When Andy Warhol said that in the future everyone would have 15 minutes of world-fame I suspect he didn’t foresee the opportunities that we now have to publish to a wide audience so easily and continuously. We can now experience our own little piece of fame 24/7 through social media, albeit usually on a relatively small scale.
I also suspect that he couldn’t foresee the effect that this small scale fame would have on some of us. The truly famous, in the more traditional sense of the word, can become addicted to fame, feeding off the adulation. We see celebrities clinging to fame well beyond the time where their talent is appreciated, often as desperate shadows of their former selves, not for money, but to fill the gap left when fame ebbs away. The phenomenon of addiction to social media, likely mediated through dopamine release similar to that experienced in gambling and other addictive behaviours, is similar and something that we can all now experience.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the gateway to this addiction and are the easiest way to maintain it. Pithy, often poorly researched rhetoric and opinion can obtain a rapid fix of likes and comments. Add a sprinkle of click bait and targeted advertising to give some instant retail therapy and the quick hit dopamine cocktail is complete.
This interview with the ever incisive Simon Sinek gives an excellent overview of the phenomenon, amongst other topics, and perhaps hints at the pending backlash against some forms of social media. We are starting to see initial research showing the detrimental effects of some kinds of social media on mental health. It isn’t hard to imagine that as these effects are properly researched and uncovered, that some form of regulation will be put in place.
Thank goodness for blogs. I suspect that many bloggers (myself included) aren’t at all immune from the buzz of getting hits, likes and comments; far from it! But at least the blog as a medium requires craft and artistry on the part of the blogger and effort (more than 5 seconds of concentration) on the part of the reader. In this way blogging separates itself from other forms of social media; as a medium it provides genuine utility to both the writer and the reader.
Not all blogs are great, nor are they immune from advertising, which is a necessary part of the internet economy where so much incredible content is available essentially for free, but ultimately the world of blogs is about quality, sharing ideas and creativity and the best blogs rise to the top. Views and likes come through hard work; the dopamine is legitimate and earned.