Not everybody deserves — or should have — a platform.
Eight years ago, internet-based celebrities were non-existent; the thought of achieving fame solely through the internet was a concept that I don’t think anyone anticipated, let alone expected to ever come to fruition. At the start of the 2000s, social networking was a relatively “new” concept, with Facebook launching exclusively for colleges and universities in 2004, and previously, its only competitors were MySpace and all the various “diary” sites, like Xanga and LiveJournal.
Enter 2006: The Birth of YouTube* and Twitter.
(*Ok, so technically YouTube launched in 2005, but “The Second Year of YouTube and First Year of Twitter” just sounded too wordy.)
Fast-Forward to 2014 and not only have we created
monsters celebrities from YouTube (Justin Bieber arguably the biggest) …
… but there is such a thing as “Twitterlebrities” and “Insta-lebrities”; these are normal, every-day people who have somehow amassed a crazy amount of followers, and as such also have built there very own soapboxes and platforms out of nothing more than tweets and a set of semi-decent video equipment and a subscription to movie editing software.
Anyone with a pulse and a barebones knowledge of the internet can sign up for Twitter, giving anyone the “right” to say whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want. Unlike Facebook, which is still largely based off of an indefinable version of the word “friendship,” Twitter users can largely follow whomever they choose. Major celebrities often tweet personal messages and it’s a wonderful way for these [legitimate] stars to connect with their fans in a way that, prior to Twitter, was never possible. But that also means that, in 2014, just about anyone with a little wherewithal (and
blood, sweat, and tweets time) can make themselves a “celebrity” with a viable platform.
But is this a good thing?
On July 6th, 2014, famous YouTube personality Tyler Oakley posted a Vine on his Twitter of 16-year-old insta-lebrity Nash Grier (who currently has 8.7 million followers on Vine and an extremely large internet reach that spans Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Instagram, and has somehow parlayed his internet fame into a movie career with fellow Vine “star” Cameron Dallas) not only displaying Grier’s flagrant homophobia, but also widely misinforming his millions of young, impressionable fans about HIV at the same time:
Sickening, isn’t it, to know that millions of teens are seeing this, retweeting, LOL-ing, #Preach-ing and #AMEN-ing to this and generally applauding his actions. Not only that, but Hollywood is rewarding him by granting him the ability to widen his audience and thereby strengthen his platform. Also, here are some now-deleted tweets that someone was smart enough to snap screenshots of:
But this isn’t just Nash Grier, the blue-eyed, misinformed, God-fearing love child of Twitter and Stupidity; it’s anyone with a hefty internet platform who abuses their “power.” We live in a world of instant gratification, where we can say whatever we want behind a computer or phone screen. But here’s the (very obvious, yet oft-ignored) thing: once it’s out there, it’s OUT THERE for the entire world to see.
Is this kind of media instigation forgivable?
Is this kind of media acceptable at all?
We seem to be raising this new teen generation under the impression that they can ultimately get away with it, because why not? Who says they won’t? Who says that they won’t be rewarded for their backwards thoughts and 6-second sermons? Nash Grier certainly was.
And what good is Grier’s platform, exactly? Why do millions of teens look up to him? Why is he gaining notoriety for being a speak-before-you-think, ignorant teenage boy? Forget about his age, though, and focus on the message that he’s sending to kids who follow him on all major networks:
- It’s OK to call gay men “fags”
- HIV is a gay man’s disease
- Homophobia is, like, totes #adorbs because #CuteCountryBlueEyesSaysSo!
In 2014, Grier is not only on the wrong side of history, but he’s also someone who seems to be completely unaware of the effect his actions and videos and tweets have. And if that’s the case, then why isn’t someone teaching him how to properly handle himself? Is this the new wave of celebrity? In that respect, can he truly be considered a “celebrity”? What exactly is he famous for? If all that fame amounts to these days are puppy dog baby blues and the ability to press the “record” button, then I truly fear for the future of Hollywood, a town that used to rest its laurels on truly talented craftsmen; celebrities used to be people who were exceptionally great a specific trade, whether that was singing, dancing, acting, some combination of all of the above and more. Now, anyone with a solid twitter follower count has a voice, and that voice can be magnified x1,000,000 if everyone retweets it enough. In the end, fame isn’t anything if ultimately you have nothing note-worthy to contribute to culture and society.
We’re doing it to ourselves. We have to be more conscious of what we say. We have to be more aware of what these social platforms are allowing; they’re leading to the spread of rampant misinformation and, what’s worse, they’re launching the careers of people who never should have had a soapbox to stand on in the first place.
When Andy Warhol said that everyone would be world-famous for 15 minutes, I highly doubt that a Nash Grier was what he had in mind. We can only hope Grier’s 15 minutes are almost up.