Teenage Internet Fameland

Teen ephemera via Tavi Gevinson’s new online magazine Rookie

For the majority of teens and the Millennial generation that has grown up online the concept of Internet fame has become such a normal and conventional idea that it’s almost become part of their collective identity.  Beyond their intended practical use, social media platforms are now commonly utilized as a means for teens to attain Internet fame while simultaneously expanding and reshaping their own real life identity.  Online fame has become such a realistic and achievable idea for teens because they have so much free time to spend online and expand their web presence.

The virtual world of social media and new web culture gives teens an even playing field in a real world where they’re often not given the chance to be seen as equal in an adult dominated landscape.  What’s so interesting about this concept is that due to their experimental nature, endless free time, and the rapid expansion of new technology, teens and Millennials have become the real innovators in a world that’s sometimes filled with stodgy, archaic ideas.

American Idol derived teen flick From Justin To Kelly

Especially with the proliferation of reality show culture and competition shows like American Idol, the ancient American ideal of passion and hard work equals success has been reinterpreted for the Millennial generation who have grown up with new web culture, and this mentality is seamlessly translated to their online presence.  Instead of contacting record labels and casting agents teens are posting themselves singing covers on Youtube or self releasing albums through Bandcamp where they can build up a fanbase before deciding to reach out to real world venues.  Their fervent online presence and ability to quickly learn new technology has given them an unprecedented advantage in a world where their older counterparts are frequently left in the dust.


Molly Soda has become one of the first breakout stars of Tumblr for her innovative aesthetic, laissez-faire attitude, and an overall decidedly new web mentality.  She personifies the modern model of Internet fame and what’s so interesting about her is that exactly what she does or what she’s famous for isn’t always easy to discern.  She’s an artist, a filmmaker, and a lot of what she does online (and basically what a lot of Internet famous people do online) is kind of just hanging out while posting media on her Tumblr and videos to her YouTube and Vimeo.  For a lot people and especially those who are unfamiliar with Internet culture the distinction of what makes Molly Soda interesting vs. her thousands of similar counterparts is exactly what makes Internet fame so intangible and simultaneously sought after.

What Ms. Soda and tons of other Internet celebs encompasses is a very abstract almost minimalist perspective.  It’s not that she posts Rothko or animated Mondrian gifs on her Tumblr, it’s that exactly why she’s famous or what she does is hard to articulate in a concrete sense that equates with real world fame.  A vast of amount of the new web culture, especially what’s on Tumblr, is very dada esque in its application of a definitive vantage point.  That’s one of the aspects that’s so appealing to Millennial Internet users and what’s simultaneously so confusing for anyone out of the loop; these new web platforms constantly reinterpret and perpetuate tons of different and innovative cultural perspectives, sometimes all at the same time, and with little to no explanation given for their creative origin.

That’s why a conventional ad agency or marketing group would have such a hard time trying to gauge the exact variables that need to be in place for Internet fame to happen.  A lot of the output of the new Internet famous elicits an intangible visceral feeling that can’t be quantified or placed into a marketing equation, and the more culture evolves and changes the more this will become a common everyday occurrence.  There’s always going to be a discernible level of internet fame within the mainstream that might be easier to quantify, but the real origins of most cultural movements and seismic shifts usually start with the cutting edge and next level artists in their respective fields.

As new web culture evolves so will the standards by which we gauge exactly how Internet fame is defined, but for right now, the most interesting and otherworldly Internet famous are either fly by night memes or carefully calculated creative endeavors that pull from the history of popular culture to mutate and transform everything in their path until the final product becomes unidentifiable and at the same time distinctly familiar.

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One comment

  • hey January 9, 2012   Reply →

    this article is sooooo great, so well written
    is there anyway that i can get some contact info to send you follow up questions?

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