“Once food and shelter have been secured, the predominant impulse behind our desire to succeed in the social hierarchy may lie not so much with the goods we can accrue or the power we can wield, as with the amount of love we stand to receive as a consequence of high status. Money, fame and influence may be valued more as tokens of – and as a means to – love rather than ends in themselves.” (Alain De Botton, Status Anxiety, 2004)
Charlie Brooker simplifies this notion in his reference to social media in his 2013 opinion piece from the Guardian, Has every conversation in history been just a series of meaningless beeps?:
“There has never been a single tweet that couldn't be replaced with PLEASE AUTHENTICATE MY EXISTENCE. But then, it's hard to think of a single human utterance outside of Twitter that couldn't be replaced with PLEASE AUTHENTICATE MY EXISTENCE either. That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, you say? Yeah, right. PLEASE AUTHENTICATE MY EXISTENCE.” (Charlie Brooker, the Guardian, 2013).
It becomes apparent that far from just an “utterance”, we as humans need our existence authenticated when we appear on YouTube, posting videos of ourselves getting tattoos or dancing and lip syncing to our favourite songs, tantalising an online audience as demonstrated in sexy by Kurdwin Ayub, displayed as part of Follow.
Ayub seemingly pokes fun at this vlogging (video blogging) generation who feel a need to record every moment of their existence on social media. Is it really a bid to attain a pseudo-celebrity status, and in De Botton’s interpretation, earn love from the world? Or are we curating our lives to sustain our digital footprint for all eternity? Or maybe it’s a little of both; we want to attain love and high esteem posthumously. This begs the question: is social media the contemporary elixir of life?
The vlogging revolution has culminated in the introduction of modern day royals recognisable in the streets as shown in BBC Three’s recent documentary Rise of the Superstar Vloggers, which introduces Alfie Deyes of Pointless Blog to a rather past-it televiewing public who haven’t yet moved onto YouTube and therefore would not know these starlets if they tripped over them.
Alfie Deyes’ Pointless Blog YouTube channel has racked up an astonishing 4,904,584 subscribers, with an overall total of 347,744,933 views. Walking down the Brighton streets he is likely to encounter fans from all over the world who spot him and have even travelled to England in the hope of getting their selfie with him - or should that be a “sAlfie”?
It really wouldn’t surprise me if Alfie, his vlogger girlfriend Zoe “Zoella” Sugg and his online peers turned up in Celebrity Big Brother in the next series. Or maybe this has already happened and I’m just behind the times.
In fact, such is their increasingly undisputed celebrity status, Alfie even has his own waxwork in Madame Tussauds. Perhaps it is worth considering that vlogging is just the latest in a long line of tools designed to propel people into the public consciousness in much the same way as it used to be that by simply appearing on a TV show, you were fast-tracked to fame. Let us consider: what would Ben Fogle have done without Castaway 2000? (Is it just me who remembers that?) Even Britain’s Got Talent judge, and actress Amanda Holden appeared on Blind Date before she became better known for marrying comedian Les Dennis.
Now, however, it is more complicated than that. Far from just wanting to be famous, vloggers have managed to boldly go where businesses have struggled, and that is, they have serendipitously stumbled upon the formula for creating a personal brand. Most of us don’t really want celebrity status when we reflect on the sacrifices to one’s privacy and inevitable trolling. And yet, most of us would recognise a good argument for having an online presence or a “personal brand”.
In general, we aspire to being well-thought of in our area of expertise, and we certainly wouldn’t decline the financial rewards brought on by being more “search-engine friendly”. And what is one way you can improve your online visibility, incidentally? You guessed it, by hosting content on your very own YouTube channel, which is widely regarded as the second largest search engine.
Alfie Deyes has been shrewd enough to capitalise on what began as just a fun hobby, and this goes to show that for now, vlogging really can be anyone’s game if you know how to get started.
As part of current exhibition Follow, FACT set up an opportunity for us all to get going in the world of vlogging in the same vain as the YouTube “Creator Space” in London. There's a green screen for all those itching to learn the necessary skills in presenting a video and then editing it in iMovie. Filming and editing assistance covered, you just need a clever idea, inspiration for which can be gleaned from a selection of videos on display, ranging from TED Talks to the most popular celebrity videos and the shining beacons that exist within the world of online movies.
So if you fancy being a modern day celebrity, and increasing your search for “love” in the online popularity sense of the word, or even just gain more exposure for your “personal brand” or business, you can do a lot worse than to visit Follow.
Don't miss Follow - open daily 11am - 6pm until Sunday 21 February