showcasing of their extraordinary experience that common people could hardly try due to the need of high “economic capital” (Bourdieu, 1986). YouTuber Byron Denton did a social experiment by faking a luxurious life on his Instagram to see how people would react. The result of ever-increasing followers, likes and views implicated that these “exclusive” lifestyles could easily draw people’s attention.
Travel blogger Carolyn Stritch also conducted a similar experiment which reveals how social media influencers use fake photos to make up a sense of “exclusivity”. From both experiments, we could see how easy it is to pretend to be rich on social media simply by photo editing. The dishonest practice on social media has raised critical attention and the antipathy of these ostentatious posts started to grow among the public. For instance, people started “anti-rich kids of Instagram” campaigns to support posting real and ordinary photos and mock the luxury lifestyle posts. This wave of opposition shows that “exclusivity” could be worthless for an internet celebrity when people anticipate senses of reality on social media.
Based on the account of the book, internet celebrities who document their cultural distinctiveness on social media have the quality of “exoticism” which could attract audience of different cultures. According to Bourdieu (1986), people are curious to cultures of other places, thus one would have “cultural capital” if he/she is showing own cultural practices to the others. For example, YouTuber Liziqi, who is known for traditional Chinese handicraft and cooking in rural village, has captivated more than 13 million followers. Commentary from The New York Times supported that Liziqi’s videos could inspire foreign people by showing a totally different way of living.
However, it is worthy to note that the “exoticism” of internet celebrities is largely due to emphasis on their race, gender etc. Dave Schilling of The Guardian pointed out that many internet celebrities, be it eyewitness viral stars or influencers, are taking advantage of racial or gender stereotypes while missing out the possible repercussions such as intensifying bias on specific groups. Therefore, the ethic position of an “exotic” internet celebrity is still controversial.
Weighing the pros and cons, I contend that the qualities mentioned above are not surefire ways to attain fame. Meanwhile, I think ones should not limt themselves as there are no absolute criteria for an internet celebrity.
Abidin, C. (2018). Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online. Emerald.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital . In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education(pp. 241–258). essay, Greenwood.
Gamson, J. (2007). Claims to fame: celebrity in contemporary America. University of California Press.
Turner, G. (2006). The mass production of celebrity. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(2), 153–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877906064028