A Closer Look at Social Media's Ability to Create Instant Fame

As social media evolves and grows, the ability to make anyone or anything famous within minutes is possible. We see new celebrities, products, and trends popping up overnight, literally. With every retweet, like, and share you use on your social media accounts, you are contributing to someone or something's fame. Maybe it's a funny meme mocking a celebrity, or a cute puppy. We can see both positive and negative effects of the infinite ability to “go viral”.

Cons:

#AlexFromTarget- In recent weeks, you couldn’t go on Twitter without seeing the image of 16 year old Alex Lee, working at a register at Target, accompanied by the hashtag #AlexFromTarget. Within hours of two girls taking and tweeting the photo at one another, it had gone viral. How? The power of social media. It was retweeted and reposted over and over again, reaching anonymous Twitter accounts with over 2 million followers. The buzz extended so far as to cause Ellen Degeneres to invite him to be a guest on her show. He was just a normal teenager who started his shift that day with 144 Twitter followers, and walked out hours later unaware that he had become an internet celebrity with over 100,000. However, Alex did nothing to ask for this fame. He can now barely leave his house without being bombarded, his family has received death threats, and he can only work in the back room at his job. All because two girls thought he was cute and tweeted about it.

Kim Kardashian- Although she has been famous for many years now, her latest PR stunt (a full nude photo shoot for Paper magazine) was intended to “break the internet”. She set a new benchmark for measuring social media success, with the magnitude of immediate responses across various social media platforms. It wasn’t just fans and critics getting in on the action though. Major brands such as Nissan and TBS posted their own witty responses or memes about the “break the internet” campaign, exponentially increasing its visibility within hours of its original posting.

Pros:

Batkid- 5 year old Miles Scott was a Leukemia patient in San Francisco, whose request to the Make A Wish Foundation was to be “Batkid” for a day, and save his city. A social media agency stumbled upon the idea prior to the event. They created hashtags for influencers and key Twitter accounts to get trending, as well as worked with Twitter to create a verified San Francisco penguin account, to tweet taunts at Batkid throughout his adventure. Tens of thousands were in attendance to watch Batkid save the city through a series of simulated crimes scenes, and social media mentions extended from celebrities and professional athletes, to President Obama, with coverage broadcasting internationally. A brave, sick young boy got his wish (he has since beat the disease), and the admirable work by the Make A Wish Foundation was made even more aware.

Boston K-9- Recently, Boston Police uploaded to Facebook an image (see below), of one of their trainees, Tuco, a 9 week old German Shepard puppy. He is wearing a K-9 vest meant for a fully grown dog. The image was meant for the 2015 non-profit calendar that raises money for Boston Police dogs, including their training, equipment, etc. These dogs are a vital part of the police system, continually contributing to successes. It quickly went viral, with over 1000 Facebook shares, and being tweeted and posted on multiple dog and animal accounts, such as @CuteEmergency, many with over 1 million followers. With this adorable pup’s fame comes recognition of the valuable work the K-9 units do.

So, while the ability for something to go viral in a matter of minutes can result in unsolicited fame for your typical teenager, or feed into the vanity of reality television stars, we must remember that we can also use this power of social media to do great things. Like all powerful things, the outcomes of social media activity simply depend on the responsibility of those who use it.

-Allyson Penella, Account Coordinator

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