Accidentally Famous: How social media is changing what makes a celebrity

We're all celebrities in our own right

Has anyone else noticed how we have a new celebrity every other week? The concept of a celebrity has undergone such a massive transformation in the last decade. Before the advent of the Kardashians (bless them!), all the paths to fame involved heavy networking, agents and patiently waiting on the “big break”. We don’t play by the old rules anymore though, celebrity meltdowns aren’t as easily tucked away by publicists  but are compulsively documented by spectators and the stars themselves on the internet. At 2005, sexual impropriety amongst university lecturers in Nigeria was almost a legend we only spoke about in hushed, knowing tones. In 2018 though, we’ve had a voice recording of a lecturer soliciting for sex go viral on social media until the case was addressed.

But lives don’t just fall apart on the Internet; the rise and popularity of reality television, the Internet and social networking has resulted in more people becoming famous, for shorter periods of time, for doing less than ever before. These short periods of fame can be successfully finessed into sponsorship deals or even be used to revive a rightfully dead career like Charles Okocha’s, but ultimately, consistency is the big guy that gets even the best of us.

Last month, the internet made a group of four friends famous. Currently known only as the “Kupe Boys”, all it took was one video of the quartet dancing to A-star’s “Kupe dance” posted on social media. Within hours, they were a top trending topic across the continent, women drooled over them, there have been about a thousand and one spin-off videos of other friend groups doing the dance which had now become a viral trend, various news outlets covered them and they amassed a heavy social media following. For the time, the four have a fandom of theirs, spurn out of posting something that spread faster than a grease fire online.

A decade ago, it would have been far-fetched to think that a group of young men of no discernible talent besides leveling up to societal standards of beauty could become a household name as the Kupe Boys did. And yet, here they are, full-blown revues booking special appearances from Europe to Abuja (let’s not get into the obvious gendered difference in the reaction to their choice of creative channel)

This culture shift is however not necessarily a bad thing. The new world order the internet brings is neither a one nor two-way street but a rather chaotic jumble of a vast number of streets that intersect at really weird places. Reinforcing our inherent narcissism aside, our culture of constant connection  has prompted major changes to the celebrity: these self-publishing platforms give the everyday Joes an opportunity to gain fame, and they also allow closely monitored celebrities the opportunity to connect with fans at a human level. The share-everything culture means it’s easier than ever to become famous, even if it’s a hassle to retain your privacy once you become the subject of scrutiny.

Ultimately, don’t we all love our digital navel-gazing?

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