I guess, most of us imagine how the life of a celebrity would be. The stardom, the recognition, people jostling to catch a glimpse, rushing to get an autograph etc. that come along with being a celebrity. However the life of a celebrity is restricted to a fortunate few. For the rest of the ‘not so fortunate’ we, having vicarious experiences through day dreaming is the only resort.
However, sometimes fortune smiles even on the ‘not so fortunate’ as well. Hence out of nowhere comes a Harvard University student, develops a site and changes the lives of most of the internet savvy people around the world. Yes, I am talking about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. It isn’t surprising at all to know that Zuckerberg, while at Harvard, was majoring in Computer Science and Psychology! The deadly combination of subjects equipped him with the ability to understand the in-adequacies and fantasies of people and hence develop a site that gave what everybody was looking for. For better or worse, it has certainly managed to change the lives of many.
Today, Facebook is going great guns. For most of us, no day is complete without few visits to the site. In fact for some, Facebook is ‘THE work’ for which they come to office and their day job is only to help sustain their ‘THE work’. If I had the power, I would have recommended a new approach to studying anthropology because Facebook has created new categories among humans. For example there is a category of people that has this obsessive need to of share photographs of everything they do. Similarly, there is another category that eats less and posts more photographs of their food. I am ready to bet half my salary on saying that increase in sales of SLR cameras and their lenses is entirely because of Facebook. However, there is one category that has got created and has caught my attention. It hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed by others, probably just not been mentioned. This is the category of the Facebook Celebrity.
Who’s a Facebook Celebrity? A Facebook Celebrity (FBC) is someone who has understood what it means to be a celebrity by the number of LIKES or COMMENTS or SHARES their posts or photographs or status changes receive. The creation of FBC, I would say is one of the biggest achievement of Facebook. The vicarious experience of the ‘not so fortunate few’ has become real. There is a gender bias among the FBC. Posts or Photographs of female FBC tend to see a stampede of people rushing to hit the Like button or comment, whereas Posts or Photographs of male FBC sometimes don’t tend to find as much of an audience. There is a status bias as well, which means Posts or Photographs of FBC in position of authority in any organization witnesses another stampede among subordinates and colleagues outdoing each other in innovative comments or hitting the Like button. This might have already started influencing the annual performance review of the employees!
Facebook has successfully tapped into the insecurity and vulnerability of the human psyche. Sudden realization of this ability to become someone from being a no one, even if to a limited audience is empowering and equally intoxicating. I am sure many of us have sensed this feeling and know that it is very democratic as all members on FB are a potential FBC.
As with many other things, the creation of FBC is not without its pitfalls or repercussions. It is nothing different than the fickleness of stardom that all celebrities face. Thus ordinary people like you and me who have felt what it means to be a FBC, have reported psychological disorders linked to responses on their Facebook posts, some have reported severe depression when their posts don’t get any likes or not as many likes as they expected or when response are antagonistic. Some have reported sleepless nights when a profile picture change doesn’t evoke favorable response from friends. Apart from these psychological disorders Facebook and this rush to be a FBC has blurred the lines between the private and public life. Private party at a friend’s place is now meant to be public knowledge and photographs are shared promptly or a silent dinner with family is meant to be public knowledge and probably the food doesn’t digest well unless some pics of it are shared on Facebook. Such is the entrapment of being a FBC.
Given the negatives of FBC, it has definitely done one some good things. For example it has empowered the not so fortunate to come at par with the fortunate few. Yes the fortunate few still continue to get millions of views but the not so fortunate many with responses from their own limited audience don’t feel any less important. I think the FBC phenomenon is here to stay and drive ordinary individuals to discover new fads to keep their target audience engaged and amused.
Three Cheers to the FBC!!!