Tweeting in his grave?

At a restaurant the other day I overheard a woman paraphrase the famous (pun intended) Andy Warhol quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” She was referring to a video her son recently posted on You Tube. She told her rapt friends it had “hundreds of views!” For her, and likely her boy, that meant fame.

But is that what Andy Warhol meant? Yes and no. Remember, he was looking at fame through the lens of mass media. Warhol and his Factory defined popular culture, essentially creating it. Before him fame through art (be it painting, literature, photography or films) was the providence of a precious few, those who earned it via talents and/or exquisite connections. After him, fame could mean anything from getting a bad haircut to getting arrested.

I’m not going to belabor the obvious. The Internet and social media have made getting famous a whole lot easier for the rest of us. Andy was a prophet.

And yet.

In a world where everyone and their teenaged sons are famous for a few minutes, what exactly does “fame” mean? Is there a certain number of views, likes and followers that deliver one into fame? Surely, it’s more than several hundred. But gaining even one hundred thousand friends can’t equal the popularity of most reality TV stars. And, in turn, can one honestly compare a Real Housewife with, say, Audrey Hepburn or Jack Nickolson?

For fifteen minutes…


My point: The beanstalk to fame grows ever higher… until one finally reaches the V-V-VIP lounge, where George Clooney plays ping-pong with Justin Bieber and Megan Fox does Merrill Streep’s hair. Oh yeah, and they’re naked and spray painted gold!

Joe the Plumber (remember him?) or some opera-singing five-year old can’t possibly belong there. Or do they? After all, aren’t those the knuckleheads Andy Warhol was talking about? And wasn’t Justin Bieber just a kid on You Tube? Silly stuff I know.

Here’s a more interesting question: If everyone is famous (even for just 15 minutes) then how can fame even exist? By definition don’t we need way more un-famous people in order to appreciate the famous ones? Remember your Dr. Seuss: When all the Sneetches finally got stars on their bellies the stars lost all their meaning.

Back in the day my old man said his 15 minutes came when the Wall Street Journal rendered his portrait in iconic black dots. That trumped merely just getting his picture in the paper, which, by the way, used to be the quintessential determiner of fame.

I recently read a blog post talking about “access” as being the new standard for wealth. In other words, one doesn’t need to own things in order to be considered wealthy -just have access to them.

So what’s the new yardstick for measuring fame?

For those of us still on the ground floor, here’s an interesting article on gaining Klout.

My stuff.

Their stuff.

Everything is illuminated!

Though I’ve never read the critically acclaimed book by Jonathan Safran Foer, nor seen the motion picture based on it, I’m copping to the title. Everything is indeed illuminated.

I follow about 500 people on Twitter. Most of them occupy the world of advertising, new media and popular culture. A distinct minority represents the literary world, readers and writers like me. There are a few sports writers in there. Some fishermen. And lastly, there are the horror fanatics, providing me with links to the most obscure titles in the genre. Nasty!

That’s me.

In turn I am followed by numbers of people who also share my various affinities.

Whether you are on Twitter or not all of you are part of a microcosm as well. You follow your passions and the others that follow them. You belong to an ecosystem comprised of others like you, some very much so some not so much. But somehow you fit.

And that’s a modern miracle. Not too long ago many of us felt, at times, like outsiders. Maybe we were passionate about obscure poetry or intricate Scandinavian woodwork. Perhaps we suffered from a rare and misunderstood disease. We may have wondered why women’s shoes turned us on so much. Whatever the passion, hobby or fetish we often felt alone with it. If not for the occasional story in a magazine or newspaper, or a convention in some remote suburb, we seldom crossed paths with anyone like us. At times this made us feel unique. Mostly it sucked.

But then along came the Internet. I defy you to search a topic and come up empty. It’s not possible. If you’re into it you can find it. Frankly, you can get lost in it. I know I do.

Still, when I consider the alternative, I shudder. I am that boy in grade school who collected butterflies but had no one to share my hobby with. I knew I was different. I also wondered if I was weird. The other kids liked sports and G. I Joes. Yet, I wanted to raise Monarchs. No connection. As you might imagine, I dreaded recess. Had I had the Internet I could have shared my special interest with all kinds of people just…like…me.

Now I do. We all do.

With three little girls of my own, I understand some online communities are undesirable, even quite dangerous. Still, living in one’s head is no picnic either. Frankly, some of the worst neighborhoods I’ve ever visited were between my ears.

Being able to find others just like me is a Godsend. Even the most unusual among us can find community. We belong. Like I said: a modern miracle.