Unless you’ve been napping under a wide-brimmed mushroom for the last five years or so, you should know who the hottest pop diva of our times is. For the record, she is Lady Gaga.
As of August 2010, she had sold more than 15,000,000 albums. At the time of writing, her Twitter devotees stood at 9,047,779. Last year, year, she made it to TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and to the catalog of Forbes magazine, as well.
Where once, recognition only came to those who possessed galleon-sized talent, today, it can be easily attained by anyone who accomplishes a numerical feat. Note that Lady Gaga wasn’t honored by TIME magazine for her music, but for her “performance art”, and more strikingly, because “everyone” loves it. Fame, an intangible asset, which in the pre-social network days could only be lived—and not counted—is tallied up daily in the Digital Era.
Let me illustrate this. Twitter’s “Top Tweets,” a compilation of what are described as “some of the most interesting tweets spreading across Twitter,” are not selected by an able jury, but algorithmically, by math formula. Which is perhaps why one hardly ever sees anything there that isn’t adolescent doggerel, dippy humor, red-faced ranting, or mis-spelled banter.
Take the blogging platform Tumblr. Every few hours, a user post finds its ways to the “Radar,” the Tumblr equivalent of a magazine cover that sells faster than fresh-baked cupcakes. I’m fairly certain nearly every Tumblr-er (be good to yourself; do not try to utter that word) nurtures a secret ambition to have his or her creative output exhibited on that coveted pedestal, for if it is, he or she is then assured a deluge of acolytes.
But here’s the catch: one doesn’t make it there in the first place unless one already has a formidable following. Clicking on them steers you to an image, which more often than not, is surprisingly unremarkable. That’s inevitable, I suppose, if judgment is left to a number-crunching bot and praise is crowdsourced.
The Blogger “team” recognizes the most “interesting and noteworthy” blogs in its own kingdom, by crowning them with the tiara, “Blogs of Note.” When that happens, one has catapulted to eminence, at least, in that realm. Like most phenomena these days, nothing is quite so “interesting” unless of course, it enjoys the backing of the “crowd.”
When fame becomes quantifiable, determined by the ebb and flow of the plethora (or the pinch as the case may be) of people who “follow” you, “like” you, and “view” you, and is periodically analyzed, what is it worth?
Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” has, so far, attracted roughly 25,000,000 eyeballs on YouTube. The German composer’s music lives on, 183 years after he lived, and will continue to do so in the future. If Lady Gaga’s popularity is able to transcend obsolescence and endure for even the next 50 years, I’d say, “She did it!”