They have 2,000 Facebook friends, over 100 likes on their profile pictures and get 20-30 comments on simple statuses regarding the weather or their current favorite song. By day, they walk among us as students and friends. But by social network, they are the celebrities of the University … well, the Facebook celebrities. Not actual Hollywood stars or athletes — just typical students who have turned into viral phenomenons.
Through Facebook and Twitter, any student now has the ability to brand themselves and create a following. They work as their own paparazzi — muploading pictures of their most recent nights out, tagged in snapshots documenting their every move at Rick’s or Skeeps so we can follow them just as closely as any national celebrity. Social networks allow people to advertise and display their lives, making a Facebook page or Twitter account equivalent to a TMZ camera lens by showing us the every move of these students-gone-viral.
What exactly makes a Facebook celebrity is difficult to analyze. First, there are the good-looking people that others naturally envy and follow on Facebook, just like the attractive Hollywood celebrities we all chase. People like to see what the beautiful do, what they wear and how they act, and we take these people in our environment and raise them to celebrity status through Facebook. The girl who looks like Emma Watson’s sister and the guy in your chem class who could be twins with Ryan Gosling will obviously be receiving friend requests from you after the semester ends while you can avoid awkwardly acknowledging them in person. They’re beautiful, and thanks to their smart phones, they let us catch up on their lives like a nightly episode of Entertainment Tonight on Facebook.
Then there are the characters. You see them before football games dancing with the bongo man, at the bar dressed in head-to-toe spandex, and hey … they’re crazy enough to do it, so naturally we want to see it. Their latest stunts are our latest 30-minute procrastination sessions in the UGLi and the pictures we gawk at all week.
Finally, there are people who are just friends with everyone in real life. And on Facebook, that’s taken to the next extreme. Facebook shows us who we “may know,” a.k.a. people everyone else seems to know. Once you friend the popular person with 30 mutual friends, so does your friend who now has 31 mutual friends, and the spiral continues. Pretty soon, another Facebook celebrity is born.
While there are a ton of other ways to become Facebook famous (or infamous), we have to wonder how everyday people can turn their lives into something we want to watch and follow. Maybe it’s that with Facebook and Twitter, celebrities and average people are lowered to the same playing field to demonstrate their popularity. We now have the ability to create a following and a fan base to show our lives off to everyone like celebrities have done through the years. And Facebook celebrities aren’t tucked away in Hollywood — they’re right in Ann Arbor, walking by us in the Diag as we pretend to ignore the fact that we know exactly what they did last night and what they’re trying to hide with that scarf around their neck.
With Facebook celebrities, we don’t have to wait for the latest issue of People to find out who they’re dating and what type of heels they wore to their latest night out at Rick’s. We have instant access to a view of how they live their lives — and the best part is, they’re the ones giving us the inside look. What makes a celebrity is a following, and in today’s social networking world, it’s easier for the average person to gain followers than ever.
So, has Facebook turned into the new Hollywood? No. But it’s crafted its own form of celebrity: the Facebook celebrity. And while these people may not make their living off their celebrity status, they still gain the same following and recognition in Ann Arbor as stars will find in Hollywood. They’re the celebrities that walk, tweet and mupload among us, and in the world of Facebook, they’re the ones we’re friending.