I’ve noticed recently, that I know a lot of attention whores. People who talk just to talk, post Facebook updates just to see how many comments they can get, and define their self-worth based on the amount of friends they have. It’s annoying as fuck, and the blame lies upon two parties: MTV and social networking.
MTV debuted on August 1st, 1981, two years and eleven days before I made my debut from my mother’s womb. Music Television lived up to its name for its first few years in existence, showing little more than straight forward music videos. As the network matured, they began to produce more original programming, leading to The Real World to debut in 1992. The premise of the show was that a group of “random” (See: hand chosen, Carefully) people were picked to live in a house together and their lives documented for a short amount of time. This marked one of the first times, not considering talk shows and game shows, that normal, everyday people and not actors were the stars of a show. However, it can be debated whether or not reality stars can be considered actors. It is widely known that a large amount of reality television is in fact some way scripted, and in addition to that, heavily edited to distort the truth and perception to achieve a desired effect. Although not scripted word for word in the traditional sense such as a sitcom or film, reality television is carefully manipulated to fit the needs of producers. In addition, the people starring in shows such as The Real World are acting, even though they may not realize it. The addition of a video camera to one’s everyday life is guaranteed to have an effect. Behavior is greatly influenced when someone knows they are being watched, hence why the “Under Video Surveillance” signs hanging in store windows and red light cameras are effective. There is no way a producer can turn a camera on someone and tell them to “act natural”. Even if the person being filmed believes they are being natural, there is still going to be a part of them that is either subconsciously putting on a performance or restraining themselves because they know that the camera holds them accountable for their actions. Think about how you act when you are alone compared to when you are with close friends; it’s probably not that dramatic of a difference. Now compare that to a room full of dozens of strangers. Then take that difference and multiply it a million viewers and it’s easy to see how the gap between natural actions and performance grows exponentially.
In the beginning…
One of the defining characteristics of The Real World was that it brought together people from all walks of life. The individuals that made up the groups were as different as possible. There have been artsy, free-spirited hippies, closed-minded conservatives, gays, punks, pretty much any clique that could be thought of has been represented at one point or another. This again raises the question as to how genuine these people are. If a person is already assumed to take on a different persona while in front of the cameras, knowing that they are a lone representative for “their kind of people” is only going to distance that gap between reality and performance. People identify themselves by the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, their favorite sports teams, the movies they like, etc. If you were tell a fourteen year old girl that Twilight sucks (It really does), she’s going to be upset because you not only insulted her favorite book, but a book by which she identifies with and is therefore a part of her. It’s the same reason people get assaulted for wearing an opposing teams jersey to sporting events. It’s not an insult to the home team, it’s a personal insult against the fans of that home team. People are going to try their hardest to defend what matters most to them, and in the case of The Real World, their lifestyle. These people knew that they were chosen because they represented a certain social scene, belief set, ect. and it was up to them to bring validation/awareness/acceptance to that certain sect. From a dramatic standpoint, this tactic worked well. It not only showcased the natural disagreements that different-minded people would have, it also showed that a diverse group could get along and form a cohesive unit. It was (I haven’t seen the show in the past 10 years or so because I’m not retarded, so I can’t comment on its current state) a metaphor for the World in general. An eclectic mix of people who are forced, for better or worse, to occupy a single space.
The basis for The Real World, a novel and original concept nineteen years ago, has become commonplace in today’s television market. MTV planted the seeds for reality TV, which has only become more and more prevalent. It gave birth to the idea that “anyone can be a star”. Since the dawn of modern entertainment, the theory held that only attractive and/or extremely talented people could make a living in entertainment. Modern reality TV has changed that notion. People can now become television stars for being pregnant, getting married, being a truck driver, the list is nearly endless. With the flood of “everyday” and “average” people taking up screen time, more and more people start to believe that they themselves could be a star too.
Look what the fuck you all created.
Just this week, a guy who owns a pawn shop got four million viewers. Four million, or almost the population of Los Angeles. America is a country that is obsessed with celebrity (See: People, Us, InTouch magazines, TMZ.com, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, etc.), and “regular” people believe that they can reach some level of fame. With the rise of the internet, the path to celebrity is not necessarily becoming easier, but is offering more avenues for self promotion and distribution. Which brings us to:
Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, along with countless others that have not reached as high of level of popularity as the aforementioned “Big Two” or have fizzled out, are among the most visited sites on the internet. Facebook the 2nd most visited site on the internet, has over 600 million members, Twitter is approaching 200 million. Both allow for blatant self promotion, and they could not have come along at a better time.
Along with the term “celebrity” becoming more and more loosely defined and thrown around without regard, an inflated sense of self-importance has become more and more prevalent in the online communities. Many people now broadcast details of their daily lives, assuming that people will care because such a high percentage of our entertainment consists of following people through their everyday lives. Just because (for some inexplicable reason) millions watch a Kardashian or a Real Housewife of Wherever go shopping, people believe that their social media contacts are going to care about them going shopping. Too many people assume that everyone wants to know that they just did laundry. Guess what? No one gives a fuck. I’m sorry to say that just because you have an audience, it doesn’t make your life any more exciting or important. It’s unfortunate enough that a majority of today’s celebrities are only famous for being famous, or because they are willing to prostitute themselves out to keep their barely flickering flame of relevance from burning out. We now have a generation of people who measure their importance and self-worth in friends and followers.
Pictured above: Someone who recieved zero comments on their latest post.
One of the features that draws people into social networking sites is the ability to display yourself; your interests, likes & dislikes, photos, etc. You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their Facebook page for just a few minutes. However, much like reality television, the content of someone’s profile is very filtered. To be more accurate, you can learn a lot about what someone wants you to know about them. People want to appear impressive by nature. If you sort through a friend’s profile pictures on Facebook, odds are you aren’t going to find a bad picture of that person. Likewise, people are going to post pictures and status updates of themselves at parties, out having fun, etc. It’s a whole “Look at me!” attitude in which they try to convince the World and, more often than not, themselves, that their life is better than it actually is. It’s an insecurity that they believe they can overcome with validation through attention. This leads to an almost stigma, where if you aren’t out doing all those things and having all that fun, you aren’t as good as everyone else. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that at any given time, about 5% of all teenagers are clinically depressed, with about 70% having at least one episode before adulthood. They are bombarded with fictitious lifestyles, all the while comparing those to their own real life. In the end, fantasy is always going to be more enticing than reality. It’s the same principle as airbrushed models being the standard of beauty in our society. It’s an unrealistic expectation that people will strive for, even though it’s impossible to obtain.
I’m not trying to condemn people who use Facebook and Twitter, or even star and produce reality television. I just believe that ultimately, people need to be more aware of the information they consume (except for this blog, I’d never lie to you). Our society is becoming more and more insecure and looking for attention to fill a void. Until we, as a society, get our values and priorities in order, we’ll just have to put up with the constant attention whoring. Oh, by the way…
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