Handling 15 minutes of Internet fame

I’ve not yet become famous on the Internet. Most people become famous on the internet for either being in the right place at the right time (the Chk-Chk Boom girl, the guy who tweeted Osama’s demise), for something that is an honest mistake that grows its own legs (Jessica Dovey, the Martin Luther King quote creator), or for doing something incredibly stupid in the presence of a camera that later comes back to bite them (the Nu-Thang guy, Star Wars boy etc). Occasionally you become famous for doing something genuinely creative – and you keep that fame by continuing whatever it was you did until it starts to make you money (David Thorne (the spider drawing guy), the Autotune the News people, Justin Bieber).

Internet fame is a fickle thing. It doesn’t last long – it’s probably accelerated beyond Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes. Lets call it 15 seconds of fame. Those in the throes of such fame are behoven to make as much of the opportunity as they can – whatever category they fall into from the list above. It probably won’t ever happen again. The internet is vast. There has been an interesting, and vaguely consistent, realisation that this is the case in a few interviews I’ve read with people experiencing such fame (or infamy)…

Here’s what the Nu-Thang guy had to say about his newfound fame:

“All the Twitter followers, Facebook friend requests and YouTube friend requests have really exploded. You really have to guard your personal information and make sure that people can’t get a hold of it. I’m a little extra cautious being an attorney and all, but besides being safe, just enjoy the ride. I’m right in the middle of it and I’m excited to see where it goes!”

People are following him on Twitter. How long will that last? I’d say not long. If he’s not ridiculously entertaining.

Jessica Dovey, who launced the fake MLK quote, told the Atlantic all about the experience.

“I was on my way to meet a friend for dinner and I couldn’t even really talk about it. I couldn’t even say, “Something I said went viral on the Internet today.” You can’t really just talk about it. Then I was in a hostel in Tokyo and I heard people talking about it behind me. I couldn’t just turn around and say, “Hey guys, that’s me.” … It just doesn’t matter that it was me. I didn’t expect or invite this. I don’t mind it, I guess. It’s positive and good and if I had to have 15 minutes of fame by some means, then I couldn’t have picked anything better.”

There’s something nice, and a little non-mercenary about these guys and the way they’ve humbly dealt with the fame. Sohaib Athar is the man who tweeted the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, without realising it… He also seems a little circumspect about his fame.

“Athar downplayed his role in the event: “I am JUST a tweeter, awake at the time of the crash,” he wrote. “Not many twitter users in Abbottabad, these guys are more into facebook. That’s all.” Just another case of being in the right place at the right time — or the wrong place at the wrong time.”

There’s something refreshing about this when you draw a contrast between these guys and ever contestant on every “look-at-me” reality TV show in the world, being unprepared for, or not looking for, internet notoriety seems to be the key to getting through it unscathed or with your reputation enhanced.

Can you think of any famous internet people whose fame has lasted beyond 15 seconds? Judging by how much I sing the “Friday” song these days, Rebecca Black has left some sort of scar/impact on the international psyche.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.