Smartphone owners tend to spend 90% of their free time in front of a screen. A lot of activities involve conversations and chats with inner circles of friends or relatives. But more and more applications and social networks want to incite us to connect, follow and meet up with strangers.
These strangers aren't suggested through random algorithms: the logic is to display people with related affinities and interests that the users' friends are already following.
In this relationship machine, the notion of celebrity is very different from what it used to be. Movie stars and singers are no longer the only possibilities in our thirst for modern gods.
The Rise of the "Middle Class of Fame"
Joey Camire at Sylvain Labs did some amazing work: he followed a teenager with 81,000 Instagram followers, who is considered to have achieved “Instafame.” The documentary is fascinating as it explains that new local celebrities or phenoms are becoming the new norms.
It goes even beyond this idea: before, if we turned on the TV or bought a magazine to dive into the celebrity world, we basically had to physically switch on our brain to watch this fantasy-world. However, we are now part of this celebrity-ecosystem; liking a peer, notifying a friend that a guy requires his attention, etc. We are the daily voters of who matters or who does not.
During the Olympic Games in London, one of the most shared places was Westfield shopping centre - not London Bridge or Big Ben. This tells us a lot on how this ‘Middle Class of Fame’ places its battlefield and fantasies. Is consumerism killing our need for narrative?
The Risk for Teenagers: A Confusion Between Validating a Celebrity and Validating a Personal Journey
The main concern for teenagers is to be a popular user of visual sharing networks and Instagram-like ecosystems. There's a quest for popularity and a true war between who's a hottie and who's a nottie.
The big problem is that adults are supposed to be the end-products. As you more or less know who you are and why you seek fame, users seem less jeopardised by others people’s opinions. The teenaged population is a giant work-in-progress. So feeling validated or not by a group of peers is not a yes/no question with no big consequences, instead it has tremendous impacts on your self-development. The teenagers who are now in this mirror environment are also shaping our approach to the next role models. And role models with average talents could lead to a very average society.
Thin Love, Thick Love, and the Need for Social Depth
The documentary also opens a question on our definition of love. In the case of diverse popular social networks, the level of involvement and engagement is very similar to what we can expect from a judge of The Voice or The X Factor - the heart button is very easily used because we're in a one-click world in which thin love becomes the norm. On Instagram, there's no place for depth (except very rare exceptions). Instagram might be a ‘one-to-too’ many ecosystem. A very strong contradiction with what thick love could be about: expressing our vulnerability, saying maybe, taking the time, expressing layers and shades of love.