Khaya Dlanga

Internebrity vs celebrity?

2011-07-07 07:46

I must say, when I first thought about what celebrity is I thought I’d try to define it by saying that if one is well known in their village then they are famous. But then I thought about it again, everyone in a village knows everyone therefore that means all are famous in a village. The way I saw it, if you are famous where you are, then you are famous. But, alas, I was wrong.

The first thing I decided to do before I wrote about this was to find the definition of the word “celebrity”. So I picked up my very big Concise Oxford Dictionary. It’s concise, yet it is two Bible’s thick. The irony is not lost to me. This two Bibles thick object said, and I quote: “Celebrity: 1 a famous person. 2 the state of being famous.” Seriously? Is that all you’re going to tell me a celebrity is? Then I decided to go the ever-reliable internet, and it did a much better job.

This is the definition of a celebrity according to Wikipedia: “A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile in the media and is easily recognised. Celebrity status might be associated with certain professions and frequent appearances in the media. It can arise as a result of career planning but it can also arise by accident or as a result of infamy.”

The Wikipedia definition really defines celebrity in three parts. The first being easily recognised because of the media. The second is that of celebrity status, ie, having the status of a celebrity due to a certain profession and frequent media appearances. And the third seems to be by accident or as a result of say, being a serial killer that’s just been arrested. Infamy.

Internet fame

Where then do internet famous people fall in this category? Let’s face it, there are some people who are just famous for being on the internet, or just famous on the internet. So does this make these people celebrities? I would like to say they are not.

Why? Let me break it down according to the Wikipedia definition. People who are known on the internet are not easily recognised by people who are not on the internet therefore they are not celebrities. The internet is not big in SA. The Daily Sun is. TV is. And so is radio. Therefore there are no internebrities in South Africa. They may have a prominent profile, but that profile is prominent in the form of a singular source of media, the internet. A true celebrity on the other hand is ubiquitous.

The moment one thinks that their internet fame means more than what it is, they are kidding themselves. When one plays Monopoly, one takes the game very seriously, but in the end, it’s not real houses and most importantly, the money is not real. To a certain degree, that’s what internet fame is. It isn’t real. But one can, I suppose turn it into a commodity if they are so inclined.

The problem with internebrity is that sometimes people who have gained some sort of following is that thing I warned against in my I'm Nonhle Thema Bitch column - don’t believe your own hype. The thing with hype is that that's just what it is, hype. You still have to do something. You still have to add some value to life, one being merely present and have a large following does not mean much. The question is what are you doing with your life other than just trying to be an internebrity? Some people sadly want fame at all costs. If it means internebrity then so be it. It doesn’t matter what they are famous for as long as they are famous.

Getting personal

Let me get a little personal here. The last few years I was known more for my job than anything else. I’d get interviewed by publications, radio stations and television programmes for what I do. I was known for what I do and have done, including the accolades I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve in my time in the advertising and marketing arena. Internebrity came by accident.

In the future, not too long from now, there will come a time when internebrity is celebrity because that is how most people will consume their media. We have not reached that stage yet in South Africa. Right now, especially on Twitter, we should stop, breath and realise that Twitter is not the meaning of life.

Yes it has opened a lot of avenues for many people, myself included. For some of us, it seems as if the internet is Twitter. There is a good reason for this. It allows engagement and interaction. It’s instantaneous. It allows everyone to be a broadcaster. One’s ideas or thoughts can be accepted or rejected immediately.

It was great amusement when I listened to a radio interview on Metro FM last night as they discussed the issue of celebrity. What I found amusing was that people who are “known” on the internet were somehow mentioned as well, and yes, my name was thrown in the pot as well. It is a mistake to think internebrities are famous when the internet is a mere drop in South Africa, and Twitter is a mere molecule within that drop.

A loud minority

People, on Twitter in particular, have an outsized share of voice on media platforms outside the social media platform. They are the loud minority. I will share a bit of the blame. I am loud out there. But this does not make one famous. (I decided to pull a page of Thabo Mbeki there and refer to myself as “one”.)
I am not a celebrity nor do I have a desire to be.   

Just to end this off with a really confusing sentence: Just because you think someone thinks they are something doesn’t really mean they think they are what you think they think they are.

I hope I left you sufficiently confused.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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