Although it became a cliché long ago, Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” line, like so many of the aphorisms he tossed off, turned out to be annoyingly prophetic as a description of life in the 21st century. If it wasn’t clear when Warhol said it, it’s now obvious that the prediction was more of a curse than an assurance—being momentarily famous may have seemed more fun in the era of mass media hegemony (although Warhol’s tone must have seemed slightly menacing even then), but like so many erstwhile luxuries, fame has since become a commodity, if not compulsory grind for many who pursue it today, and social media has made more slots available at the lower levels of notoriety. Now every incremental level of fame is indeed possible. What is the “creator economy” if not an incentive structure for filling each of those slots? Everyone knows, or ought to know, that becoming Twitter’s main character for the day is something to avoid (“day” being a loose term for an interval that itself has shrunk closer to 15 minutes), but many also secretly hope for it, assuming they could parlay that momentary infamy into something more favorable and durable—virality as a rite of passage, or a credential like a college diploma, the attainment of which means graduation from anonymous digital toil.
Great piece, thank you. It makes me think about the whole issue around audience/reader interaction online. Replies proves that someone has actually engaged with what you've written (and we're always being told it helps grow your audience etc). But it's also a moment which suddenly brings home what is really going on, 'where' you are, who your audience is and what they're demanding of you.