Fame Is Just A Number

Zouch, April 18, 2011.

Unless you’ve been napping under a wide-brimmed mushroom for the last few years, you should know who the hottest pop diva of our times is. For the record, she’s Lady Gaga.

As of August 2010, she’d sold more than 15,000,000 albums. At this writing, her Twitter devotees stood at 9,047,779. Last year, she made it to TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and to a Forbes magazine catalog as well.

Where once, recognition only came to those who possessed galleon-sized talent, today, it can be easily attained by anyone who wins a numerical feat.

Note that Lady Gaga wasn’t honored by TIME magazine for her music, but for her “performance art” and more strikingly, because “everyone” loves it. Fame, an intangible asset, which in the pre-social network days could only be lived—and not counted—is tallied up daily, in the Digital Age.

Let me illuminate.

Twitter’s “Top Tweets,” a compilation of what are described as “some of the most interesting tweets spreading across Twitter,” aren’t selected by an able jury, but algorithmically, by a math formula.

Which is perhaps why one hardly ever sees anything there that isn’t an adolescent doggerel, dippy humor, a red-faced ranting, or a misspelled banter.

Take the blogging platform Tumblr. Every few hours, a user post finds it way to the “Radar,” its equivalent of a magazine cover and which sells faster than fresh-baked cupcakes.

Nearly every Tumblr-er nurtures a secret ambition to have his or her creative output exhibited on that coveted pedestal, for if it is, then, he or she is assured a deluge of acolytes.

But here’s the catch: one doesn’t make it there in the first place, unless one already has a formidable statistical following to boast.

Clicking on the Radar steers one to an image, which more often than not, is surprisingly unremarkable. That’s inevitable, I suppose, if judgment is left to a number-crunching bot and praise is crowdsourced.

The Blogger team recognizes the most “interesting and noteworthy” blogs in its own kingdom by crowning them with the tiara,“Blogs of Note.” When that happens, one has catapulted to eminence, at least, in that realm.

Like most phenomena these days, nothing is quite so “interesting” unless, of course, it enjoys the backing of the crowd.

When fame becomes quantifiable, determined by the ebb and flow of the plethora (or the pinch as the case may be) of people who follow you, like you, and view you, and is periodically analyzed, what is it worth, really?

Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” has, so far, attracted roughly 25,000,000 eyeballs on YouTube. The German composer’s music lives on, 183 years after he lived and will continue to do so in the future.

If Lady Gaga’s popularity is able to transcend obsolescence and endure for even the next 50 years, I’d say, “She did it!”

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