Thanks to the “gamification” of social media, users are encouraged to do increasingly outlandish things for attention. This might be simple self-validation for posting political or social hot takes, but often invades the real world — hurting others for the sake of “content creation.”
Attention is rewarded with sponsorship agreements, which in turn encourages others to participate, if only for their own claim to fame.
Attention-seeking behavior is a growing addiction promising the untalented a means to attain the impossible: fame.
The boundary for the average Joe to obtain social and cultural relevance was smashed with the onset of reality television in the early 2000s. While most shows were based around a competition, attention-hungry contestants attained fame for more than just their talents at the expense of their dignity. Viewers, influenced by television, tried (and failed) to replicate the style of programming to obtain fame on MySpace. The early social media platform was a groundswell of future talent, like makeup mogul Jeffree Star; it’s no surprise many tried to leverage the popularity of live-action television to launch their own YouTube careers.
With the demise of MySpace, YouTube reigned, and with its rise came clout-chasers performing increasingly bad pranks that were either staged or even deadly. A Minnesota woman shot her boyfriend to death in 2017 after staging a fatal YouTube prank involving a Desert Eagle hand cannon and a telephone book, which did little to block the bullet. As social media evolved, so too did clout-chasing. Instagram, TikTok and the now-defunct Vine have provided ample opportunities for people to create increasingly low-effort productions, pursuing fame.
Success stories like Jake and Logan Paul are exceptions, having first obtained their fame through Vine stunts. For every successful Viner or Instagrammer, there are a million others whose only claim to fame is widespread derision.
Larz, a 20-something described by Dr. Phil as “an irrelevant YouTuber,” obtained infamy after he licked a toilet seat as part of the “coronavirus licking challenge,” and later said he tested positive. He’s not known for much else. Numerous others have been arrested for breaking into grocery store freezers and licking ice cream or opening bottled drinks and spitting in them before placing them back on the shelf.
They’re the one-hit wonders of the social media world, and there’s no shortage of their spawn.
Woke culture has also created opportunities for amoral clout-chasers to obtain relevance. Internet antagonizers have leveraged cancel culture as a means to obtain the currency of victimhood through context-free videos intended to shame others and promote themselves as victims of racially or politically motivated hate speech.
More than simply producing outlandish statements that would make most people wince, some resort to claiming victimhood by harassing strangers into responding badly toward them— recording their reactions and sharing on social media.
In some cases, clout-chasing has backfired.
A young socialite named Annaliese Nielsen berated her Lyft driver over a Hawaiian hula girl dashboard ornament and shared the incident on Twitter. The driver was fired. The incident blew up in her face once conservative vlogger Lauren Southern reposted the video, titling it “SJW Berates Lyft Driver,” which went more viral than the original clip. The Lyft driver was exonerated and got his job back, and Nielsen erased all traces of herself from the Internet.
While most harmless efforts to pursue fame ultimately amount to nothing, it goes without saying that technology not only allows, but encourages otherwise normal people to go out of their way to do bad things by giving in to their worst tendencies.
It’s only going to get worse.
Yeah, can you imagine what might happen if a reality tv star took that abusive, clout as a club, spectacle mindset to Washington, D.C. or something? How awful would that be?